La Viñuela reservoir is currently at 12.7 per cent capacity / ñito salas

Council asks Junta to initiate desalination plant "urgently" as reservoir falls to below 13% of its capacity

The Vélez-Málaga town hall has also asked the central government to get involved "financially and technically" in the facility to deal with the drought in the Axarquía

Eugenio Cabezas

As the drought continues in the Axarquía and the La Viñuela reservoir falls below 13 per cent of its capacity, the town halls are desperately seeking solutions to the problem. One of the proposals is a desalination plant to supply homes and irrigation for agriculture in the area.

Vélez-Málaga town hall approved three proposals on Monday focusing on the "urgent" need to install a desalination plant in the area. Councillors have asked the Junta de Andalucía to install "as a matter of urgency” a high-capacity desalination plant together with a wind farm and a pumped-storage hydroelectric plant in the vicinity of the La Viñuela reservoir. It has also called upon the national Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Ministry of Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge to become involved "financially and technically" in the project.

The Axarquía region is the area of Malaga province at most risk of desertification, according to reports published at local, regional and national levels. "Therefore, the desalination plant is essential to combat climate change and desertification, since, beyond ensuring human consumption and irrigation, desalination brings greater benefits to the ecosystems of the region and generates a very positive impact on the environment," the report by Vélez-Málaga town hall states.

Mayor Antonio Moreno Ferrer told SUR in an interview in June, “We are confident that we can count on European funds, private investment support and, above all, the involvement and drive of the competent supra-municipal administrations so that the desalination plant can become a reality in the shortest possible time.”

The idea is that the desalination plant can respond to both the domestic supply and the food industry in the area, "since the importance of the agricultural sector as an economic engine in Vélez-Málaga and the Axarquía goes hand in hand with the growth of the tourism sector and even more so after the pandemic," said Moreno Ferrer.

Help for tourism and agriculture

The desalination project proposed by Vélez-Málaga town hall plans to produce around 80 cubic hectometres of water per year to meet the needs of both domestic use and the agricultural and livestock sectors in the area. The total investment of the project is around 645 million euros, both for the treatment plant and for a photovoltaic installation. A project that, thanks to new technologies, would reduce the energy consumption involved in the generation of drinking water to minimum levels, reducing costs and respecting the environment.

In addition to the project put forward by the Vélez-Málaga, there are at least two other desalination plant proposals on the table for the Axarquía. One has been designed by a group of researchers from the University of Malaga, which would work with solar energy. Their project would cost 60 million euros, would be built within a year and could produce 20 cubic hectometres a year, more than the consumption of the Axarquía countryside.

Additionally, engineers from Vélez-Málaga are proposing a network of small desalination plants distributed throughout the Axarquia to deal with the drought. The system designed by Adolfo Aragüez and his daughter Inés proposes to drill boreholes to extract water from the area’s river basins and pump it to farms, where the equipment would be installed.