FUENGIROLA – Since June, millions of litres of ‘clean’ water have flowed into the sea from a large underground water reserve in Fuengirola (Malaga). This is due to “sustainable” new construction close to the coast.
Before construction, the water must be removed from the aquifer to avoid the risk of subsidence. That is why on the beach of Fuengirola you can see the water flowing from a huge pipe into the sea (see also the video on this page). Furthermore, it is ‘clean’ water, as can be read on an information board of the municipality. This is because it concerns a “temporary discharge for the water of natural origin”. That is fresh water (albeit brackish). Moreover, it could potentially be used for more purposes than bathing water for tourists.
The origin of the curious discharge lies in the promotion of 116 “luxury apartments”. According to Francisco Javier Toro, spokesman for Ciudadanos in the city council, it is “obscene”. He asked in a city council meeting in early June to rectify the situation. Two months later nothing had happened he, therefore, repeated his complaint. Now a small part of the water is used to clean the streets.
A million litres a day
The amount of underground water flowing into the sea is estimated at one million litres per day. That´s more than a hundred million litres since the start of the discharge. Only a small part of this was put into use a few weeks ago. This, considering that the province suffers a lot from the drought.
Jade Tower is the first luxury residence built in Spain by Cordia, part of the international real estate group Futureal. The plot is located 100 metres from the beach in one of the few free plots of the very densely populated Fuengirola. The building will have seven floors and one floor for the penthouses. Residents can take advantage of private gardens, an indoor pool, a co-work spot, a spa and a gastro bar. “Sustainable building” is on the billboard.
The promotion is marketed with the Breeam International seal. This is a sustainability evaluation method that includes specific tests for water consumption and energy efficiency. According to a spokesperson for the promoter, everything is correct so far.
In the sales office of Cordia, according to El Diario, they do not see the problem. At Sacyr (the executor of the work), they refer the journalists to the promoter and downplay the runoff. They point to the water table in connection with the proximity of the sea. The water must be drained to ensure the solidity of the foundations.
Municipality weakens the usefulness of wasted water
The municipality is weakening the usefulness of the wasted water. Sources state that it is very salty and therefore not suitable for human consumption and not even for irrigation. However, water would have been collected twice, how much is unknown, to clean the streets with it. In addition, engineers from the construction company are said to have explained that if they did not extract the water, the buildings in the area could sink.
Municipal sources draw a boundary between the area from which the discharge originates and the 20 cubic hectometre water reserve in the area. However, according to researchers, this is not possible. The 2005 study Hydrogeological Itinerary along the Andalucian Coast explains that rapid processes of sea intrusion and extrusion take place in the Fuengirola aquifer. This results in the existence of water of different qualities depending on location, sectors and seasons.
In other words, the areas closest to the sea are more permeable and saltier, but the areas further inland are not. They are interconnected to form a single aquifer, the researchers said in the study.
The impact that the loss of millions of litres of water since June could have on the health of the aquifer is therefore something that no one can yet determine with certainty.
A waste and an economic loss
Francisco Javier Toro, the spokesman for Ciudadanos, deplores the enormous water loss in the current context of drought, which is already causing a dramatic situation in other parts of the province such as the Axarquía. “How is it possible that an aquifer is perforated and nothing happens? I understand the right to promote a building, but the aquifer that contains water for all residents of Fuengirola was there first,” he protests.
The water that Fuengirola consumes comes almost entirely from the La Concepción reservoir, currently at 63.35% of its capacity. Its relatively favourable location contrasts with that of the other reservoirs in Malaga (at 39.07% in total) and in particular with the easternmost of the province, La Viñuela, which at 10.43% is virtually empty, resulting in far-reaching restrictions on use by farmers and citizens.
Economic loss to the people of Fuengirola
The Ciudadanos spokesman points to an economic loss for the people of Fuengirola. ACOSOL (a public company dependent on the Junta de Andalucía) transports the water to the municipality from La Concepción. Gestagua brings it to the houses. The annual consumption is about 7.7 million cubic metres. Fuengirola pays Gestagua a little more than €1 for every cubic metre of water, according to a municipal report prepared in 2017. The entity operates with a guaranteed profit of 10% on the amount invoiced with no financial or business risks, according to the same report.
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As a result, the company has no incentives to provide a better or cheaper service, Toro points out. He illustrated this by pointing out that until six months ago drinking water was used to clean the streets and for irrigation. That water was also paid as such. It was only in March that the municipality approved the use of non-potable water for these purposes at the suggestion of citizens. Now a large reserve of an increasingly scarce resource in the province is bleeding without anyone taking advantage of it.