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An archive image of La Viñuela in the Axarquía. SUR
Anger as some residents of Axarquía village are hit with water bills of more than 70,000 euros
Drought crisis

Anger as some residents of Axarquía village are hit with water bills of more than 70,000 euros

Locals believe that the installation of new meters and the recent cuts in supply, leading to air getting into the pipes, might have caused the problem

Jennie Rhodes

La Viñuela

Wednesday, 25 October 2023

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Residents of La Viñuela in the Axarquía are threatening to take action if the town hall does not find answers to why some people have been hit with water bills exceeding 70,000 euros. Around 120 property owners, including Spanish and foreign residents, have been receiving excessively high bills without any explanation from the town hall.

Local resident Paul Rouse, who is one of those affected, has set up a Facebook group page and told SUR in English that he is currently negotiating “a group discount with a distributor of the latest generation water meters that work on a different principle and as such don’t measure air in the system”. He added, “These may help protect us from a further problem.” Paul is also in discussions with La Viñuela town hall to ask if they would install the new meters as the main one.

Paul, who is a retired mechanical engineer, is not the only resident who believes new meters which were installed around two years ago, might be to blame and that the recent water cuts have been allowing air into the system, “which produces erroneous readings in the meters”. He explained that the group is “looking for a hydraulic engineer” to help out with the problem.

Reduction in pressure

In a letter to SUR in English last week, Erik Moens also alluded to the idea that recent water cuts might be the cause. “Water meters only measure volume and cannot differentiate between water and air… the town hall keeps cutting the supply or reducing the pressure, which increases the amount of air, clearly making a difference to water meter readings,” he wrote.

Gillian Hodge has a holiday home in La Viñuela and has received a bill for over 73,000 "It is rented out over the summer and we visit it ourselves for about six to eight weeks each year. Ours is 73,640.76 euros, saying we used over a million and a half litres in 90 days," she told SUR in English.

A number of residents have asked former mayor of Alcaucín, Mario Blancke for advice. He has posted on Facebook that when he was mayor, the town hall residents could “apply to reset the bill to the average of the last three readings before the leak was detected.”

His message went on to say that “not all abnormal bills are due to a leak. It can be an error in the reading, or an error when forwarding that reading to the tax office”, or “the malfunction of the meter. Blancke also advised annulling direct debit payments as “getting refunded can take months or years”.

Speculation

Mirjana Stefanovic also has a property in La Viñuela and has received bills of 25,000 for the third quarter of 2022, which she says arrived one year later. She has also had a bill for 14,500 euros for the second quarter of 2023. However, she said, “Our bills in quarter one and quarter two last year were 12 and 40 euros” respectively.

Mirjana is not the only resident who has complained of a lack of response from the town hall. “We tried talking to the town hall, they were not open to any discussion,” Mirjana and others have told this newspaper. Mirjana went on to say, “The town hall lawyer suggested that someone is stealing our water.” However, she said she has had the installations checked “by a specialist” and the town hall claim over stealing was “completely disregarded”.

Mirjana added, “We sent three different letters to the town hall pleading with them to take a more humane approach to the matter as the bills are abnormally high, but nothing.”

Councillor for foreign citizens, Amber Crookshank, told SUR in English that all the water meters are being sent off for testing to ensure [they are] calibrated correctly”, but said “there doesn’t seem to be any reason other than that’s the amount of water that’s been used”. She added, “I don’t understand it and it’s something I’m trying to get answers for” and that there is “lots of speculation is going on but nothing is certain”.

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