Drought 2014

Experts warn of the beginning of the worst drought of recent years

From las Provincias 9th may 2014
Weather stations in the cities of Valencia and Alicante, which have records since 1863 and 1857 respectively, have never seen an autumn, winter and early spring with less rainfall as has been recorded during the last eight months.

In some areas of the Region, and in the southern regions of Alicante, rainfall data during the first months of the year could qualify as being "Saharan" according to Jorge Olcina (Professor of Regional Geographic Analysis at the University of Alicante and director of the Laboratory of Climatology of the institution) . "We are in an historic situation," he said.

According to data provided by the Valencian delegation of the State Meteorological Agency (Aemet), the Region has an average water deficit of 67 percent since 1 September; but there are particular areas where it has not rained at all, or which have received a quarter of normal such as northern Valencia and southern Alicante and Castellón. In the first four months of the year in the southern half of the province of Alicante rainfall was 90 percent below normal. Olcina added. "If the situation does not change dramatically, some rainfed crops may dry out in the coming weeks".

The near disappearance of rainfall after storms in late August last year, combined with a gradual increase in temperature. For example, in April, temperatures have been almost four degrees above normal, making it the hottest April of the past 75 years. This, coupled with warm westerly winds in the autumn and winter, have caused humidity below 10% in about half the area such as the southern half of Alicante, the north of Valencia and the southern province of Castellón.

Crisis in the Campo

The current situation is especially punishing to the Valencian countryside in the form of 'disastrous' damage to crops, and to the mountains through the spread of forest fires (the latest yesterday in Peniscola). Such is the gravity of the situation that the Government has been forced to impose a high alert prohibiting any agricultural burning until October.

Meanwhile, the Union of Llauradors proposed of the urgent creation of a commission to monitor drought on a regional level, to analyze the current situation, prevent the effects of it and implement appropriate measures to alleviate it. Experts of this group of farmers indicate that the situation is very worrying for various rainfed crops e.g. poor sprouting in vines, problems in the development of cereal crops, almonds and olives. Livestock is also suffering from the lack of pasture.

The Agrarian Association of Young Farmers (Asaja) in the province of Alicante estimated losses caused by drought account as between €40 and 45 million, and have asked for help from the central government to offset the loss of crops and to replant trees.

The Valencian Farmers Association (AVA) put a figure of 40 million euros for the additional cost of electricity they are having use to extract 30 percent more water from wells for irrigation. In inland areas of Valencia, such as the Hoya de Buñol, they are "already are suffering serious problems of low water levels of the wells', commented from organization.

Currently there is no danger to the supply of drinking water, since for this, the situation needs to persist at least for a year or two, as many of the aquifers that serve the Valencia basins are fed from rainfall outside the region. Still, three of the eight major reservoirs that supply the Region have reserves below half of total capacity and below the average of the last ten years.

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