The new Guadalhorce valley sewage works, which will treat the wastewater from Álora, Pizarra and Coín, is now operative after two years of works. Located within the municipal boundary of Pizarra, in the area known as La Aljaima where the Río Grande meets the Guadalhorce, the plant is currently operating in a test phase, treating the wastewater produced by the 22,000 residents in Pizarra and Álora. It is expected that in a few months' time it will also serve the municipality of Coín, taking the total catchment area up to 44,000 residents.
It's now two decades since the Junta de Andalucía first envisaged building the treatment plant to prevent untreated sewage ending up in the river Guadalhorce and 12 years since the construction contract was awarded.
It was first thought that the plant would also include Alhaurín el Grande and Cártama, but the latter two towns have now been included in the Málaga Norte wastewater treatment plant to be built north of the airport and serving Torremolinos and Alhaurín de la Torre as well as taking the pressure off the city's current sewage works. This project is still on the drawing board and is not expected to be in operation until 2022, ten years after the first plans were put on the table.
The delay of the Malaga plant also took its toll on the Guadalhorce works. While the contract was awarded in 2007, the local councils' difficulty in obtaining the land needed held up progress, as did the idea of Coín to build its own plant (this was eventually ruled out due to costs) and funding problems from the regional government. In the end the works did not get under way until 2017.
The most recent hold-up in the Guadalhorce project was due to the damage caused by the heavy rain last October to almost three kilometres of pipes.
The new Guadalhorce works have cost the Junta de Andalucía 15 million euros, including the plant itself and the 28 kilometres of sewage pipes. It has a capacity to treat 8,295 cubic metres of wastewater every day.
While the new plant goes some way towards reducing the province's sewage treatment black spots (still pending are the aforementioned Alhaurín el Grande and Cártama, as well as Nerja on the eastern Costa del Sol), it will not go far enough to allow the reuse of recycled waterwater. The treatment plant is not equipped with a tertiary treatment system which would mean that the wastewater could be used for irrigation. The position of the regional authority so far is that it should be the local councils or growers' organisations that foot the bill of this tertiary treatment stage.