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Spain: Tropical sector to have 60% less water for irrigation

We already know some of the measures that are going to be carried out in La Axarquía to tackle the impacts of drought. What is raising the most concerns right now is the 60 percent drop in the supply of water for irrigation in La Axarquía, mostly because of the impact this could have on the subtropical fruit sector. This decision, whose aim is to guarantee the supply to the population for the next two years, was approved last week during the meeting of the management committees with the heads of the Council of Environment and Planning of the Government of Andalusia. It has caused great discomfort among producers, as they believe it could put the production of certain crops at risk, especially that of avocados, which are very sensitive to the lack of water, and mangoes, whose production could drop alarmingly. The president of the Spanish Association of Tropical Fruits, José Linares, said that if there is no water for irrigation next summer, there could be losses amounting to more than 300 million Euro.

The decree will not come into force until next January
The decree in which the Government of Andalusia has been working won't come into force until next January. The reason is that its processing will still take between a month and a month and a half. The decree will affect the stretch of Mediterranean land between Algeciras and La Axarquía and it will feature the measures approved by the management committees of the province, as well as those that may be added by other councils of the Government, such as the Council of Agriculture, including aid to help producers tackle the situation.

According to the general director of Infrastructures and Water Exploitation, Inmaculada Cuenca, the aim is to mobilise resources from the western Costa del Sol, which has the most water, to the eastern one, where the situation is more desperate. The objective is also to preserve the water stored in the dams, trying to mitigate the impact on agriculture, and to encourage water saving among the population. Although there will be no restrictions on the supply to the population, the Government has announced that campaigns will be carried out to promote water saving, an initiative that aims to reduce consumption by between five and ten percent.

According to the Spanish Association of Tropical Fruits, the reduction in the supply will hit the sector with this year's mango harvest already finished and that of avocados already started. Many producers and irrigation communities still have resources stored in reservoirs and tanks to finish the campaign. "The big concern is what can happen if the sector does not have water for irrigation in the summer of 2018. The avocado trees will die if they are not watered. The mango trees could survive for longer. The harvest would be lost, but the tree could survive. What the authorities should keep in mind is that there is a risk that a sector like the avocado industry, which is a great economic pillar in the province, will die of thirst," insisted Linares.

La Axarquía, the most hit
La Axarquía will be the region of Malaga suffering the biggest restrictions due to the little water stored in the La Viñuela dam, on alert since last July. The reservoir is at 23 percent capacity, with only 38 cubic hectometres. The management committee of the system agreed on a proposal of the Government to reduce water consumption for irrigation by 60 percent this year, which means that irrigators will only have 10 cubic hectometres until the end of September 2018, which is when the hydrological year finishes. In the campaign that is now coming to an end, producers had access to 23 cubic hectometres.

To compensate for this reduction, which will mostly hit the subtropical sector, the Council for the Environment has proposed to add five cubic hectometres of reclaimed water into the system. However, the way in which this would be carried out has not yet been specified. To move forward on this issue, the Government and the irrigators have agreed to set up a technical committee that will meet next week.


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