Illegal water extraction for agriculture under investigation in Murcia

by Lorraine Williamson
illegal water extraction

MURCIA – The Guardia Civil has recently initiated investigations into 18 individuals. They are suspected of engaging in unauthorised groundwater extraction from a publicly-owned aquifer in Mazarrón, Murcia.

Working in conjunction with the Confederación Hidrográfica del Segura (CHS), the Seprona division of the Guardia Civil uncovered 51 illegal wells supplying water to greenhouse facilities. It is estimated that around 2.5 million cubic metres of water have been illicitly withdrawn. Moreover, this has resulted in an economic loss of €2 million.

Threat to local water resources

The illicit water extractions from the Ramonete stream in Murcia prompted the attention of the Guardia Civil’s Nature Protection Service in March of this year. The investigation primarily focused on water captations from the Mazarrón aquifer. Designated as quantitatively endangered by the CHS in 2014, the aquifer’s overexploitation poses a potential threat to local water resources.

From the outset, the Guardia Civil conducted comprehensive surveys. They utilised both ground and aerial means, revealing the existence of numerous agricultural greenhouses in the area.

In response to concerns over irregular water sourcing to sustain these crops, Seprona agents alongside CHS experts formed collaborative teams to inspect the farmlands.

Illegal wells

Examinations of 53 agricultural properties led to the discovery of 51 illegal wells. Moreover, these were often situated adjacent to power generators that facilitated water extraction mechanisms. Some wells were positioned on the actual estates, while others were clandestinely positioned in the same streambed, a state-owned area, often concealed in hard-to-reach locations, concealed beneath plastics or metal sheets.

Cogesa Expats

Also read: Spain comes to the rescue of aquifers

Dryland Transformed into Irrigated Farms

In order to trace the water’s destination, agents and technicians traced the hydraulic conduits stemming from these wells. Their findings revealed that the siphoned water was directed towards greenhouses cultivating tomatoes, lettuce, and melons. As a result, arid lands were transformed into irrigated plots.

In total, the Guardia Civil has identified 18 individuals in connection with these activities. Furthermore, they are suspected of committing offenses against natural resources and the environment, including water theft.

Pending the completion of a corresponding expert report, the investigation has substantiated the withdrawal of over 2.5 million cubic metres of water, causing an economic damage to the public hydraulic domain exceeding €2 million.

The individuals under investigation and the compiled evidence have been submitted to the Lorca Instruction Court in Murcia for further legal proceedings. The Guardia Civil remains committed to safeguarding the region’s water resources and maintaining the integrity of its environmental heritage.

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