On March 23, 2005, a tunnel boring machine that was drilling the Huma mountain range in Malaga to make way for the AVE ran into the carbonate rock that surrounded an aquifer of vital importance for the municipality of Valle de Abdalajís. Although no one was injured, the aquifer began to drain in the way that someone who suffers a deep cut bleeds: it lost about 400 liters per second for a month. 34 million liters every day. There were peaks where 800 liters per second were poured, according to a report. The 7.3-kilometer-long AVE tunnel became a mighty river.
The bottler is not welcome in the Sierra de Camarolos: “If we have cuts in summer, what will happen if they start to draw water?”
For months, the aquifer continued to lose water and the springs in the town eventually dried up. After a million-dollar work, Adif, which was executing this work to link Malaga and Madrid by high speed, sealed the 7.3-kilometer tunnel and redirected the water to the Guadalhorce basin, but the aquifer was unusable for the town, which since then It tries to heal the wound that caused the loss of its main hydrological resource. In 2007 Adif and the municipality agreed that the former would guarantee the town’s water supply. The agreement has just expired, and last Sunday Adif stopped sending tanker trucks to Valle de Abdalajís. You think you have already paid enough.
A very precautionary measure by a court has ordered Adif to return the water, according to the mayor. But the end of the tanker trucks has once again highlighted that, almost sixteen years after a construction site rendered its aquifer unusable, Valle de Abdalajís cannot procure its own water. “If we cannot guarantee the minimum supply, our viability is called into question,” warns José Romero, mayor of the municipality. (Forward Malaga).
Romero was once the spokesperson for the Promanantiales Platform and believes that the lack of water is an existential threat to a town, with 2502 registered inhabitants, which has lost almost a sixth of its population since the aquifer was drilled.
How did the springs village dry up?
Valle de Abdalajís was known as the “town of springs” thanks to this aquifer from the Jurassic era, but the puncture made it lose water and the slogan. A report Adif explains aseptically how the town ran out of water: “After the beginning of the drainage of the massif, a decrease was observed in some of the upwelling flows in the area (sources of ‘El Nacimiento’, ‘Atanores’ and ‘La Fresneda’) , which serve as a supply to the neighborhood of La Fresneda (Antequera), and the municipality of Valle de Abdalajís “.
“The entrance to the tunnel through Antequera is at a higher altitude than the southern part through Álora and the tunnel presents a slight gradient towards the south, so that it was built at a lower level than the one where the water from Valle de Abdalajís gushed out” , Explain Matías Mudarra, hydrogeologist at the University of Malaga: “It’s like a bucket: if you click down on it, the water comes out, because it always looks for the easiest way.”
Several factors contributed to this, such as 2005 being the driest year in twenty years. Also the permeability of the aquifer even at great depth, due to its “complex geology” and its karst composition, according to a report prepared in 2008 by Antonio Pulido-Bosch, professor of geodynamics at the University of Granada, which figures at 3.26 hectometres cubic (3,260 million liters) of water drained in 2005 alone. This report indicates that the drilled aquifer was “almost completely emptied” and estimates the time for its recovery to be two years, but adds: “The sealing operations (…) they raised the hydraulic head, with repercussions for the whole system. ”
According to the mayor, the recovery of the aquifer has not occurred because the premises of the report have not been met: about 20 or 30 liters per second continue to drain and the rainfall regime in recent years is lower than in past decades. “That aquifer is doomed for the remains“, he warns:” There were seven cubic hectometres. We had the potential to have plenty of water and now we depend on Adif. ”
A tortuous relationship with Adif
Since 2007, Adif and Valle de Abdalajís have forcibly maintained a stormy relationship, which has gone through protests, public complaints and even the hunger strike of a mayor, in 2012. The framework agreement obliges the infrastructure manager to guarantee drinking water supply to the town through the construction of hydraulic infrastructures. Adif promised to guarantee a flow of 13 liters per second to the four springs (Nacimiento, Atanores, Fuente de la Reina and Junquillo de Atanores) and to deliver two new wells and a new borehole on the tunnel layout at Pozos Altos. .
“That has been the carrot that they have always put us,” explains Romero. However, the Pozos Altos survey is already ruled out due to its impact on the natural setting and security reasons, despite the fact that it was announced twice, in 2015 and in 2017.. And one of the wells is not used because it brings muddy water.
The result is that the town is supplied with a well that provides five liters per second, a spring from which four liters per second and water from the cisterns, which accounts for between a third and a half of the total, according to the mayor. Although the contribution of the large tanks was supposed to be temporary, thirteen years after the agreement the trucks continued to bring 450,000 to 600,000 liters each day, depending on the time of year. Until Sunday January 31st. During this week, the night cuts to the supply have returned.
Adif: “There is no legal basis” to bring water
In September last year, the infrastructure manager and the municipality began to negotiate the terms of a new relationship, but there is still no agreement. “On December 22 at night, on WhatsApp, they told me that they postponed the meeting, because the legal services have to see some issues,” says the mayor. The delay lasted throughout January, until last week Romero learned from the truckers themselves that this was going to be their last week of service.
According to Adif, the law made it mandatory to terminate the agreement last October, despite which the supply has been maintained to give time to negotiate or for the city council to manage “supply alternatives.” “As this agreement is not in force, Adif does not have a legal basis to supply supplementary water contributions, given that the water supply is not a competence or mission of this public entity,” official sources explain.
The people have the support of the Malaga Provincial Council, which unanimously approved an institutional motion. And this Wednesday, the president of the Provincial Council and directors of Adif visited the tunnel. The provincial entity offered that a company study the alternatives to solve a sudden shortage that lasts more than a decade.
For his part, Adif believes that his debt with Valle de Abdalajís has been paid. “The compensations established in the 2007 agreement [cinco millones de euros], have already been fully realized“, responds to eldiario.es/Andalucía. According to Adif, the” total sum of all expenses “amounts to exactly € 26,623,521.18. This figure includes” emergency works for the waterproofing of the tunnel “, surveys of recognition, detection of other aquifers, construction of a treatment plant and six water tanks (10.5 million); the supply of drinking water and irrigation to different places and rural areas (4.2); the collection at the outlet of the infiltrated water in the tunnels and pumping (8.4), the conditioning of roads (3.2) and the restoration of a Roman villa.
The mayor believes that they do not ask so much: “We have only asked for a pipeline to come, as the 2007 agreement included, and take into account that the road is destroying it. The well they made only gives five liters per second, so we ask that they make another complementary well, “he says.” We were in the middle of a dialogue table and we believe that we do not deserve this. “Valle de Abdalajís continues to demand the water that a day gave him fame.