While the recent rains have brought relief to the countryside and have recharged most of Malaga’s reservoirs, The water level in La Viñuela in the Axarquía has only gone up by two per cent, or four hectometres. The drought continues with just 27.5 cubic hectometres stored, or 16.8 per cent of its capacity.
While this has provided some respite, it is insufficient in the lead up to the hottest months of the year, when water demand spikes in a region with some 13,000 hectares of subtropical crops and a population of 220,000 inhabitants, which almost doubles with tourists in summer.
As such, the Junta de Andalucía’s Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries representative, Fernando Fernández Tapia-Ruano, has called on the Axarquía's public water company Axaragua to "reduce consumption in order to maintain a balance with the effort already being made by the growers,” who have already seen their water supply from the reservoir reduced from 3,000 to 1,500 cubic metres per hectare in less than a year.
Fernández said in a statement that Axaragua "should respond to the commitment made by growers and the effort made by the Andalusian government.” He went on to say that there was “excessive consumption, even higher than the average of recent years, without setting limits.”
Proof of this, according to data from the Junta he said, is that so far in this water year, which runs from 1 October 2021 to 30 September 2022, Axaragua has consumed 70 per cent of its allocation; approximately 10 cubic hectometres. "It should be borne in mind that the months that have passed are those of lowest consumption and that Easter and summer are still ahead, which are considered the busiest periods for the area," he said.
Gregorio Campos, president of Axaragua and mayor of Iznate, one of the 14 municipalities that are supplied by the reservoir, responded by saying that the consumption data provided by the Junta does not take into account a plan drawn up last October, when it was envisaged that water from pools in the Chíllar river in Nerja would provide some three cubic hectometres during this water year, but that this is still not happening, as they are still awaiting the electrical connection to pump the water from Nerja to Torrox. The latest deadline given by the Junta for this to go ahead is that the pump will be operational by the end of April.
"We are going to continue to manage the few resources we have and continue to demand that the Junta look for more from where there are. If they want to reduce consumption and cut water to the population, let them do it, it is their responsibility, it is up to them to govern," said the president of Axaragua to SUR, who considered the sending of 100 litres per second from the capital to the western part of La Axarquía to be "insufficient and derisory". "That amount of water does not even supply the population of La Cala del Moral. What the Axarquia needs is for between 300 and 400 litres per second to arrive from Malaga," Campos told the local online newspaper, Axarquiaplus.
Further work being undertaken by the regional government to tackle the drought includes a reversible pump through the pipeline owned by the Junta that connects the city of Malaga and the Axarquía between the drinking water treatment stations of El Atabal and El Trapiche, with a budget of almost 600,000 euros and whose completion is expected for the month of June.
Other projects include the use of regenerated water from the wastewater treatment plants of Vélez-Málaga, Torrox-Iara, Torrox Arroyo and Rincón de la Victoria. With an investment of 1.7 million euros, the new facilities will increase the availability of reclaimed water for irrigation in the Axarquía. At the moment, only 2,700 hectares can be irrigated with 5.3 hectometres from Vélez-Málaga’s treatment plant.
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