Although the rainfall in March and April was beneficial for the Malaga countryside in general, it had very little effect in the Axarquía region because La Viñuela reservoir was so low. It has only gained four cubic hectometres in recent weeks, which is equal to one month’s consumption in high season.
This reservoir, which supplies water to over 200,000 people in the area and is used to irrigate nearly two-thirds of the 13,000 hectares of fruit and vegetables, mainly mangos and avocados, is now only 16.49% full. It currently contains 27.1 cubic hectometres of water.
The situation is so bad that growers of sub-tropical produce are to be allocated just 1,500 cubic metres of water per hectare this summer, which is half the amount they were able to use last year. This is the lowest amount since the irrigation plan began in the early 1990s. It has dropped by the same proportion as the reduction in the amount of water in the reservoir, which at this time last year contained almost double.
Avocado farmers are particularly upset, because avocados need at least 4,000 cubic metres of water per hectare a year; mangos only need half as much. The sector in general is “extremely concerned and worried,” says the Spanish Association of Tropical Fruit Growers, especially because the weather forecasters are predicting that there may be no more rain until at least September or October.
If the Andalusian government does not decree more cuts in supply for irrigation and it does not rain much in the next few months, by 1 October La Viñuela could contain nothing but dry mud. It would be the worst scenario possible, a real ‘apocalypse’ for the Axarquía.
The authorities are looking at ways of obtaining water from other sources, such as recycled water from sewage plants, or from desalination plants. The regional Minister for Agriculture, Fernando Fernández, agreed recently that the situation is difficult, although he insisted that households will still have enough supply.
With regard to irrigation, he said there are no plans to reduce the allowance any further for the moment. “We are doing everything possible to increase resources available for the population and for agriculture,” he said.