Catalunya is going through one of the worst droughts in its most recent history. At the beginning of February, the emergency level was declared in certain areas of the territory, causing restrictions for six million people.

The situation also affects the entire nursery and the green sector in general, a fact that led a total of 23 entities recently signed a manifesto asking for survival irrigation to be allowed in green spaces. The situation is not new and Catalunya has seen how rainfall has decreased considerably in the last three years, reaching the current state where some reserves are below 17% of their capacity.
Mr David Borda, president of the Federació de Viveristes de Catalunya, provided recently an overview of the drought situation in Catalunya, with a valuable zoom on the ornamental sector that puts its needs on the table.

This interview has been published before in the international magazine Flormarket Global 121-2024.

– Mr Borda, can the origin of the drought that Catalunya is currently suffering be determined?

“There is no single cause to justify the lack of water. There are undoubtedly many causes, some of which are beyond our control. We have had three years with rainfall below normal, except for few episodes in the summer of 2020 and the spring of 2021. This is already a determining factor.

This situation would not have occurred with proper management of the water in the reservoirs. Let’s think that in 2020 they relieved water due to Storm Gloria. And, the first alerts about measures, the reservoirs reached 25-30% of the reserves »

But no one talks about the fact that the electricity companies emptied the reservoirs in 2020, during the period of high prices for electricity and energy in general, which resulted in benefits for these companies and ended the population’s water storage. There is also tourism, losses in the supply network of many cities, many private pools that do not carry out treatments and change the water often and a long etcetera. Another topic we should talk about is the amount of light that cities waste at certain times of night. Thinking about optimizing that consumption would help us all.

«What we cannot do is demonize, as usual, the agricultural sector because it consumes 80% of the fresh water in Spain. If a sector is essential, it is the countryside. And ours, that of nurserymen and other professionals of the green sector, should also be strategic, since we sell VIDA. Furthermore, in Catalunya alone, there are already 234 companies in this sector, which directly employ 3,450 people, figures that are not inconsiderable.”

– But it is undeniable that, in a situation of climate crisis, with less rainfall and higher temperatures than normal, it is very important to ensure efficient use of irrigation water, in all areas. Do you think the nursery sector has done its homework?

«Definitely. This is what the Catalan nursery sector has been doing for several decades now and, I know, also that of other producing areas in Spain. More than 20 years ago, drip irrigation began to be developed among our nurseries. Currently (latest figures from December 2022), Catalonia has 1,902 hectares of nurseries; of them, 475 in containers and just over 1,400 in the field (with 210 dry land, 1,037 irrigated and 179 in greenhouses, which also have drip irrigation).

On the other hand, great work has been done regarding the type of species, betting in recent times on those adapted to low water needs – savings that will have an impact on the nurseries and also on their final location in public or private spaces.

In this sense, the Mediterranean trees are increasingly cultivated. The production of rosemary, thyme and many other smaller plants, adapted to these conditions, also grows. “New times bring with them new needs and, how could it be otherwise, we are adapting.”

– If the situation does not improve in the coming months, what are the main problems that the nursery and green sector in general in Catalunya will have to face?

“On February 1, the Generalitat of Catalunya declared a state of emergency due to drought in the Ter- Llobregat system, with restrictions that will affect 80% of the population, including the agricultural sector. Right now we can irrigar, complying with the current restrictions, in the nurseries. From November to February is when we need the most water in field crops, to facilitate the start of the plant. And, in spring-summer, is when container cultivation has the greatest demand. If it doesn’t rain, starting in May we could have serious problems.

«With the state of emergency, the affected nurseries are asked to reduce water consumption by 80% that is the main problem. This is completely unfeasible, especially as far as a container plant is concerned. It would be like indirectly telling the company to go out of business. We have to remind that, in a nursery, there may be plants that are just a few weeks old, along with trees that are 20-100 years old, and do we let them die due to lack of irrigation?

Proof of the little consider on of this rule is that no other sector is asked for something similar. Neither the Generalitat nor the Agència Catalana de l’Aigua see our sector as strategic. Trees and plants, also ornamental ones, are vital for rain, to avoid damage from torrential rains, among many other advantages for people’s lives. Logically, when there is no water, there is no solution. We only ask for the same treatment as the rest of the sectors, no more and no less.”

– Might convincing the different administrations to consider the green sector as strategic be the solution, a part of their problems?

“The agricultural sector must be a priority, due to its involvement in human and animal nutrition. Further-more, administrations should know that the green sector is also necessary. We are selling LIFE. Life for citizens, due to the enormous benefits of greenery in cities, trees that help minimize temperature increases in the city or prevent runoff, among other multiple benefits. On the other hand, we must not forget that the nursery sector does not have companies that relocate their production. On the contrary, we create jobs in our territory. It is an added value to be taken into account by our rulers.”

– What does the sector need to address the problem of water shortage for irrigation?

-Fortunately, City Council Technicians opt for Green. And citizens also value having plants in the cities and their own homes. More and more, these are species with few water needs. And they are beings that improve people’s living conditions
The sector needs to be taken into account. We ask to have a voice in decision-making regarding a problem that belongs to everyone and that requires solutions that we must also all agree on. Water, especially in emergency situations, must be managed with a global approach. Of course, in the short term, it is necessary for it to rain soon and abundantly. Necessary rains especially in the headwaters and mountainous areas, which is where the rainfall, in the form of water or snow, has dropped alarmingly».

Pie de foto: Crataegus laevigata cultivated at Nurseries Vivers Borda (Castellserà in the province of Lleida)