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A break in the Costa del Sol's mains water supply pipe line as it passes through Benalmádena. SUR
Infrastructure

Experts warn of 'real risk' of 'explosive' ruptures of main Costa del Sol water supply pipeline

Acosol technicians say there is a danger of breaks in the 50-year-old water mains infrastructure “causing very serious personal and material damage"

María Albarral

Marbella

Wednesday, 31 January 2024, 11:40

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For more than ten years the technicians of the Costa del Sol's public water company, Acosol, have been warning about the 'lamentable' state of the supply network along the western strip of the coast. SUR has been told that the requests for investment from the Junta de Andalucía have been constant, with regular reports and communications of breakages which highlight the dangerous state of the mains water infrastructure. The rate of ruptures is such that the technicians have advised "to put some sections out of service", as, regardless of the "risk of the lack of supply in areas of the Costa del Sol that are affected by supply cuts caused by burst pipes, there is a real risk of these causing very serious personal and material damage as they cross urban centres, residential developments, roads or motorways, and the ruptures are becoming increasingly explosive".

The frequency of breakages is increasing and there have been cases where the high pressure pipe has burst up to twice in the same stretch. Marbella, Estepona, Benalmádena and Mijas are just a few of the municipalities that have been affected. “Only luck has prevented us from having human casualties," warn the technicians

Currently, the different public administrations responsible for the development of hydraulic infrastructures are putting emergency works for desalination and storage of water resources on the table, however, there is an equally harsh reality reflected by the technicians: the Costa del Sol does not have the capacity to transport this water.

Supply system planned in 1972

The current supply system for the western Costa del Sol started to be planned in 1972 and, since then, population growth has increased five-fold. The infrastructures are more than 50 years old and have not been updated, which puts the Costa del Sol in an untenable situation, say the experts.

The Acosol technicians warn that "the demand has already exceeded the limits of the system, so that the infrastructure capacity reports for the availability of water resources that are issued for new urban developments are negative, as they cannot commit to future increases in demand because the supply capacity has been exceeded, putting at risk not only the supply to the population, but also urban development".

Back in 2017, SUR reported that the western Costa's Mancomunidad, the public consortium that runs some shared services on behalf of different councils, had requested that the Junta pay for the construction of a new pipeline from Torremolinos to Manilva. Seven years ago, the public body announced that the works would cost 91 million euros in order to guarantee the supply, which implied the replacement of the current pipeline. To date, these works have not been carried out and the pipes are 50 years old.

Manuel Cardeña, the president of the Mancomunidad, told SUR that "the pipes should have been changed many years ago and were not done because of the neglect of the previous Junta team". The Junta de Andalucía assured SUR that the water supply on the Costa del Sol is in no danger: "transport is assured and when there are leaks of any kind, they are fixed immediately and the connection is improved without any serious effects or other consequences".

'Water highway'

Regional sources told SUR that "the Junta is working on what is known as the 'water highway' in sections from the Campo de Gibraltar, which, has been very much neglected for 30 years," adding that "it is not just a question of bringing water from this area, but also of changing the pipeline and maintaining the supply".

According to the regional body, the so-called 'water highway' refers to the interconnection works of the upstream supplies of the Campo de Gibraltar and the western Costa del Sol, reaching as far as Malaga city. This infrastructure is divided into four sections. Firstly, the San Roque-Manilva-Casares-Estepona section, the project for which has already been drawn up, with a final budget of 88 million euros.

The Estepona-Marbella section (the project is being drafted) would cost an estimated 50 million euros; the Marbella-Mijas-Fuengirola section (the project is being drafted) would have an estimated budget of 84 million euros; the Fuengirola-Malaga section is pending drafting.

Junta sources stressed that "in Malaga the Churriana bypass, the Atabal extension, the reversible pumping at La Rosaleda and the increase in pumping at the Rojas station are already under way". The sources added that "the solutions are already in place".

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