La Viñuela reservoir is at 10.1 per cent capacity / E. Cabezas

Subtropical fruit growers in Axarquía express anger over water consumption of 14 towns and villages

On average 336 litres have been used per person per day since June 2021, despite a Junta decree limiting use to 200 litres, while the agricultural sector has had its supply completely cut off

Eugenio Cabezas

The 14 towns and villages that are supplied by La Viñuela reservoir (Almáchar, Benamargosa, Benamocarra, El Borge, Comares, Cútar, Iznate, Macharaviaya, Moclinejo, Rincón de la Victoria, Vélez-Málaga, Totalán, Algarrobo and Torrox) consumed 19,565,519 cubic metres in the last water year (1 October 2021-30 September 2022), of which 16,387,519 came from the La Viñuela reservoir. This means that based on an estimate of 160,000 inhabitants, the average consumption was 336 litres per day.

This amount is 68 per cent more than stipulated in June 2021, when the first of the drought decrees was approved, which established a maximum consumption per inhabitant per day in the Axarquía of 200 litres. These figures have led the three main agricultural organisations (ASAJA, UPA and COAG), together with the Association of Subtropical Producers, to complain that while they have had stringent quotas, the rest of the population and local authorities have not had to restrict their own use of water. However, the Junta has adopted, for the first time in history, the dramatic decision to completely cut off water to the 6,306 hectares belonging to growers under the ‘Guaro Plan’.

"The situation is unprecedented and very worrying, there is very little sensitivity to the needs of farmers, water has been completely cut off to the countryside, but 14 years ago, when the situation of the reservoir was even worse at the end of October [2008], the supply to the farmers was not even suspended", argued the president of the Tropical Association, Domingo Medina.

"No plan B"

Medina has called for "a small effort" from the regional government, in the form of emergency irrigation, "with one or two cubic hectometres for the subtropical until November or December, while we wait to see if the rains finally arrive", said the tropical fruit grower.

In his opinion, "if it rains in autumn and winter, great, but if we don't have that little water from the reservoir, the farms that don't have other resources, such as regenerated water, wells or rivers, are not going to have a solution, there is no plan B, we are talking about fruit trees that are 30, 40 or 50 years old", Medina added.

The group regrets that, despite the efforts to make regenerated water available to farmers from the Vélez-Málaga, Rincón de la Victoria, Torrox and Algarrobo water treatment plants, there are still some 2,300 hectares that have been without an alternative resource since last Saturday when water from the reservoir was cut off to growers.