Spain’s drought emergency halts freshwater supplies to cruise ships

As Spain experiences its worst drought in recent years, the government has decided that there will be no freshwater supplies for cruise ships at the port of Barcelona and possibly Mallorca. 

A balcony overlooking the ocean at dusk in Spain's Drought Emergency.

Since February started, Barcelona and 200 other towns in Catalonia have declared drought emergencies. Pere Aragonès, the President of the Government of Catalonia, announced, “Catalonia is facing its worst drought of the last century. In fact, since rainfall records began, we have never experienced such a prolonged drought.”

Without adequate rainfall in the last three years, residents and businesses have drastically cut down on their water consumption. The drought’s effects have also been felt by cruise ships that stop at the country’s largest cruise port.

Already, an agreement is in place that Barcelona will not supply water to cruise ships that belong to the International Cruise Lines Association (CLIA) unless there is an emergency. The city will only begin supplying water to them once the situation returns to normal. 

barcelona cruise pier
The Barcelona coastline in the summer.

CLIA-affiliated cruise ships account for 90% of vessels that call on the Port of Barcelona. They are responsible for 0.09% of Barcelona’s water consumption.

Because the drought has been so widespread, there has been growing public pressure to implement the same agreement with cruise ships that stop at Mallorca. 

Recognizing the urgent need to save water, CLIA and the Port of Barcelona supported these changes by saying that they’ve implemented significant innovations in the last several years.

A deck on a cruise ship with a view of the ocean and Spain's drought emergency.

Technologies such as reverse osmosis systems and evaporators have allowed them to reuse water and decrease their reliance on local freshwater supplies. 

These innovations have progressed to such a degree that many cruise ships can now produce over 90% of their own freshwater, making Spain’s decision to temporarily discontinue supplying water to cruise ships more viable. In 2022, fewer than 30% of port stops supplied water to cruise ships, a significant reduction from 2017’s 50%. 

Earlier this year, Barcelona also tried to impose cruise ship limits to minimize cruise ship traffic and their environmental impact.

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