The Arroyo Manzano sewage treatment plant in Torrox. / E.c.

Axarquía farmers turn to recycled water amid fears of a ban on the use of La Viñuela for irrigation

Some landowners had been reluctant to use this type of water for agricultural purposes but have decided they have no alternative if they are to save their produce

EUGENIO CABEZAS. Malaga

The drought which has been affecting the Axarquía region so badly this year shows no sign of letting up by mid-September, and the regional government only has a few weeks before it has to break the news that nobody wants to hear: that due to the lack of rain, by October there will be no water available from La Viñuela reservoir for irrigation. The tiny amount remaining will have to be used to supply 180,000 inhabitants of 14 of the 31 municipalities in the area.

Faced with this potentially disastrous situation, farmers are still trying to find other ways of to saving their crops and more are considering using recycled water from sewage plants. Those who decided to do so some time ago are feeling fortunate: a few years ago many were reluctant to use it for agricultural purposes.

Since November last year, the 2,700 hectares of land on the right bank of the Vélez river have been irrigated with nearly 5.2 hectometres of recycled water from the Vélez-Malaga sewage plant.

Several growers in Torrox are now planning to use this option and they will be able to use up to 1.8 cubic hectometres a year from the two sewage plants in the area, once the tertiary systems are in place. This amount of water is sufficient to irrigate around 520 hectares to be irrigated. Around 60% of this land is used for growing sub-tropical fruits, 30% consists of greenhouses and the rest is for vegetables grown outside.

Pipes laid to farms

The pipes between the land and the sewage plants have been laid in recent months and the price per cubic metre of water is expected to be lower for farmers whose land is at a lower level than the treatment plants, because less pumping is needed.

The regional government is still working on the secondary system at the Algarrobo sewage plant, to provide another 0.8 hm³ to farmers in the municipality, who are growing produce on nearly 800 hectares of land. The Junta hopes the works, which are costing 720,000 euros, will be finished during the last quarter of this year.

Meanwhile, in Rincón de la Victoria another seven kilometres of pipeline are due to be connected to the sewage plant so that farmers in that area will have another 2.4 cubic hectometres of water to use for irrigation. This project is costing around seven million euros.