Granada prepares for drought crisis with 280m-euro investment
Drought crisis

Granada prepares for drought crisis with 280m-euro investment

The modernisation of irrigation systems, the execution of projects such as the Rules pipelines and connections to new wells are alleviating the lack of rain in the province

Pilar García-Trevijano


Tuesday, 7 May 2024, 16:40


Granada province is facing the consequences of the worst drought in 30 years. Not since the early 1990s have the fields been so dry and the recent heavy rains have not been enough.

As such Spain's central government, the hydrographic confederation of the Guadalquivir (CHG) and the Junta de Andalucía, among other bodies, are planning or already carrying out projects worth more than 280 million euros, more than 177.5 million of which are to be provided by the central government's ministry for ecological transition and its related bodies, and another 105 million is coming from the Andalusian government.

This amount of investment and number of projects have not been undertaken since the creation of the emergency wells in the Vega de Granada or the construction of the Rules dam, an infrastructure that was paid for in pesetas more than 20 years ago.

Work to sewage treatment plants to irrigate with recycled water, the modernisation of irrigation systems and the channelling of reservoirs are the most important projects that will alleviate the situation in the countryside, increase reserves for domestic consumption and, in short, save water for everyone.

Below is the graphic of waste water treatment plant works.

Leonardo Nania, expert and deputy director in the department of Structural Mechanics and Hydraulic Engineering at the University of Granada (UGR), explains that continuous monitoring of the state of the resources is essential.

"All hydrological plans must have an inventory of water resources that analyses the status of each of the bodies of water. Uses, demands and pressures must be taken into account," he says. Nania considers that public participation and expert advice is fundamental when revising water plans, which have to be updated every six years.

By 2027, the province should have designed a new roadmap that takes into account the needs identified. In the meantime work is already under way in some areas, including the north of the province.


Among the projects being carried out are improvements to the irrigation systems of the Cuevas del Campo community which is made up of 1,100 farmers and will supply a total surface area of 3,500 hectares in several phases, mainly centred on olive groves, almond trees and horticultural crops, among others, for a value of 28.3 million euros. Until now, the irrigation system consisted of irrigation ditches and canals that are prone to significant leaks.

Similarly, the Spanish government, in coordination with the Junta de Andalucía using European funds, has invested more than three million euros in the improvement and reuse of recycled water, i.e. treated wastewater, which can be given a second life to irrigate subtropical crops in La Herradura, benefiting 600 hectares, which provides and extra 2.5 hectometres of water annually.

Another project is the Rules pipelines, where the first section, which is already under way, will be completed in 2026 with an extraordinary investment of nearly 60 million euros which is coming from the central government, the Junta and the Mancomunidad association of town halls on Granada's Costa Tropical.

The government has recently put out to tender the renewal of the general model of the Rules project with an investment of 296,549 euros in order to be able to continue the project. Another 50 million euros have been set aside for the development of the second section of the canalisations - section 3, which, once completed, will bring water to 3,500 hectares in the Río Verde valley.

The CHG is investing 26.2 million euros in the 2023 and 2024 financial year for the maintenance of dams to save water, waterproofing of reservoirs and conservation of watercourses. Among its most important projects is the construction of a water supply pipeline between Granada city and its metropolitan area, amounting to 5.7 million euros, which connects the wells next to the Ronda Sur ring road with a reservoir to provide access to water for half a million people.

Granada is also set to receive a total investment of 10.2 million euros for the management of digitalising the process of discharging treated water and the collection of wastewater to detect losses, shortages or drought in those municipalities that do not have the capacity to keep their own records. It will be implemented by December 2025 and will benefit 61 areas. Similarly, the CHG has carried out a new evaluation of water resources at a depth of 400 metres in search of new wells and water catchments.

The Junta is investing 50 million in water purification and in some areas it will soon be possible to use this treated water for irrigation and in others, with the improvements, the option is open for the future. In addition, it has promised 50.5 million euros for the modernisation of nine irrigation communities.

Care of the Sierra

For the sub-delegate of the Spanish government in Andalucía, drought is one of the structural problems that Granada is going to face as a result of climate change. "The heavy rains at Easter should not deceive us. For this reason, water policies are becoming increasingly important in order to make good use of every drop with policies for the efficient use of water," said Montilla.

Javier Cruz, former professor of external geodynamics and researcher and ex-director of the water institute, says that droughts are cyclical. In 1995, emergency works were carried out, coinciding with the suspension of the World Ski Championships. These included the 14 wells that are activated in extreme drought and the Genil dam system to maintain the water levels.

As it was inaugurated during a period of drought when no water came from the reservoir, water had to be diverted from the irrigators' wells for its inauguration. The years in which Granada city, the Lecrín valley, the Alpujarra and the coast can relax are marked by the amount of snow on the Sierra Nevada, which is the province's best reservoir.

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