Although some light showers of rain doused the region last night, reserves in the nation's reservoirs continue to drop in what is being called a "hydrographically dry year."
This week's report from the Ministry of agriculture shows the reservoirs nationally at 64.7% of their capacity, having lost 330 cubic hectometres of water during the last week, a figure which represents-0.6% of the total capacity of 35,973 cubic hectometres of water held in reserves nationally.
There has been some rainfall, but very little and although plans are underway to examine the whole question of nationwide water supply in Spain, this week, the first desalinated water began to flow from the Águilas-Guadalentín desalination plant , a moment qualified as "historic" by the farmers of the area who have traditionally struggled to gain enough water for agricultural purposes.
Farmers in the district of La Escucha will be the first in the municipalityof Lorcato use water from the Águilas-Guadalentín desalination plant for the irrigation of their crops.
For the moment the desalination plant is still in the testing phase, so the amount of water supplied from it between now and the end of the year will be under one cubic hectometer, but when it is fully operational, it is anticipated that as much as 23 hm3 per year will be supplied. Farmers will be paying less than for water from the regional wells: the desalinated product will cost 38 cents per cubic metre (plus IVA) as opposed to the 40 cents the farmers have been paying, but traditional irrigation water still costs far less (22.5 cents per cubic metre).
In the area which has been earmarked for the desalinated water the crop-growers do not receive water from the Tajo-Segura supply canal as other parts of the Region do, belonging instead to the category known as “consolidated irrigation”. This consists of around 13,000 hectares of land in the districts of Hinojar, Aguaderas, Purias, La Escucha, La Campana, La Escarihuela and Almendricos, where about 5,000 irrigators are registered, whereas “traditional” irrigation extends over 12,300 hectares and affects 8,500 irrigators.
In order to supply the water from the Águilas desalination plant, which cost 268 million euros to build, a further 30 million euros will have to be spent on building a supply pipe, but according to local farmers this is beyond their means at the moment. As a stopgap measure pipes belonging to local agricultural companies will be used, since the companies themselves are not using them.
Francisco Jódar, the mayor of Lorca, says that desalinated water is a necessary contribution to the agriculture of the municipality, but is not enough on its own to solve Lorca’s water shortage. Local opposition leader Manuel Soler agrees that the desalinated water will help to alleviate the problems caused by this year’s drought, and took the chance to defend the investment made in the plant by the PSOE party to which he belongs, ( the previous government who built and paid for the desalination plant programme) saying that it will eventually be extremely helpful to the agriculture of the Guadalentín valley in the areas not supplied by the Tajo-Segura canal. Sr Soler says that the aquifers of the Guadalentín have been over-exploited, with illegal wells having extracted vast quantities of water, and the legal wells have now run almost totally dry, leaving all those in the area suffering from lack of water.
Image: Copyright Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente, Text copyright Murcia Today
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