Tanker loaded with water in Valle de Abdalajís. SUR
Spain's most expensive water supply delivered to small Malaga town

Spain's most expensive water supply delivered to small Malaga town

A court upholds rail infrastructure company Adif's obligation to continue supplying water to Valle de Abdalajís, which has cost 25 million euros so far

Ignacio Lillo


Monday, 27 May 2024, 18:33

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The most expensive water supply in Spain is in a small town in Malaga province. Valle de Abdalajís (around 2,500 inhabitants) is a permanent headache for managers at Adif. The Spanish rail infrastructure company is still paying for the mistake it made when digging the the tunnels for the high-speed Cordoba-Malaga railway line between 2006 and 2007, when it drilled into the aquifer that supplies the municipality and the surrounding farms.

Since then, the company has been obliged to supply water to the town by various means, including the most expensive, which is by water tankers. According to data provided by Adif in response to SUR's questions, this has cost more than 25 million euros from 2007 to date.

This amount is not far off the 28 million Adif invested in the bypass that next year will shorten by 20 minutes the journey time of high-speed trains between Malaga and Seville in Almodóvar del Rio (Cordoba). From then on, the journey time will be one hour and 35 minutes.

According to latest data, from December 2016 to January 2021, Adif spent 8.5 million euros on supplying tankers. From the latter date until now, a further five million euros has been spent. Adif has been providing the municipality with some 450,000 litres per day, at a cost of more than 9,000 euros, according to more data.

Interim measures

In February 2021, Adif terminated its agreement with the municipality and stopped providing the water by tanker as it had been doing since 2007. At the time, the municipality filed a lawsuit and a judge ruled as a precautionary measure that Adif, which is dependent on the Spanish ministry of transport, should continue to pay for the supply until there is a final ruling. This is the current situation, as the court has not yet announced its decision.

Despite tanker supplies, the municipality suffers severe water cuts every night due to the drought

In the meantime, there have been costly attempts to create a stable supply with water recovered from the aquifer in the tunnels, but these have not worked as expected. Adif has carried out a project to supply drinking and irrigation water to different areas of the Sierra de Abdalajís, as well as works to collect the water that seeps into the tunnels at the outlet and pump it to a tank at the head of the supply network. Together with the installation of a water treatment plant, road conditioning and even the recovery of the remains of a Roman villa, works total 26.6 million euros.

On the other side is the Valle de Abdalajís town council. Its mayor Virginia Romero has been in charge for a year (since the last municipal elections) and pointed out water has been one of the biggest challenges for the town since 2007, after the drilling of its main aquifer during the works for the high-speed railway tunnels.

The municipality is waiting

Until then, the town in the north of the Guadalhorce Valley drank from this natural spring, which made it known as the "village of springs". "We have been like this for almost 20 years, but the damage is irreparable, I hope that the judge will find a solution, such as Adif finally building new water infrastructure, in case the supply from the water tanks is withdrawn," the mayor said.

The council has been awaiting the final judgement since 2021, when the municipality filed a complaint against the public railway company, after Adif announced the agreement had been terminated and it was cutting off the supply of water tanks. "The judgement was due to come out a few months ago, but following a request by the lawyers representing us, in which we asked for data on the flow of water coming out of the tunnels, the wait has been extended."

Romero said large lorries that arrive daily are not the ideal solution, because they pose a danger to the town as the roads are narrow and winding. But the mayor is confident that both the regional Junta and the provincial Diputación are working to find a solution, regardless of the outcome of the legal proceedings.

"We hope that there will be a definitive solution, but Adif cannot stop the trucks and leave a town without water. If that happens, it will be the institutions that will have to take charge until a definitive infrastructure is built to supply the municipality," the mayor said.

In addition to the difficult situation of the residents, the extreme drought that the area is going through, with daily water cuts, as is the case in other municipalities, has added to the plight of the residents. During the winter these were up to 16 hours a day, although the latest rains have meant "a respite" and cuts have been reduced to the nights, from 10pm to 7am. The councillor said a complete renovation of the supply networks is needed, which is one of the most urgent projects: "If we control our use, we will be able to reduce the restrictions much more."

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