Recycled water is being taken fromVélez-Málaga sewage treatment plant / sur

Axarquía growers start to use recycled water to irrigate subtropical crops

The area, with a total of 2,500 farmers and 2,700 hectares, could receive between four and six cubic hectometres of water from the Vélez-Málaga sewage treatment plant a year

Eugenio Cabezas

Vélez-Málaga’s sewage treatment plant has begun to supply recycled water to the communities of growers in the Axarquía area, which groups together 2,700 hectares of crops, most of which are subtropical. In total it is estimated that they could receive between four and six cubic hectometres of water per year.

With La Viñuela reservoir at just 18 per cent of its capacity, it is the lowest it has been in 13 years. There are less than 30 cubic hectometres stored; 13 cubic hectometres less than a year ago and with no or little rain forecast, growers are concerned. The agricultural sector has seen a 33 per cent reduction in the allocation of resources from the reservoir since last October, from 3,000 to 2,000 cubic metres per hectare.

The managing director of Axaragua, the company that manages the treatment plant in Velez, Raúl Peña, explained to SUR that the cost of these water resources has not yet been defined. "The cost of electricity has shot up by 40 per cent in recent months, which means that the final price will be different from that which was discussed more than a year ago. We don't know yet," he explained.

"It is not the solution, but at least steps are beginning to be taken to provide more resources in the face of the lack of rainfall and the scarce reserves in the reservoir," assured the vice-president of the National Association of Subtropical Producers, Domingo Medina. However, the spokesman for the group acknowledged that if the drought continues "the outlook is bleak, with a rather uncertain future" for a sector that had a turnover of more than 160 million euros in 2020.

The connection of the river Chíllar in Nerja to La Viñuela reservoir is pending the completion of the electrical installation and is expected to be ready in the first quarter of 2022, bringing an additional supply of around three cubic hectometres to the area. In addition the public company Axaragua has started to buy water from Emasa, from the Guadalhorce-Limonero system in Malaga city, to supply Rincón de la Victoria and the western area of Vélez-Málaga.