September 5, 2005

Spain’s drought worst on record, no relief seen

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain has suffered the driest year on
record and meteorologists do not forecast enough rain in the
coming months to top up drained reservoirs, the National
Institute of Meteorology said on Monday.

In the 12 months to the end of August 2005 Spain received
almost 40 percent less rain than in average years, the
institute said in a statement. It was the driest year since
records began in 1947.

Water reserves stand at 43 percent of capacity, and in one
southern area as low as 13 percent.

Angel Rivera, head of forecasting at the institute, said
heavy Atlantic storms would be needed through the autumn and
winter to reverse damage from the drought, but heavy rainfall
was not expected.

"The models we have ... (suggest) that the rains in autumn
will be normal or even less than normal," Rivera said.

Drought caused massive crop failure this year while
hydroelectric production fell 36 percent in the first eight
months of this year, industry data showed.

The northeastern region of Catalunya has imposed water
restrictions, including banning the use of reservoirs for
hydroelectric generation while some parched parts of Spain have
depended on tankers for their water.

In the south authorities have opened emergency wells to
guarantee water supply for tourists.