C. Heredia / SUR in English
Friday, 3 November 2023, 17:57
The dream of creating a 'water highway' to easily move supply along the length of the Costa del Sol to where it is needed most during a drought is still very much alive and well.
Head of Acosol - the area's main water supply company - Matilde Mancha has told SUR of the company's plans for water in the area which will have a big impact on Malaga province and wider Andalucía. Acosol is the publicly owned company supplying water on behalf of the 11 local councils on the western Costa del Sol.
Mancha's vision includes the interconnecting 'water supply highway' from a future new reservoir in the Campo de Gibraltar area in the west and as far as La Viñuela in the Axarquía in the east.
Speaking about the current drought, Mancha told SUR, "It's a difficult situation. A few months ago we had a severe shortage. But since last week it has been an emergency. We have to reduce water use by 20 per cent and we have to achieve this by raising awareness."
In normal times, La Viñuela reservoir, in the eastern Axarquía area and the largest in the province, has enough surplus to help supply the western Costa around Marbella but investment is needed in getting the water there.
On the western Costa, La Concepción reservoir is too small to hold enough for the demand. In fact, in times of heavy rain, water even has to be let out into the sea as it fills too quickly. Acosol admits that long-term plans to increase the capacity of La Concepción will be very difficult due to the terrain - these have never really got off the ground as a result.
Therefore, to boost supply to the coast from Torremolinos to Manilva, Acosol is focusing its hopes on several other key initiatives.
In first place are the ongoing plans to increase the pumping of water from Axarquía (in times of heavier rainfall) from east to west from 200 litres to 500 litres per second. The Junta de Andalucía has made provisions for improving the pumping plant near Malaga in its recent drought decree. However, the head of Acosol has stressed the quality of the pipe network it links to needs upgrading. Mancha said, "This is being renewed in sections where it is desperately needed. We want to do the same thing as well for as far as Estepona. There is still a lot to be done because we want complete renewal."
A second big aim for Acosol will be a connection with a future reservoir on the Guadiana river in the Campo de Gibraltar to send water towards Marbella. The Junta de Andalucía is drafting the project to build a dam on the Guadiaro, the only major Andalusian river that does not have one. It will be located in the town of Jimena de la Frontera in Cadiz province and will come at a cost of 240 million euros. It is not clear yet if the water will be purified for drinking before being sent or on arrival in the Marbella area.
While these two projects are awaited, during the drought ,Acosol is relying on its desalination plant in Marbella that removes salt to make sea water fit for drinking.
This Marbella desalination plant already supplies one out of every five litres that Acosol handles. It produces about eight cubic hectometres per year. But the plant is so old that this is only half the amount it could produce. Improvement works are under way (at a cost of 3.4 million euros) and are expected to be complete next spring.
From then onwards, Mancha said there are ongoing talks with the Junta to increase this capacity to 30 cubic hectometres. Expanding it could make up for the failure to build the planned Cerro del Águila desalination plant (on the Mijas-Fuengirola border), Mancha added.
As well as the desalination plant, Acosol also has a water treatment centre in Marbella. This, said Mancha, needs expanding too. "It is very important. The Junta will finance the project and the work, which will be put out to tender for some 30 million euros and be carried out over 20 months. We are going to strengthen the supply because we are going from 2,000 to 4,600 litres per second. The greatest difficulty lies in continuing to treat while providing drinking water," Mancha said.
Mancha explained there is a lot of work going on to get councils and local companies to use recycled water. "There is room for improvement. The most important golf courses (around 50) are buying water. The town councils are also asking us to water parks and gardens. We are working on a strategic plan and looking at subsidies.
The main sewer drain along the coast does not impact directly on fresh water supply but it does play an important role in environmental protection, especially during storms. Mancha said this main drain the length of the Costa del Sol is currently undergoing two important improvements. The first, in San Pedro Alcántara, is under way at a cost of one million euros over a period of five months to remove it from under the beach. The second, in Fuengirola, is the Carvajal-Arroyo Pajares beach section, with a timescale of 10 months and a cost of seven million euros.
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