L’Espluga de Francoli, Spain – Father Antonio Rosario will call on the Lord next month to open the heavens and bring some much needed rain to his parish.
The priest will lead a special procession with an image of the Holy Trinity, reviving a tradition in L’Espluga de Francolí from the 18th century.
“I have already prayed for rain during mass, but this will be a ceremony in which we will have a prayer [effigy] of the Holy Trinity from a hermitage outside the city and cry for rain. Our need is so great,” Father Rosario told Al Jazeera.
Spaniards have a saying that during droughts the trees chase the dogs. But in this city, which has had no rain in over a year, it’s the people who are desperate for signs of raindrops.
Like hundreds of cities across Spain, this municipality in the hills of Catalonia has restrictions on its water supply.
Authorities are turning off the tap between 22:00 and 07:00 (20:00 to 05:00 GMT), making it impossible to shower, clean, wash dishes or run the washing machine. Spaniards eat late so this affects many.
During the day, villagers collect water in bottles or buckets to have enough for daily necessities.
“I have to get up at 5 a.m. to go to work, so I can’t shower before I leave home. Fortunately, they have showers in the factory,” says Manuel Navas, who works in a paper mill.
Juanita Pérez stores water during the day so she can clean the house or flush the toilet at night.
“At first this irritated me. Now you get used to it. People did not always have running water in their homes. We have to adapt to our situation,” she told Al Jazeera.
Every day, up to 10 water trucks, each carrying between 12,000 and 29,000 liters (3,170-7,660 gallons), arrive to bring relief to a city where the underground aquifers have dried up.
Albert Einstein visited the city 100 years ago during a tour of Spain. Now even a genius could struggle to solve Spain’s climate problem.
Ironically, L’Espluga de Francolí, about 120 km south of Barcelona, was once famous for its water.
Tourists came here to relax in the spas, as the water was believed to contain magnesium and have medicinal properties. Not anymore.
What is happening in this arid Catalan city symbolizes the way Spain is slowly drying up.
Rainfall in the Iberian Peninsula has fallen by about 25 percent since October last year, said Richard Torrijo, a spokesman for AEMET, Spain’s national weather service.
Driest year on record
This came after 2021 was one of the driest on record.
The sequía – drought in Spanish – is exacerbated by rising temperatures, which have approached 40°C in the south, making May more like the peak of summer.
The countryside is like a tinderbox: the first forest fire of the year started in March after an unusually dry winter.
The fire destroyed more than 30 square kilometers (11.5 sq mi) of forest and forced 1,500 residents to leave their homes near Valencia.
Andalusia in the deep south and Catalonia in the north have been hardest hit by the drought.
The fields outside L’Espluga de Francolí are yellow instead of green because the crops are languishing.
“It is not worth harvesting the wheat. It is a rain-dependent crop, just like the vines and the olives,” says Joan Arbos, who owns 40 hectares of farmland.
“We’ve had two years without any decent rain, but now it’s very worrying. I depend on my farm for 100 percent of my income.”
When the water trucks arrived to deliver their precious cargo, Xavier Rossell, who has the unenviable job of managing the water supply for the city government, said: “I feel a sense of powerlessness. Sometimes I stay awake at night thinking about it. We cannot generate water.”
“We need to change our chip and value water more. The next wars will be fought over this,” Rossell added.
Reserves across Spain have fallen to 49.6 percent of their normal levels, according to government data.
But in the Sau reservoir, which supplies water for Barcelona, the water level has fallen to 7 percent, the lowest in the country.
Sant Romà de Sau, an 11th century church that was flooded along with the rest of a village when the reservoir was created in the 1960s, has emerged from the depths.
This has led to a new “drought tourism”, with people from Barcelona making the 100 km (62 mi) journey to this remote reservoir to take selfies next to the building.
Authorities were forced to siphon the fish to prevent them from dying and to preserve water quality.
With no sign of rain clouds, the Catalan regional government this week extended restrictions on water use to 495 towns or villages – almost doubling the number of municipalities under “exceptional measures”.
Farmers are required to reduce water use to 40 percent of normal use, but this was reduced to 15 percent for industrial purposes.
Watering public and private areas is banned and fines will be introduced for cities that waste water.
Back in L’Espluga de Francolí, bar owner Gerard Griño painted a grim picture of the future.
“This is a social problem. It’s not just about this city, it’s the same for all of Spain. People don’t blame the politicians, they blame the climate,” he told Al Jazeera.