Humilladero, the village of Málaga that has been without drinking water for a year due to the drought

by Lorraine Williamson
Humilladero has not drinking water

Every Monday and Thursday, the inhabitants of Humilladero, a village of 3,300 inhabitants in the province of Málaga, go to different points to fill their water bottles and jugs. There are tankers with water. Residents have been doing this since late 2022, when health authorities declared the water unfit for human consumption due to the drought.

This is due to its high content of chlorides and nitrates. This situation affects the daily life of all the inhabitants and especially that of the catering establishments. There, they have no choice but to accept it with resignation.

José Antonio, owner of the Narciso restaurant in this city, is aware that the problem “is going to last a long time”. The solution is that it will rain and that is not self-evident. “If a customer asks us for a glass of water, we have to serve it from a bottle. That’s also a cost for us,” he told Infobae España.

No drinking water

The fact that the water is not drinkable is mainly due to an excess of nitrates, explains the mayor of Humilladero, Miguel Ángel Pérez. The water comes from wells and because their level has dropped significantly in recent months due to the lack of rain, “the nitrates are concentrated in a smaller amount of water”. As a result, the water is not drinkable. However, it can be used for showering.

Insufficient measures against water pollution

On Thursday, the European Court of Justice condemned Spain for failing to take sufficient measures against water pollution. Nitrates are used in agriculture in eight autonomous regions. These are Aragon, Balearic Islands, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León, Community of Madrid, Community of Valencia, Extremadura and Murcia. The Nitrates Directive requires EU countries to monitor their waters and identify those waters that may be affected by nitrate pollution from agricultural sources.

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Prolonged drought

The situation of Humilladero is experienced in more places in Spain. These are residents of small municipalities who depend on wells. Spain is going through a prolonged drought that has now entered its fourth year. In a number of regions, this leads to very complicated situations, such as in Catalonia. There, a state of emergency for drought was declared in February. Andalucia followed suit. The latter region has approved that urban water consumption should not exceed 160 litres per inhabitant per day. This takes into account all available water sources in the municipalities of the Campo de Gibraltar, Costa del Sol Occidental, Guadalhorce-Limonero (Málaga) systems; and Axarquía-Viñuela.

The good news is that after the abundant rainfall of the last few days, the water in the reservoirs has risen again to 56.8% of the total capacity with 31,844 cubic hectometres. This is 1,171 cubic hectometres more than the week before (2.1% of the current total capacity of the reservoirs). However, the provinces with the greatest water shortages, despite the latest rains, remain Barcelona with 8.7% and Almería with 8.04% water in the reservoirs.

Municipality has spent 85,000 euros

The tankers that come to Humilladero every Monday and Thursday, loaded with 10,000 litres of water. People with reduced mobility or other problems will be the first to be admitted. Humilladero, the mayor explains, buys its water from the public company Aguas del Torcal, located in Antequera. So far, this has cost Humilladero around €85,000. A large sum for a village with just over 3,000 inhabitants. He assures that the Provincial Council of Málaga “is ready to cover a large part of these costs”.

Although the drought has affected this area of Málaga on other occasions, this is the first time that Humilladero has run out of drinking water, he continues. That’s because the level in the wells has never been so low. And in the municipality of Fuente de Piedra, just three kilometres away, they are also in the same situation.

As a possible solution, Humilladero starts a search for new wells. Another option is to build a new well in the area known as El Convento, “because there may be drinking water there, but it is still too early to tell”. In addition, the Diputación de Málaga and the Antequera City Council are in contact to “make a water pipeline to Humilladero”.  The water supply in that municipality is about six kilometres away from the water tank that supplies them with water.

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