'Praying for rain': A case of drought mismanagement in Barcelona (2007-2008)

Alvar Closas
International Consultant, Canberra, Australia; alvarclosas@gmail.com

ABSTRACT: Focusing on the severe drought suffered by the city of Barcelona, Spain, in 2007 and 2008, the aim of this paper is twofold. First, it examines the panoply of emergency measures that were enacted as responses to the drought; second, it contextualises the event within the wider political context of water scarcity and resource management in Catalonia. An examination of this drought is used to reveal structural deficiencies in water management policies. By combining the concepts of path dependency and the 'hydraulic mission', this paper situates drought management in Barcelona along the traditionalist continuum of supply-side technology-focused water management solutions in Spain. Fraught with contradictory policies, political bickering and partisan alliances, drought management in Barcelona becomes subject to party agendas and dependent on technological fixes; this undermines the possibility of establishing effective and adaptive drought management plans for the future.

KEYWORDS: Drought, hydraulic mission, path dependency, water politics, Barcelona, Spain