On paper it is a wetland of international importance, but what it does not have is water. The Tablas de Daimiel National Park needs two annual injections of liquid to maintain a minimum amount of water that prevents its subsoil from burning and the ecosystems disappear. The last opening of wells to pump was approved this Wednesday: only 24 of its 1,700 hectares remain flooded and that thanks to the dams that retain the little volume of water that comes through the Guadiana River.
The Government activates a plan to close the illegal irrigation wells that dry up the Tablas de Daimiel
This will be the fourth time in two years that the 27 emergency wells that draw deep water from the aquifer created in 2009 have been opened. The system was used for the first time in March 2020 when 70 hectares were flooded. Water was pumped back in October of that year as the flooded area had fallen to 36 hectares. In May 2021, there were 220 wet hectares and water was injected at a rate of one cubic meter per second for eight hours and in ten days. The summer of 2021, a time not only of the driest but of the highest consumption of irrigation water, is ending with only 24 hectares flooded.
The measure will hardly serve to create a minimum refuge where the birds spend the winter, little more. “It is about creating a sheet of water and avoiding the self-combustion of the park’s peat pack”, they acknowledge in the Ministry of Ecological Transition.
The Master Plan of the national park establishes a “minimum target” of 1,400 hectares flooded in early spring and “600 hectares in late summer.” Very far from the reality that the Tables show in each station. The Plan also indicates that “the restoration of the natural hydrological functioning of Alto Guadiana will be promoted with the aim of guaranteeing the hydric contributions necessary for the conservation of the national park.”
Because, beyond the scarcity or abundance of rainfall, the key to the desiccation of the Tablas must be sought underground: the aquifer that should feed the “flood plain”, as this wetland is defined, through the Guadiana and Cigüela is becoming increasingly empty by extracting liquid from it to feed the irrigated fields. It is not an unexpected problem, the declaration of overexploitation dates from 1987. These recurring pumps are a last resort, not a solution.
After the announcement of the opening of the emergency wells, the environmental groups once again recalled that the critical situation in Las Tablas “is not due to the drought but because of the agrarian disorder.” The spokesman for Ecologists in Action on the park’s board of trustees, Rafael Gosalvez, insists that this pumping “is a UCI measure: they do not want the park’s peatlands to burn, but neither does it recover the aquifer or pond.” Gosalvez analyzes that, if the Daimiel Tables are to be maintained, “a reconversion of the sector is necessary and the longer it takes to tackle it, the worse it is.”
This conversion basically consists of reducing irrigation. How many? The 2022-2027 hydrological plan of the Guadiana Confederation has put concrete numbers: in Alto Guadiana, where the aquifers on whose water Daimiel depends are located, an average of 572 cubic hectometres per year are consumed for irrigation.
In order to comply with the European regulations that require the recovery of the state of the bodies of water at risk such as the Tables of Daimiel, a “rigorous application of the action programs” is necessary, says the document pending final approval. That implies “the consequent limitation of extractions to the available resource,” says the plan. In short: consumption must be, if it is to be met, “considerably lower”. Specifically, 40% less than the current situation in Alto Guadiana. It means 227 hm3 less each course. Much water.
“This is going to have serious consequences from the socioeconomic point of view because it is a drastic reduction in irrigation,” admits Gosalvez. “We do not know if the Junta de Castilla-La Mancha [la competente en materia agraria] will be willing to comply “.
A week ago, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Hugo Morán, influenced this issue by stating that “taking refuge in models of the past not only does not benefit the country but also leads us to a worse situation,” while admitting that they will missing “accompanying measures”. In any case, Morán advanced that it is necessary to “reconsider some of the uses of water in relation to the need to reduce the pressures exerted in these spaces.”