Dramatic drought in the Axarquía region is getting worse by the day

by Lorraine Williamson
Axarquía drought

VÉLEZ-MÁLAGA – Farmers watch with sadness as their crops dry up. However, the regional government is asking for their “commitment and cooperation” given the uncertain autumn. Meanwhile, the farmers of the Axarquía region look at the drought situation in despair.

Summer in Spain has only just begun. However,  the dramatic situation in the countryside of this fruit orchard in Spain is getting worse by the day. The reservoir of La Viñuela is practically empty. Furthermore, 14 municipalities are supplied from this and approximately 6,200 hectares of crops have to be irrigated. 

This situation has forced the Junta de Andalucía to reduce the amount of water used for irrigation to the lowest in history. Until September 30, only 1,500 cubic metres per hectare will be available to guarantee the population’s water supply. 

According to the regional government, all “necessary” works on water infrastructure are already being carried out to remedy this water shortage. The question is whether they will come on time. 

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Ten agricultural associations have already passed their water quota 

The newspaper Sur reports that due to the drought and the delay in establishing alternative sources, ten farmers’ associations, representing about a thousand hectares of crops, are already without water. They have already used up their quota for the hydraulic year that lasts until September 30. This mainly concerns mango and avocado plantations and several greenhouses. Furthermore. all these agricultural associations get their water from the La Viñuela reservoir. Moreover, the water reserve there is now at 13.5% of capacity. 

Measures the Junta is working on 

In the coming weeks, more farmers will join these ten associations with an exhausted quota until September 30. Many have already used up around 80%. The series of emergency measures that the regional government says it will implement for a budget of €38.3 million include;

  • a water bypass from the western Costa del Sol to the Axarquía 
  • works to use reclaimed water for irrigation in Axarquía 
  • work to improve reservoirs and canals around Viñuela to allow maximum use of rainwater and transfers 
  • the extension and improvement of the tertiary treatment of five treatment plants in Vélez-Málaga, Torrox(2), Rincón de la Victoria and Algarrobo 
  • improvements to the La Rosaleda pumping station, which connects Malaga to the Axarquia, will double the amount of water sent to the water treatment plant in Vélez-Málaga from 200 to 400 litres per second. 
  • using the sources of the Chillar River near Nerja to generate water for human consumption 
  • a capacity expansion of the desalination plant El Atabal, in the capital 

Harvest by half down 

Three weeks ago, the tropical fruits agricultural association with 450 affiliated farmers in Axarquía already warned that this year’s harvest will probably be 50% lower than usual due to the drought. In addition to avocados and mangos, the Axarquía also grows papayas, kumquats, lychees, babacos (a type of papaya), dragon fruit (pitaya), medlars, cherimoyas and guavas. 

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