Located in Galicia, the former Spanish village of Aceredo was submerged under water in 1992, when the Alto Lindoso dam was commissioned. Following the drying up of this artificial water reservoir, it has completely reappeared for a few days and its ruins now attract a crowd of curious people.
An extreme and prolonged drought hits both Spain and Portugal, due to low winter rainfall.
According to the meteorological agencies of both countries, January is considered the second driest month since the year 2000 in the Iberian Peninsula. “In January in Spain, it rained only a quarter of what it should have rained at this time,” Ruben Del Campo, spokesman for the Spanish meteorological agency, told AFP. “This drought is exceptional in its intensity, scale and duration,” Ricardo Deus, climatologist at the Portuguese Institute of the Sea and Atmosphere, told AFP.
Experts say climate change has exacerbated the problem of dry spells in arid areas of the Iberian Peninsula. Farmers fear that crops will be compromised this year.
a submerged village resurfacing
Located in northwest Spain on the border with Portugal, the Alto Lindoso Reservoir is currently only filled to 15% of its capacity and as a result it has caused the gray and muddy ruins to re-emerge of this small village of Aceredo, once populated by about a hundred inhabitants. Its 70 homes had been flooded and submerged during the creation of the hydroelectric dam, thirty years ago. Four other villages had also been submerged in this region of Galicia: A Reloeira, Buscalque, OBao and Lantemil.
“It’s like watching a movie. I have a feeling of sadness,” Maximino Perez Romero, a 65-year-old pensioner from Corunna, told Reuters. “My feeling is that’s what’s going to happen every year because of drought and so on, because of global warming,” he added.
Walking through the streets of this ghost town, visitors and other curious people walk on the muddy, drought-cracked ground, discovering the vestiges of a life that came to a halt in 1992. They can observe the abandoned buildings with partially collapsed, the remains of wooden doors or beams, and even crates containing empty beer bottles piled near what was once a cafe as well as an old rusty car abandoned near a stone wall.
Exceptional drought and disputed water management
Asked by Reuters, Maria Del Carmen Yanez, mayor of the municipality of Lobios on which the village of Aceredo depends, indicated that this situation is the result of the exceptional drought affecting the country, following the low rainfall in recent months. But she also pointed the finger at the responsibility of Portugal’s electricity utility (EDP), which manages the Alto Lindoso reservoir.
Due to the worsening drought, the Portuguese authorities ordered six dams, including that of Alto Lindoso, on February 1 to suspend electricity production in order to preserve the volumes necessary to supply the population. Contacted by Reuters, EDP said the low reservoir levels were due to drought but it was managing water resources effectively and these were above minimum requirements, including Alto Lindoso.
In the Spanish public debate, questions concerning the sustainability of these dams come back to the fore at regular intervals. In 2021, several Spanish villages had complained about how electric utilities had taken water from a lake near Iberdrola in the west of the country. Even though the company said it was following the rules.
In Spain, artificial water reservoirs are on average at 44% of their capacity, whereas in the last decade they reached 61%. Although the problem is not widespread in Spain, drought indicators point to a potential worsening expected in the coming weeks, a source from Spain’s environment ministry told Reuters.