The City Council will water all the trees in Barcelona so that they can endure this harsh summer. At least, most of them. This is a phased operation that the technicians of the Municipal Institute of Parks and Gardens are finishing designing.

Until a few days ago, the restrictions dictated by the Generalitat only allowed one in three animals in the city to be served. The municipal groundwater distribution network barely reaches 20% of Barcelona’s green areas, and the reinforcements of large tank trucks and tank vans did not allow municipal gardeners to soak the 250,000 trees and palm trees in the Catalan capital either. About 85,500 could barely water from time to time.

But the latest rains allowed some restrictions to be reduced, the state of emergency to be left behind and the state of exceptionality to be recovered. In this context, the City Council can carry out survival irrigation drop by drop with drinking water. The scope of municipal infrastructure supplied with drinking water will allow the situation to be reversed. The trees that stand in streets and squares, in truth the most affected by this persistent drought, will be the ones that benefit the most from the measure. The grass, which is gradually becoming part of the past, will continue not to be watered.

Municipal sources detail that in this way the annual consumption of water for irrigation by the City Council will progressively go from 0.87 hm3 of groundwater and zero of potable water to a total of between 1.4 and 1.5 hm3, of which of which 0.9 will be potable and between 0.5 and 0.6 phreatic. In a normal situation, up to 3 hm3 had been dedicated to irrigation, 2.5 for potable water and another 0.5 for groundwater. Imagine a block in Eixample the height of the W hotel. Well, roughly speaking, that volume amounts to an hm3.

The City Council’s technicians understand that in this way the subsoil of Barcelona will be enriched. Despite the latest rainfall, it is still very dry. And the technicians also consider that by soaking the subsoil, the specimens will be able to better resist the attacks of a summer that is already presumed to be tremendously hot. In any case, some Parcs i Jardins gardeners do not see it so clearly and question the City Council’s strategy.

Throughout life, most of the trees and palms in Barcelona survived thanks to rainfall and subsoil water. The City Council only watered the specimens during their first four years of life, to ensure that they grew vigorously. But so many years of drought were already taking their toll on the health of many trees and palms. It is not clear how many died completely parched. Recently, the City Council itself estimated that around 2,000 did so in just ten months. Many already predicted that quite a few specimens would not be able to withstand the high temperatures of next summer.

“But it is not clear that these methods are going to save so many trees,” say gardeners from the CGT of Parcs i Jardins. Those most affected by the drought, those on the road network, especially the most mature ones that sink their roots deep and live off subsoil water, barely benefit from you flooding their tree pits with a few liters. This type of irrigation only benefits younger trees with smaller roots. But the City Council insists on maintaining an extra shift in the afternoon, despite the organizational problems that it entails, that many workers are against it and that the afternoon is not the most appropriate time for irrigation. Morning hours are more convenient. For this reason, the City Council is not providing exact data on the number of dead trees due to the drought. “We have asked, but we have not received a good answer.”