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Water from Nerja's Chíllar river is being transferred to other parts of the Axarquía E. Cabezas
Drought crisis: historic water cuts brought in for Nerja farmers

Drought crisis: historic water cuts brought in for Nerja farmers

The town's irrigation community argues that water from the Chíllar river should not be transferred to other parts of the Axarquía

Eugenio Cabezas

Nerja

Thursday, 13 July 2023, 14:29

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With the persistent drought and the increased use of water in Nerja’s Chíllar river to supply other parts of the Axarquía since last December, the consequences are starting to be felt in the town.

For the first time in the agricultural history of Nerja, water restrictions have been put in place for the farmers in the area, due to the decrease in the flow of the canal from which they are mainly supplied. The restrictions are in place indefinitely; until further notice.

Among the first to suffer is the San Isidro community of irrigators who farm 320 hectares of mainly subtropical - avocado and mango - fruit, as well as greenhouses and other crops in the Vega de Maro area to the east of the town. There are also various rural houses and plots of land around the El Playazo beach to the west of the town that have also been affected by the restrictions.

Three zones

The area has been divided into three zones and the water will be shared, with access two days a week for each one, from 7am to 7pm. Up until now, the irrigators of this community had water every day of the week, and paid a flat rate according to the surface area they had, with no limitation on consumption.

However, now, on Mondays and Thursdays, water is available in the Cancharrales, Mirador, Río Seco and Barranco del Puerto areas. On Tuesdays and Fridays, in Pedro Guardia, Requena, Cantera, Torna del Camino, Coloraos, Cancharrales and El Playazo; and on Wednesdays and Saturdays in Lucero, Pinos, Remata, Romeral and Río Chíllar. There is no service on Sundays.

According to sources consulted by SUR, the decision to establish restrictions has been taken by the irrigation community as there is no guarantee that the two large reservoirs they have in the Chíllar river in the Bolicheros area, will be full.

To make matters worse, since last Monday there has been a breakage in the water pipes, which has left the 320 hectares without any water at all. Community workers are trying to repair it as quickly as possible.

Complaints

The situation in the Vega de Maro area is leading to complaints from members, who criticise the fact that water is being transferred to supply other neighbouring municipalities in the Axarquía and that Nerja residents are not able to access the water which lies within their municipal boundaries.

The irrigation community has sent out a message of calm, assuring members that with two days of irrigation and up to 24 hours a week it is "more than enough" to keep the mango and avocado plantations going. However, farms that do not have water tanks or that also have properties supplied by these resources will have to face the summer without a daily water supply.

The unprecedented situation of restrictions has reminded many residents of the period before the modernisation of the irrigation networks of the Nerja community at the end of the twentieth century. Until pressure pipes and meters were installed on the farms, the water arrived via irrigation ditches, in shifts, reaching different areas on different day of the week.

The system was mounted, without drip irrigation, which is still used in the Tetuán area in Maro, where the development company Larios is planning to build a golf course, a luxury hotel in the old sugar cane factory and around 500 homes.

Desalination plant

The farming community is working to increase the catchment capacity of its wells and is considering changing the water distribution system to meters and allocating water according to the agricultural surface area of each member.

Meanwhile, other irrigation communities in the town, including Fuente del Badén, are maintaining their 24-hour service, as they have sufficient underground resources and technical means, with powerful engines, to extract water from the Chíllar river.

The Junta de Andalucía included in its last drought decree the incorporation of water resources from the Nerja treatment plant for irrigation in La Axarquía. However, this requires the construction of a tertiary system, which has not yet been built and the execution of the corresponding pipelines to the farms.

The delegate of the Junta de Andalucía in Malaga, Patricia Navarro, said last Monday during a visit to Nerja, that it is "inexplicable that, to date, and after a decree against drought has been approved in the Council of Ministers, regenerated water from the only state-owned treatment plant in the area; that of Nerja, has not been included".

Mayor of Nerja, José Alberto Armijo said in May that Nerja and Maro farmers as well as municipal services "should have preferential use”. The mayor stressed in a statement that "as soon as the government of Spain puts the treatment plant with tertiary treatment into operation and cedes its facilities to the town hall, the treated water will be used preferentially to meet the needs of our farmers and municipal services. This is an essential issue for the present and future of Nerja.”

José Alberto Armijo also called on the authorities responsible for water infrastructures to build the desalination plant for the Costa del Sol-Axarquía region: "We cannot waste another minute. This infrastructure and all the others necessary to guarantee the water supply must be built as soon as possible.”

During an election rally in Torre del Mar in May, president of the Junta de Andalucía, Juanma Moreno, promised to award the project for a private desalination plant before the end of June this year. However, the contract has not yet been awarded.

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