People collect drinking water from a tanker truck due to low water levels and contamination of the nearby reservoir on July 28, 2022 in Peraleda de San Roman, Caceres province, Spain.
Pablo Blazquez Dominguez—Getty Images
August 17, 2022 10:19 AM EDT

Shipping freshwater by sea is becoming a reality in a corner of Spain that’s turned to a tanker to keep the taps running amid the lowest rainfall in 163 years.

As an exceptional measure to deal with a “historical water deficit,” public utility Consorcio de Aguas Bilbao Bizkaia in the Basque region of northern Spain has ordered a ship to move 2 million liters of water a day to supply four towns, the company said in a press statement. The ship is currently in trials and is expected to start making regular trips from the city of Bilbao to Bermeo, a port that’s about 30 kilometers (19 miles) away by land.

The water utility has never supplied water from a ship to a network, a spokesperson told Bloomberg.

Although it’s known for milder temperatures and greener landscapes than most of central and southern Spain, the Basque country has also been hit by a severe drought this summer that’s forced authorities to take unprecedented measures, such as shutting municipal fountains or banning the filling or replenishing of private pools. In the three months to July, the Basque province of Biscay recorded the lowest rainfall since 1859, according to Spain’s weather agency.

Read more: Drought and the Ukraine War Are Pushing Somalia Toward a Catastrophic Famine

The tanker is expected to supply the area of Busturialdea while protecting the rivers and springs from where water is normally obtained. The rest of the province is safer from water scarcity as it pumps supplies from reservoirs, according to the utility.

Spanish newspaper El Pais reported the planned water shipments earlier on Wednesday.

Nearly half of the global population currently lives in a zone that’s at risk of water shortages at least one month per year, according to the United Nations.

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