Wednesday, 29 November 2023, 17:07
The twenty or so residents of La Viñuela village, in the Axarquía area to the east of Malaga province, who have received exorbitant water bills in recent months protested outside the town hall on Monday 27 November.
Some of the residents have received water bills of up to 75,000 euros for two quarters and have described the situation as "unjust and Kafkaesque". The residents, most of whom are foreign, claim "it is impossible for us to have consumed these amounts". They blame the “erroneous” meter readings on "air entering the pipes because of frequent cuts to the supply".
The town hall insists that if these amounts of water have been consumed, the residents will have to cough up. For the moment, they have only agreed to review the appeals that have been filed by those affected.
The protesters tried "without success" to see the mayor, José Juan Jiménez, or another official from the council. "The town hall is not listening to us. They still haven't given us an explanation as to how it can be that in just one quarter, all of a sudden, lots of people had high bills and in the following quarters the bills are at a normal level," argued Paul Rouse, who has lived in La Viñuela for more than twenty years and has become spokesperson for the group.
“Then all of a sudden, six months later, once again there are problems with high consumption and many of them are the same houses. This cannot be a coincidence. The only common links are the supply pipes and the meters, which measure air when there are cuts," said the retired engineer.
While waiting for an official response from the town hall, those affected have decided to put up posters around the village "because it is clear that a lot of people don't know anything about what is happening" Paul explained. He said that the posters carry the message: ‘45,000-euro water bill? Yes, and maybe you'll be next'.
Rouse also referred to leaks in the municipal network, including one he claims was in an area near his home. He believes that "around 7,000 cubic metres" were lost, until it was repaired by town hall staff a couple of years ago.
"The staff have no training or tools to carry out these control tasks," the residents have pointed out in the letter addressed to the town hall. Rouse asked, "What is the mayor going to do if someone kills themself due to the stress? There are a lot of desperate people because of this," he said.
The spokesperson went on to say that a number of people are "seriously" thinking of selling their properties, "and this gives a very bad image to the village and to potential investors who want to buy here", he said, arguing that one of the reasons the town hall is "determined" to get the money from these bills is the increase in the cost of the water it buys from the neighbouring village of Alcaucín, where the well from which La Viñuela gets some of its supply is located.
"Apparently they have reached an agreement with Alcaucín on the water supply where they pay for the electricity and the maintenance of the pump. The increase in the price of electricity meant that the bill was up to 10,000 euros a month, when they only charge 150,000 euros for all the water bills and have to pay 120,000 euros for electricity. That is why they are trying to get back this money. They have already changed the deal with Alcaucín to buy water by the cubic metre," he added.
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