Is Our Future In Drought? - Pager Power
+44 1787 319001

Is Our Future In Drought?

Is Our Future In Drought?
February 13, 2024 Kai Frolic

Climate crises of various kinds are becoming commonplace in today’s world. From extreme weather events to rising average temperatures, we are becoming used to reading about concerning environmental events. Drought is among the less sensational problems, but it is no less threatening than any of the other challenges we are facing.

climate crises drought

Figure 1: Sun shining over an expanse of dry land. [14]

Water Crises

The United Nations says [1] the term ‘water shortage’ means there is no sufficient access to drinking water to fulfil human needs. The World Health Organisation says that in times of crisis each person needs access to a minimum of 15 litres of fresh water per day, guaranteed.

Some of the recent impacts of drought are set out below, this is (unfortunately!) not an exhaustive list.


Spain is experiencing significant drought. Catalonia in particular is seeing water shortages that are worse than they have been at any time in the last century [2] and has declared a state of emergency. In fact, an 11th century church that was underwater for 60 years in the Sau reservoir has emerged [3]. This has in fact given the village of Sant Romà de Sau a new tourist attraction, but the depletion of the reservoir itself is a concern because it supplies water to Barcelona.


Studies have shown [4] that the regions most affected by droughts in the USA include the Great Plains and portions of the Colorado River Basin, the latter has seen extreme drought for several decades now. This has led researchers to warn that both water security and wildfires will become ever greater problems if the climate crisis underpinning these issues is not addressed.


Canada has experienced an unusually dry winter [5]. This has the knock-on effect of worsening drought conditions in the country’s western provinces. In Alberta, there have already been three years of drought that have made farming more expensive and even led to reduced herds to manage costs. The trend also spells bad news for the country’s oil and gas industries, which are also very active in western Canada. The country is also still dealing with active wildfires, a problem that is only exacerbated by dry conditions.


Australia is generally prone to drought due to its climate. The ‘Millennium Drought’ between 2006 and 2010 saw south-east Australia suffer its lowest rainfall recorded [6] since 1865. More recently [7], raised ocean temperatures in both the Pacific and Indian oceans indicate that drought and wildfires will get worse in 2024.

Horn of Africa

The Horn of Africa has been devastated by drought, with five successive failed rainy seasons leading up to last year. The impacts have been felt in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, with tens of thousands of deaths and further consequences for crops and livestock. Spring of 2023 did see a rainy season, which will certainly have been a reprieve, but the damage done will take a monumental effort to repair.


Water security is of concern to many countries and institutions, and actions are being taken. Germany will host 2024’s Desertification and Drought Day in June [8], an event that coincides with the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. Among the priorities of the event is water security.

In terms of measures to combat drought specifically, there are a number of steps that are available now. These include the below. 


Desalination is the process of removing salt from seawater to produce freshwater or drinking water. In this context, ‘freshwater’ means a salt content of no more than 0.05 percent. Drinking water should have a content of no more than 0.01 percent. Desalination is one of the newer technologies for addressing water shortages.

Desalination plants already exist, Europe’s largest one is in fact in Barcelona, which desalinates water from the Mediterranean Sea to produce fresh water. The plant produces 45 litres of fresh water from 100 litres of salt water and produces about a fifth of the freshwater that Barcelona needs.

NEOM is proposing a desalination plant to be built within 2024 as part of its smart city in Saudi Arabia [9]. It is intended that the project be delivered in three or more stages leading to an ultimate total capacity of one million cubic metres per day. [10]

California had plans for a huge desalination plant that would have produced 190 million litres of drinking water per day. However, after almost 10 years of battling, the project was denied permission in 2022.

Some of the challenges [11] for deploying desalination plants are:

  • Energy efficiency.
  • Brine disposal.
  • Regulatory barriers.
  • Investment requirements.

Notwithstanding the fact that Barcelona has the largest desalination plant in Europe, the region is currently resorting to bringing in desalinated water by boat to address the immediate shortage. This is not a move that anybody would suggest is sustainable, but at the moment appears to be the best option available under the circumstances.

Other Solutions

There is a plethora of measures [12] that we can take to mitigate against drought. These include:

  • Drip Irrigation – provision of tubing with emitters on the ground such that they can drip water into the root zone of the soil. This method has an efficiency [13] of 90% compared to the approximately 70% efficiency of sprinklers.
  • Improved harvesting of rainwater.
  • Genetically engineered crops – which could potentially be ‘programmed’ to require less water.
  • Planting more trees.
  • More responsible use of water in society in general – including recycling of wastewater.

Moving Forward

Like most environmental threats, drought is unlikely to be resolved by one solution. It is likely that the mitigation measures we have available to us will need to be combined and, in all probability, enhanced with further measures if we are to manage our water security effectively.

Pager Power

Pager Power has been supporting renewable energy and building developers for over 20 years. Our core areas are aviation safety, solar glint and glare, telecommunication interference and shadow flicker. We work alongside developers of wind farms, solar parks and buildings all over the world. For more information about what we do, please get in touch.


[1] Geographical (August 2022), The future of desalination (link), Geographical, last accessed February 2024.
[2] Vega, R.M., (February 2024), ‘An exceptional solution’: Catalonia is bringing in water by boat to top up dwindling supplies (link), Euronews, last accessed February 2024.
[3] Euronews Green (January 2024), Drought reveals sunken 11th century church as Spain battles prolonged water shortages (link), Euronews, last accessed February 2024.
[4] Ramirez, R (January 2024), Water-guzzling ‘hot drought’ in the West is unprecedented n at least 5 centuries, study suggests (link), CNN, last accessed February 2024.
[5] Williams, N and Nickel, R (January 2024), Explainer: Western Canada’s dry winger heralds worsening drought for 2024 (link), Reuters, last accessed February 2024.
[6] NSW Government (undated), Climate change impacts on drought (link).
[7] Dinneen, J (November 2023), Twin ocean climate anomalies may trigger heat and drought in 2024 (link), New Scientist, last accessed February 2024.
[8] Federal Ministery for Economic Cooperation and Development (December 2023), Germany to host 2024 Desertification and Drought Day (link), last accessed February 2024.
[9]  Arab News (February 2024), NEOM to build a desalination plant by 2024 to quell water paucity: Official (link), Arab News, last accessed February 2024.
[10] NEOM (undated), Seawater Desalination (link), last accessed February 2024.
[11] TK-Water (November 2023), Global Water Desalination Market Outlook for 2024 (link), last accessed February 2024.
[12] RIPE (June 2019), 8 innovative drought solutions that we can count on (link), RIPE, last accessed February 2024.
[13] College of the Environment and Life Sciences (undated), Drip Irrigation (link), University of Rhode Island, last accessed February 2024.
[14] Oleksandr Sushko, (Nov 2021) from Last accessed on 13th February 2024. Available at:



Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Make an Enquiry

You can make an enquiry here

    Your Name (required)Your Email (required)Subject Your Message