Low water level at the Yesa reservoir, Spain (Picture: Basotxerri)

Spain is running out of water as droughts become far more frequent and intense due to climate change. It should be a spur to urgent environmental action, and workers will have to fight against life‑threatening conditions.

This year several Spanish cities registered their highest April temperatures ever. Cordoba recorded 38.7°C at one point. For the first time since 1927, not a single drop of rain fell on the city of Valencia in April.

Spain’s public health agency estimated that extreme temperatures killed nearly 6,000 people in 2022. This year it could be worse.

Recently the government, made up of the Labour‑type PSOE and the once-radical Podemos parties, proposed meagre measures to counteract the effects of drought. It earmarked £2 billion for emergency aid and said outdoor workers such as refuse collectors, street sweepers and builders will not have to work when the Spanish meteorological office issues high temperature alerts.

Unions welcomed the move, but it is very limited and applies only to the most extreme temperatures. The government’s programme ignores the bigger picture.

Patricio Garcia-Fayos, director of a respected research centre in Valencia, said that climate change, coupled with the overexploitation of groundwater, is accelerating “the desertification of Spain”. This increases the risk of wildfires.

Last year, Spain suffered the largest number of wildfires in Europe, with over 300,000 hectares—about the size of Cornwall—going up in flames.

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