A long journey through the desert

Irrigators from Almeria are demanding a single price for water and for the infrastructures to supply the agricultural sector to be finished

In Almeria, the endemic lack of water has meant that the province, along with Israel, is the place where the greatest profitability is made from water saving (it is the cradle of drip irrigation in Spain, which arrived from Israel in 1972). But at the rate the agricultural sector is moving (in 2016/2017 they produced 3,375,970 tonnes of fruit and vegetables on 55,195 hectares, according to data from Cajamar), this situation will not be sustainable.

Last September, FERAL (Federation of Irrigators from Almeria) established the Water Table to channel the defence of the interests of the irrigators from Almeria. At the beginning of 2017, they created the Circle for Water, along with the Water Table of the Region of Murcia and the Pro-Water Forum of Alicante. The aim is to obtain water at reasonable prices.

It is a situation that has become protracted over time. In Almanzora they have been waiting since 2012 for a desalination plant to be restarted that would provide 20 Hm³ and that was destroyed by a storm. Currently the region has a “deficit of 35-40 Hm³ between the water that is lacking and the water that could be being used,” according to the chairman of FERAL and spokesperson of the Water Table, José Antonio Fernández.

In Níjar and Bajo Andarax, the Carboneras desalination plant has become too small and the irrigators are demanding an urgent enlargement. In addition, in Almeria’s Poniente the desalination plant that was started up a few months ago has a problem: the Town Councils do not have the infrastructures to take advantage of 100% of the water. In view of this, Roquetas de Mar and Vícar will deal with the Acuamed projects with their own investments. It is also urgent to project a desalination plant in the Balsa del Sapo to prevent the dumping of 8 Hm3 of water into the sea every year.

When they presented the Water Table, Fernández himself pronounced that the sector is being the “victim of political struggles between administrations.” The fact that in the province there are three basin organisations with simultaneous competences (Confederación Hidrográfica del Segura, Confederación Hidrográfica del Guadalquivir and Cuencas Mediterráneas Andaluzas) does not help to resolve the problems and as a result of all this the irrigators and communities are the ones who “lead the way.” A clear example is the recovery plan of the Poniente aquifer, of which over 80% of the irrigators from the region are members. Thanks to them, up to 53 Hm3 of water will stop being extracted from the aquifer in two years.

“We are the forgotten ones. In the wetter regions of Spain the most expensive water costs 2 cents and here desalinated water costs 0,50 euros in the Poniente, the region with the largest concentration of greenhouses in the world”.

This is occurring whilst in Granada, the Rules Dam pours 120-130 Hm³ of water into the sea because it has no piping system. “We proposed paying for the piping and bringing the water from the Guadalfeo basin to the Benínar reservoir and connecting it from there through the unfinished Water Highway, but as yet we have not received a reply.”

As if this was not enough, in the State General Budget investments on the subject of water have been cut by 61% in Almeria, dropping from 57.9 million euros budgeted in 2016 by the state company, Acuamed to 22.5 million for 2017.

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