Five communities of irrigators of Alto Vinalopó have constituted the Platform in Defense of the Future of Agriculture in the region before the consequences that the Hydrological Plan that the Government central intends to approve. Those responsible for the Irrigation Communities of Villena, de la Huerta and Partidas, San Cristóbal, Pinar Alto and Benejama agree that the wells be closed for the aquifer recovery, who are overexploited, «But as long as it is with sustainable measures that do not lead to the end of agriculture. ‘ That is why they admit their concern because the serious socioeconomic impact that it is going to have for Alto Vinalopó has not been taken into account. “In addition, we think that the measures should be supported by all the actors, not only by agriculture, which always endures everything,” says spokesman Pepe Micó.
The Hydrological Plan it will multiply four times the price of the cost of irrigation water that is currently being paid in the region. The assigned rights and consumption ceilings will be reduced in the coming years. The use will be restricted to the surplus waters of the Júcar without guarantees and in burdensome conditions. “And all this – warns from the Platform – will feed possible dynamics of speculation facilitating the auction and marketing of water with the consequent confrontations.”
The lack of profitability and, therefore, the disappearance of agricultural and complementary activities, with a negative impact on employment, are some of the direct effects referred to by those affected. According to their forecasts, in Alto Vinalopó there will be a 60% reduction in the value of production, a 50% loss of irrigated crop area, a 17% decrease in margins and an average drop, only in Villena, more than 1,000 direct jobs to which indirect ones should be added. And all this in the short term. They also add the lack of amortization of the investments made by many farmers, the paralysis of funds destined for innovation and the failed efforts to guarantee generational change.
The European Water Framework Directive, which justifies the measures that the Government plans to apply, was approved 21 years ago and establishes that it is necessary to involve and listen to farmers in particular, and to all agents of the territory in general, taking into account the Consequences of the socioeconomic impact that closing the Alto Vinalopó wells can have and charging irrigation water four times more expensive. That is why Micó emphasizes that the Administration has a great responsibility in this conflict of interest. “It has been exploited for more than 100 years without limiting the concessions, – already in 1989 some of the aquifers were already declared overexploited – and we must take measures even when there were other alternatives to the water supply. The desalination plants have been underused and have only been considered in the stages of the highest peak of tourism.
A century of solidarity
The Platform has presented allegations to the Hydrological Plan and has also requested a dialogue table to seek solutions. What is basically required is “to have water at a reasonable cost; that all the flow that goes outside the region be disconnected and have other supply alternatives; that below the level of 200 meters of sea level the water supply is carried out through the Taibilla or the desalination plants and, finally, that the applied programs are less restrictive and reviewable depending on the evolution.
For those affected, what the Hydrological Plan proposes is especially burdensome for those who have water resources in their own territory and could survive without having to use other alternatives. In this sense, they recall that 80% of the total extractions in the province are carried out in Alto Vinalopó and more than 50% in the municipality of Villena. But only 1 out of every 3 liters that is extracted remains in the Vinalopó. «This Plan has as its main victim the town of Villena and its region and paradoxically affects the agricultural activity of the territory that for more than 100 years has been supportive and has facilitated the economic development and wealth of many other areas of the Alicante province ”, they finally stand out by announcing mobilizations if the Administration does not listen. A Public Participation Conference next month is the next step in which the Platform in Defense of the Future of Agriculture of Alto Vinalopó is already working.
They demand to maintain the ecological flow of the Villena treatment plant at 10l / s
The Platform wants the flows of the recently renovated Villena wastewater treatment plant to be used to irrigate crops, leaving the current ecological flow of 10 liters / second. “We cannot admit disproportionate ecological flows that also cause serious damage to farms and homes,” says spokesman Pepe Micó, referring to the fact that the Villena plant will not allow, according to the Hydrological Plan, to take advantage of the treated water for the irrigation. “It is planned to pour it all into the El Rey canal, which is not a public channel and, moreover, is not even cleaned and is causing flooding in farms whose crops are being abandoned for that reason in the La Laguna area.” A situation that he considers contradictory, insisting that, as long as the quality for irrigation is guaranteed, the water from the treatment plant is a priority for farmers.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.