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In Catalonia, the municipal elections of May 28th take place in the midst of a major drought affecting almost all of the Catalan territory, with reservoir levels at historic lows and a situation classed as 'exceptional' that could easily turn into the highest drought category, emergency. With the approval by the Catalan Parliament of the Junts package earlier this month, town councils will not yet face fines for breaching the water saving measures, as the Generalitat had proposed, but penalties will be applied one month after the aid applications are opened. Nevertheless, the drought is considered the most serious emergency currently facing the country and is present in the electoral programmes of the candidates for the municipal elections, and naturally also in those of Barcelona, home to 22 percent of the Catalan population and major industrial, commercial and tourism activities that demand water. Here are the water management proposals of leading candidates Ernest Maragall (ERC), Xavier Trias (Trias for Barcelona), Ada Colau (Barcelona en Comú) and Jaume Collboni (PSC).

Ernest Maragall: Systems for re-use and equating tourist with household consumption

The ERC electoral programme warns that in the face of the climate emergency and the current drought in Catalonia, "it is necessary to apply measures of efficiency and savings, and to promote alternatives". In this regard, one of its major proposals is to "implement systems for water reuse in tourist accommodation and hotels, as well as in sports centres" to fight the shortage. ERC focuses particularly on the relationship between water consumption and tourism, and is committed to "deploying water efficiency and saving measures in tourist accommodation", especially in those establishments where the most water is consumed. The party's policy recommends equating tourist water consumption with domestic consumption, lowering the threshold from 238 to 107 litres per tourist per day.

Along these same lines, the candidacy of Ernest Maragall proposes the use of the tourist tax to co-finance the implementation of gray water reuse systems and alternative water resources in tourist accommodation. His proposal is based on "positioning Barcelona as a destination where tourism saves water". In addition, the ERC manifesto foresees efficiency measures such as aerators, irrigation and rainwater systems, and other reuses. In collaboration with the Catalan government, Maragall proposes to increase Barcelona's water self-sufficiency through projects such as the expansion of the Besòs Water Treatment Plant. ERC also wants a public water management model which is metropolitan in scope and the expansion of Barcelona's groundwater exploitation network. The key, as stated in the programme, is to prioritize the "public vocation of the water management system".

Xavier Trias: more desalination and regeneration capacity, to have more resources

In his election programme, Xavier Trias refers to the drought being suffered by Barcelona and the country as a whole, affirming that the city can carry out "more intelligent and efficient water management" to avoid restrictions. This would be based on increasing desalination and water regeneration capacity to cover "a fundamental part of the city's demand".

In a context of climate change, the Trias per Barcelona team proposes an urban resilience plan, following the objectives of sustainable development. Among other measures, this would includes the management of the water cycle: "with infrastructure to guarantee quality and efficient supply and sanitation". Trias commits to developing strategies to reuse water, such as gray water, rain and groundwater: "We need to create sustainable urban drainage systems, as well as lamination ponds to recharge groundwater."

In his programme, Xavier Trias asserts his commitment to make progress in "new water", that is, generated from technologies such as regeneration and desalination and which is key to promoting reuse: "This will enable the provision of new water from kilometre zero and increase the availability of resources". In the same vein, the Trias team see the need to deploy the necessary rain infrastructure works to increase Barcelona's water resilience and deal with drought situations.

Ada Colau: limiting private swimming pools and democratic water management

In this context of the drought, to which she makes explicit reference in her election programme, the mayor and candidate for re-election, Ada Colau, proposes limiting the construction of private swimming pools in Barcelona. The leader of Barcelona en Comú includes this idea in a section on measures to "reduce the possibility of speculation in Barcelona".

The BComú group also contemplates expanding the use of non-conventional water in Barcelona, to ensure that the groundwater networks reaches all of the city's parks. For this reason, they propose new connections and extensions, with a network that will reach 140 kilometres in length, up from the current 123, and reach a capacity of 4 hm3 per year. In addition, they are also committing to the incorporation of regenerated water in irrigation and cleaning of specific neighborhoods and "introducing the mandatory reuse of gray water in new buildings from a minimum surface area". Ada Colau also wants to create complementary rainwater tanks to optimize the use of water resources.

Colau's other big proposal on water goes beyond the drought, as it advocates a "democratic management of water". This would involve public management of this asset, with the creation of a metropolitan company, in which the municipalities would have holdings, to "manage the supply services that are not currently provided by the ABEMCIA firm", the mostly-private company which manages Barcelona's water. From here, they contemplate "subsequently studying the possibility that the services under its management gradually pass to the public company". 

Jaume Collboni: reduce water loss and awareness campaign

Jaume Collboni's PSC also refers to measures to save water in this current drought context. First of all, the Socialists say they are committed to agreeing on an improvement and prevention plan for the drinking water supply and irrigation network, with the aim of reducing water losses. In total, according to the PSC, consumption of network water by municipal services could be reduced by 100,000 m3 per year. In the same line, they propose to increase different facilities, such as lamination tanks (upstream), storm tanks, rainwater retention tanks (downstream) and water tanks and wells. This would serve to take advantage of rainwater and groundwater for irrigation, and to prevent and avoid the effects of droughts. The aim of this measure is to increase the surface of urban sustainable drainage systems by 20,000 m².

Apart from these type of works, the PSC also proposes to carry out an awareness campaign on new water-saving habits aimed at the population and the economic sectors. In this way, domestic drinking water consumption per inhabitant could be reduced. In their programme they also incorporate a Technical Plan for the use of alternative water resources from 2020, which must be updated and adapted to a "scenario of greater water instability and recurrent droughts".