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Cristóbal Ortega, Manuel Cardeña, Chus Heredia, Penélope Gómez and José María García Urbano at SUR's water crisis forum. Salvador Salas
Regional government and local town halls consider location for second large-scale desalination plant to serve the Costa del Sol
SUR water crisis forum

Regional government and local town halls consider location for second large-scale desalination plant to serve the Costa del Sol

The president of the Mancomunidad of the western strip of the Malaga province coast said "we have 19 billion euros of income from tourism and a large number of jobs at stake, and we cannot just rely on looking up to the skies"

Ignacio Lillo

Malaga

Sunday, 21 April 2024

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The fourth round table with a panel of experts at SUR's forum dedicated to the drought last week bore the theme of 'public water management'. It made a headline for the event: the Mancomunidad of the Western Costa del Sol (an association of the 11 towns along that stretch of coastline), together with the regional government, are already appraising a second desalination plant for this area.

Manuel Cardeña, president of the Mancomunidad, announced: "We are working on a solution, together with the Junta, for a second desalination plant on the Costa del Sol, which is being designed and we are looking at the best location," he said.

It will be a desalination plant of "larger" dimensions (he was referring for comparison to the one planned by Estepona town hall) "and the idea is that it will provide solutions for the municipalities closest to Malaga city". Asked by the panel's moderator, SUR journalist Chus Heredia, he admitted that the ideal location would undoubtedly be in the towns 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 in the supply network, to give stability to the municipalities closer to Malaga city and to have another source in active service".

Cardeña was therefore confident that, with the presence of this plant together with the one planned in Estepona and the one that already exists in Marbella (which is being expanded to its maximum capacity), "in the end we will have a guaranteed solution for the Costa del Sol, because we have 19 billion euros of income from tourism and a large number of jobs at stake, and we cannot just rely on looking up to the skies". On the Costa del Sol it is necessary to plan water resources for up to 1.2 million people.

Estepona desalination plant

For his part, José María García Urbano, mayor of Estepona, advocated the creation of a network of small, municipal desalination plants like the one that will be built in his town. In his opinion such a model can easily be replicated in the rest of the coastal towns. "The problem of drought on the coast can disappear forever; desalination plants are not an expensive build, 20 million euros (the budget for the one planned in his municipality) is nothing if it solves the water problem in Estepona, it's in the investment budget for a year, and it can be financed through the tax laws on water consumption. We have the technical fix, the land near the seafront, the funds, the projects lined up and the determination".

The town's population has grown by 30% in the last decade, while the current water supply is covered by 30,000 cubic metres per day. "We can achieve self-sufficiency in the short term, and contribute to the general network along the coast. I invite the other municipalities to do the same so as not to depend on the rainfall and to have surpluses to send further inland across the province as well".

According to his calculations, the project can be finished within 15 to 18 months, done in a three-phase plan: "In May-June we can already have 3,000 m3; after the summer, 8,000 more, and in 2025 to reach 20,000 to 30,000, enough for Estepona, which will release these resources for the rest of the towns". At this point, he thanked Hidralia for their technical support.

"Reservoirs with maximum capacity"

Penélope Gómez, Malaga city's councillor for Environmental Sustainability, called for the new dams on the planning table to be designed "for maximum capacity". In this respect, she asked for the Cerro Blanco reservoir to be able to reach 50 hm3. She added to her list the proposed Gibralmedina reservoir (a modification of the tributary in Cadiz leading off the Guadiaro river) and two large desalination plants at the farthest ends of the province, "which do not only take into account the needs of today, but also those of the future".

Cristóbal Ortega, vice-president of the Diputación (Malaga's provincial authority) and responsible for Infrastructure and Sustainable Territory, took the view that the highest priority project is the desalination plant in La Axarquía, both for human consumption and for subtropical crops. He spoke with some regret that central government has not yet even commissioned the project from Acuamed, hence his warning that "it is going to take a long time to get under way".

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