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Álvaro Real, Manuel Cardeña, Penélope López and José Mª García Urbano at the round table moderated by Chus Heredia (centre), yesterday. Salvador Salas
Junta reviews plans for another large-scale desalination plant on the Costa del Sol and a reservoir on the Río Grande
SUR water crisis forum

Junta reviews plans for another large-scale desalination plant on the Costa del Sol and a reservoir on the Río Grande

The facility could be located in Mijas or Fuengirola and would be in addition to the small one in Estepona and the one planned in the Axarquía

Nuria Triguero

Friday, 19 April 2024, 12:11

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Andalucía's regional government has a medium-term plan for a second large desalination plant for the western Costa del Sol in addition to the one in Marbella and the one planned for Axarquia, for which it is asking the national government to speed up the approval so that the groundwork can start. As part of the Junta's longer term plans, it has put modifications to the Grande river back on the agenda and has made a call to speed things up to approve the Gibralmedina dam to take advantage of the water that flows into this tributary from the Guadiaro river. These are some of the main conclusions of the water crisis forum 'Malaga: how to tackle the drought', organised by SUR and which brought together some twenty experts in the field.

The meeting, sponsored by Cajasur, with the collaboration of Aqualia, Mancomunidad de Municipios de la Costa del Sol Occidental, Dcoop, Hidralia, Diputación (provincial government) and Rincón de la Victoria's town hall, listened to the opening speech by the Junta's Director General for Infrastructure Álvaro Real. He was clear that we must increase reservoir capacity and regulate the rivers. He named two actions to be given priority. One is the Gibralmedina dam, whose draft proposal is being finalised. It will capture flow from the Guadiaro river and provide, from its selected location between Cadiz and Malaga provinces, 100 cubic hectometres of water, of which 15 will go to the Costa del Sol and another 85 will be shared between irrigation needs and water supplies to the Campo de Gibraltar. This project will shortly be submitted to the State for the go-ahead.

Reservoir on the Río Grande

The other is Cerro Blanco, located between Guaro and Coín, a project initially proposed in the 1990s with a capacity of 45hm3 but which stalled due to strong opposition from environmentalists and politicians. An intermediate, less ambitious option in the form of a weir was then proposed. "We are going to support the State by undertaking a study of alternatives to see which is the most beneficial," announced Real.

Carlos Sesmero, head of corporate banking at Cajasur in Malaga, representing the event sponsor.
Carlos Sesmero, head of corporate banking at Cajasur in Malaga, representing the event sponsor. Salvador Salas

This proposal was especially supported by Penélope Gómez as Sustainability councillor for Malaga's city council. She advocated that this infrastructure should be built to maximum possible capacity (50 hm3), and the same for Gibralmedina.

Mijas-Fuengirola the ideal location

Real is in favour of providing water resources in response to the economic and demographic growth of the province. The Mancomunidad de Municipios de la Costa del Sol Occidental agrees with this line of thought. Its president, Manuel Cardeña, said during one of the forum's round tables that a second desalination plant should be built on the coast. The one in Marbella is undergoing a two-stage renovation to increase its capacity with funding from the Regional Ministry of Agriculture. The first of these, which has already been completed, has enabled it to increase its capacity from 6 to 12 hm3 per year. The second phase of work will increase capacity to 20hm3, although that is the limit of its potential, as pointed out by CEO of Acosol, Matilde Mancha.

The editor-in-chief of SUR, Manolo Castillo, addresses the audience to welcome them to the forum and explains the newpaper's commitment to obtain more information on the water situation for the region.
The editor-in-chief of SUR, Manolo Castillo, addresses the audience to welcome them to the forum and explains the newpaper's commitment to obtain more information on the water situation for the region. Salvador Salas

"A solution is being worked on, together with the Junta, for a second desalination plant on the Costa del Sol, which is being drawn up and the best location is being appraised," said Cardeña.

"It will be a larger desalination plant and the idea is that it will provide solutions for the municipalities closest to Malaga," he said. He admitted that the ideal location would unquestionably be in the municipalities of Mijas and Fuengirola, "although technically we are still looking for the best location". "We are looking to take up the old project of the Mijas desalination plant, which had an agreement signed with Acuamed and the Junta to put a second water source into the supply network, that would give stability to the municipalities closest to Malaga city and give us another source to hand".

Cardeña was therefore confident that, if they had this plant together with the one planned for Estepona and the one already in Marbella (now being expanded to its maximum capacity), "in the end we will have a guaranteed solution for the Costa del Sol, because we have 19,000 million euros in tourism revenue and a large number of jobs at stake, and we cannot just rely on looking up to the skies".

Both councillor Gómez and the Diputación's VP Cristóbal Ortega underlined the importance of the Axarquía desalination plant, which will be located in the vicinity of El Ingenio shopping centre in Vélez.

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