CUENCA – The Guardia Civil launched an investigation into the illegal extraction of water from a deteriorating underground aquifer located in the municipality of Iniesta. Three individuals, identified as the company owner, his wife, and the company manager, are under investigation. Their alleged crimes are against natural resources and the environment, electricity fraud, and usurpation.
Over the past three years, it is estimated that a staggering 1,658,344.32 cubic metres of water have been illicitly extracted. This has caused significant damage to the hydraulic public domain. The economic value of this damage is considered substantial, as evaluated by the Guardia Civil.
Illegal water extraction investigation
The investigation, was conducted by Seprona agents in collaboration with the Júcar River Basin Authority. It focused on inspecting, controlling, and combating illegal water withdrawals from both surface and underground sources.
The illicit activities came to light when authorities became aware of a company engaging in massive and unauthorised water extractions from a quantitatively impaired aquifer. The company allegedly buried irrigation infrastructure. They may also have tampered with or disabled volumetric metres in the wells to conceal the extent of their activities.
Operation Melin revealed that the company owned more than 400 hectares of land spread across 66 agricultural plots. Initial inspections in January uncovered evidence of potential water extraction, despite efforts to hide irrigation pipelines. Cultivated with vineyards, pistachios, and almond trees, at least half of the company’s plots displayed signs of water-related infrastructure. This included taps, conduits, and other irrigation facilities.
A subsequent round of surveillance confirmed the functionality of irrigation devices and wells, with observations of water leakage, wet soil around the structures, and signs of active hydraulic valves. In August, authorities executed 14 searches in the identified properties, confirming the operational status of the wells and assessing the irrigated land area.
Further complicating matters, it was discovered that, since February 11, 2023, the Júcar River Basin Authority had expressly prohibited the construction of new wells in the aquifer due to the negative impact on the water mass.