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The forum at Malaga city hall on Tuesday. Migue Fernández
Forum concludes Malaga needs three new reservoirs and two more desalination plants to tackle drought crisis
Drought crisis

Forum concludes Malaga needs three new reservoirs and two more desalination plants to tackle drought crisis

Civic heads from across the Costa del Sol and the province came together to discuss ongoing water scarcity issues at the Mayors' Forum and proposed a range of ideas to solve the crisis

Chus Heredia

Malaga

Wednesday, 3 July 2024, 12:24

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There are demands to construct three new reservoirs and two desalination plants in a bid to counter water scarcity issues and the ongoing drought crisis in Malaga province.

The calls were made at this year's Metropolitan Mayors' Forum on Tuesday 2 July at Malaga city hall. The forum, organised by the Ciedes Foundation, determined that drought situation and water scarcity is serious and Malaga needs a provincial development model that establishes joint parameters for water use in different municipalities. Three new reservoirs were proposed: Gibralmedina on the Guadiaro; Cerro Blanco on the Grande; and the enlargement of La Concepción in Marbella. Other suggestions were inter-basin pipelines, desalination plants (in Vélez and Mijas) and recycled water for irrigation.

Final outcome

The final document issued after the forum, called the water charter, criticised the following: a lack of a clear, transparent and digitalised inventory of existing resources; the lack of knowledge about the situation of aquifers and the best way to refill them; the lack of control and sufficient monitoring of underground water catchments; continuous numerous leaks of water; that there is no unity of criteria for tariffs and costs which do not recover the price of providing services; and the lack of joint action.

Pending water projects

The report set out studies and projects for new interconnections such as the improvement of the Costa del Sol-Malaga-Axarquia connection. It also suggested extending the Pilones water treatment plant and its distribution network. It should be noted that the Junta de Andalucía and Emasa water supply company want to build a desalination plant, similar to the likes of El Atabal, to distribute water to the whole of the Guadalhorce and, through interconnections, to the whole province. The plant would have a capacity of between 2,000 and 3,000 litres per second and the main water distribution node for Malaga province.

As for interconnections, experts proposed linking the Axarquia coast with Granada (Béznar and Rules reservoirs) and Antequera and its region with the largest reservoir in Andalucía: Iznájar (Córdoba). Another possible connection on the table points to the headwaters of the Genil (Bermejales reservoir).

Technicians also proposed further plans for the Gibralmedina reservoir (whose project has just been drawn up by the Junta); the enlargement of the Concepción reservoir in Marbella (now almost shelved but which was included in the Hydrological Plan at the time), or the Cerro Blanco dam (between Guaro and Coín, which was ruled out at the time both in its larger version and as a weir for environmental reasons and on whose viability the Junta wants to carry out studies).

New desalination plants are also planned for the Axarquia region as well as a second large plant on the Costa del Sol, in Mijas. There is also another proposal to build a tertiary system to reuse recycled water from the Bajo Guadalhorce treatment plant.

Modernisation of services

The proposals also come with suggestions on digitalisation, control, advice on the system of penalties for non-compliance, dividing services, the chemical improvement of treated flows, guides to good practices, campaigns, transparency, and more.

Malaga mayor calls for shared use

Malaga mayor Francisco de la Torre spoke at the forum and described the Easter rains as a miracle, causing the volume of water in La Concepción to almost triple, and La Viñuela to almost double. He has opted not to relax measures, but to work on the regeneration of water and the fight against leaks. He saw a great opportunity in the Guadalhorce treatment plant for irrigation and golf. He also pointed out the importance of the latest studies of the wells. "We have a better understanding of the problems and therefore the solutions. Water belongs to everyone and must be shared. The citizens have to follow this example of uses," he said.

Salado committed to leakage control and increasing storage capacity

Provincial authority president Francisco Salado pointed out the shared needs of all the municipalities. "The province needs concrete actions. It is everyone's responsibility," he said, while calling for the province not to stop despite the "miraculous waters" of Easter week. For Salado, work must be done on pipelines, water transfers, storage capacity and leakage control. On this point, he called on town councils to be responsible.

Junta de Andalucía assures drought crisis plans are 80% complete

The Malaga province delegate of the Junta de Andalucía, Patricia Navarro, pointed out the drought has not been overcome. "It is beginning to be longer than usual, with more than seven years of evolution," she said. She also alluded to the Easter rains, which saved this summer and called for making economic, tourist and agri-food activity compatible and preserving reserves. "This has demanded maximum responsibility on the part of everyone," she added.

Now, the reservoirs are only at 24.5%. But the focus is on reaching the end of the year whilst preserving valuable water resources. "When 2024 ends, we will have invested 400 million in works that mean an extra 50 million cubic metres for the province," she said, whilst pointing out the execution of the four drought decrees are at 80%.

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Navarro specifically highlighted work at the Marbella desalination plant, negotiations for Axarquia, the extension and modernisation of Pilones, the pipelines in Bajo Guadalhorce, and the connection with Alhaurín de la Torre. Work will also be carried out on desalination plants for salinised wells in Guadalmansa and Estepona, with work carried out on six wells in the Lower Guadalhorce.

With regard to relief irrigation, Navarro pointed out the 3hm³ from La Viñuela and the 9hm³ from the Guadalhorce. "We need to make progress in desalination. We need a second desalination plant on the coast and a boost for the Axarquía plant," she said. The sub-delegate of the government Javier Salas could not attend the forum.

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