Wednesday, 22 November 2023, 17:52
The twenty or so residents of La Viñuela in the Axarquía who have received water bills of up to almost 75,000 euros for two quarters are fighting to get the town hall to lower the amounts. They argue that the problem is "erroneous readings due to air entering the pipes" as a result of frequent cuts in supply.
E. Cabezas / J. Rhodes
Jennie Rhodes / Eugenio Cabezas
To try to continue gathering support, as well as creating a group on the social network Facebook and contacting Spanish and British media, those affected have turned to the only opposition party in La Viñuela’s town hall; the Partido Popular (PP).
Spokesperson Antonio Manuel Millán has told SUR that the party is to request an "immediate" extraordinary council meeting this week to address the issue. Millán stressed that the party wants as many residents as possible who have been affected by the “stratospheric” bills to attend the meeting.
"There is a very serious problem with these twenty neighbours and it has to be resolved, and it has to be resolved, we have to reach an agreement because we do not want our village to be in all the national and international media because of this matter," argued Millán who plans to meet with the village’s socialist mayor, José Juan Jiménez (PSOE) this week. "We are going to see what explanations he gives and from there we will ask for an extraordinary council meeting, because we want to give a voice to these residents who, unfortunately, are not being attended to correctly," he said.
Millán works as a technician at La Viñuela reservoir and thanks to his experience in water management he considers that these levels of water consumption are “impossible". The expert explained: "The fact is that the pipes do not have the capacity to put that amount of water into the network, it is air that has been measured because of the numerous cuts that are happening. In all cases they are isolated houses in high areas, it is not real consumption".
The affected residents have said that if they do not get answers and the town hall doesn’t recalculate the bills, they will go to the Andalusian Ombudsman and administrative courts. In fact they have found an ombudsman case from 2011 relating to the town of Écija in Seville province where erroneous readings were detected due to air getting into the pipes as a result of pressure problems in the network. In that case the ombudsman ruled that Ecija town hall had to rectify the bills.
The mayor of Viñuela has insisted to SUR that the problem has affected "some 15 or 20 homes with gardens and swimming pools, which have apparently wasted water". He went on to say, "The readings are correct, the meters work well, we have two plumbers who are reading and checking them. However, Jiménez added, that the residents "are within their rights to lodge appeals which will be studied by town hall staff".
The mayor pointed out that the bills come from the tax department of Malaga’s provincial authority, the Patronato de Recaudación de la Diputación and as such La Viñuela town hall “can do nothing”. He added, “We will act in accordance with what the law says."
The mayor went on to say that the town hall has been warning residents for several years that they were consuming excessive amounts of water, "with bills of 2,000, 3,000 and even 4,000 euros," he said. "If someone uses a million and a half litres of water in a quarter, that is what the whole village uses in seven days, which is not acceptable and they have to pay for it," he said.
The mayor, who has been in office since 2011, explained that two years ago a municipal drinking water bylaw was modified as a result of the successive drought decrees issued by the Junta de Andalucía to deal with the extreme drought in the Axarquía area. The regional government asked town halls in the area to save 20 per cent in their water consumption and the restrictions included a reduction per inhabitant to 180 litres per day. Despite this, consumption has remained above 200 litres in the 14 municipalities served by public water company Axaragua.
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