Barcelona is parched — and angry at quenched tourists

By Zia Weise | 05/09/2024 06:25 AM EDT

The yawning gap between locals’ and visitors’ consumption is stoking long-standing resentments ahead of an election.

Tourists drink water as they stand in the shade of a tree near Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona on July 18, 2023.

Tourists drink water as they stand in the shade of a tree in Barcelona on July 18, 2023. Some 30 million people visit Barcelona annually, with numbers peaking in the hot and dry summer months. Pau Barrena/AFP via Getty Images

BARCELONA, Spain — As rain poured into Catalonia’s parched capital, the tourists did, too.

Yet while a damp April has some brought some relief to the drought-stricken Spanish region — which has been living under rain-starved skies for over three years — the crescendoing tourist season did not.

After all, spring is when visitors start spilling into Barcelona’s streets each morning from cruise ships, hotels and Airbnbs — and consuming considerably more of the city’s water than the average resident, threatening to push Barcelona’s water supply to the breaking point.


The disconnect has locals fulminating. While Catalan municipalities have faced water consumption limits since the region declared a drought emergency in early February, the tourism sector has largely escaped restrictions.