4 Mar, 2024 @ 15:00
1 min read

Church in Spain that was submerged in the 1950s emerges from a dried up reservoir in Catalunya amid severe drought

THE extreme drought wracking Catalonia has seen an ancient church dating from the 11th century re-emerge from a reservoir.

The town of Sant Romà de Sau, 20km west of Girona, had not been seen since it was flooded in 1950 in order to build a dam.

The Sau reservoir now stands at just one percent capacity after a thousand days of drought.

This has revealed the eerie remains of the town’s structures, once again visible to the naked eye amid the bone-dry parched earth.

Reservoirs in Girona province stand at 19% capacity, while in neighbouring Barcelona they are just 9% full.

Catalonia declared a drought emergency on January 31, paving the way for harsh restrictions on personal water consumption for six million people – although the measures have not been implemented yet.

A photo taken on Feb 19 shows the entire church remains exposed and well above the water line. Credit: Flickr / Joan Grifols

The autonomous region’s farmers, who consume one third of the water, have been first in line to cut back.

The government wants them to use 80% less water for irrigation and 50% less water on livestock. Meanwhile, Catalunya’s businesses have been told to cut water use by a quarter.

The local government has already invested half a billion euros in desalination plants, and proposals are on the table to ship water from the rainy north of Spain to its dry eastern regions.

So far, Catalunya’s booming tourism industry has been saved from stricter measures, despite tourists using double the amount of water daily than a resident.

It’s a sector that makes up 12% of the region’s economy, with 10 million visitors arriving in 2022 – mostly during the hottest months of the year.

In 2013, the church was only partially visible. Wikicommons

Currently, hotels face no legal incentives to save water – known as ‘grey water’ – from showers and other usage.

The Minister of Climate Action, David Mascort, has assured the region’s residents – and visitors – that the current restrictions will ensure water ‘until the end of the year.’

He has called for people to ´rethink how we live´

“When the neighbour cannot irrigate fields or plant rice, I have to think that perhaps I will not be able to have a swimming pool this year,” he said. 

Mascort has come out in favour of banning new pool licences while the emergency measures are in place.


Walter Finch

Walter - or Walt to most people - is a former and sometimes still photographer and filmmaker who likes to dig under the surface.
A NCTJ-trained journalist, he came to the Costa del Sol - Gibraltar hotspot from the Daily Mail in 2022 to report on organised crime, corruption, financial fraud and a little bit of whatever is going on.
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