Intensive Groundwater Abstraction in Málaga Province (Spain), 4-5 April 2024

10 Apr, 2024

The IMPEL Tackling Illegal Drilling and Abstraction project team (IMPEL TIGDA) would like to thank to the Center of Hydrogeology of the University of Malaga (CEHIUMA) and the homonymous University for hosting in Málaga our recent project team meeting on the 4th and 5th April 2024.  We are especially grateful to Bartolome Andreo and Juan Antonio Barberá from CEHIUMA-UMA and Paloma Ramos from the Spanish Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge.

On 4th April we received an overview on “Earth Observation Techniques for the Detection of Illegal Groundwater Activities” from Ion Nedelcu and Constantin Radu Gogu (TIGDA’s consultants) and on “AI based illegal abstraction detection” from Manuel Diaz ITIS research group – UMA.

We had also 2 very interesting projects presented: “About the regularization campaign for existing illegal groundwater abstraction in Lithuania” and DIANA project - Detection and Integrated Assessment of Non-authorized water Abstractions using EO - pilot in Romania.

Mr. Rafa Seiz from World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF Spain) presented “The case study from the Doñana area (Spain) - Actions to detect and combat illegal water use in Spain”. The National park of Doñana and its surrounding provides the main production area for berries (including strawberry, blueberry, raspberry and blackberry) across Europe, whilst at the same time including a wetland, classified as Natural World Heritage, which is one of the most important wetlands in Europe with more than 6 million annual migratory birds. The berry crops require intensive use of water, estimated annual water request ranging from 4,500 to 9,000 m3/ha. Over the past decades, the large land use change from non-agricultural areas transformed into berry cultivation under greenhouses has resulted in agriculture increasingly becoming a major driver of change to the environment within Doñana, by reducing the groundwater resource available to wetlands.

The presentation “Illegal drilling and abstraction in Spain - experience at south east Spain – Provincial Council of Alicante” by Miguel Fernández Mejuto highlighted the need of good and sustainable integrated water governance.

On the 5th April, we carried out, with the help of the Center of Hydrogeology of the University of Málaga, a site visit to Fuente de Piedra lake basin at the Laguna de Fuente de Piedra that is classified as Wetland of International importance (RAMSAR) and part of the European ecological network “NATURA 2000” with many migratory birds, especially with colonies of Greater Flamingo from Europe. In this site visit have been presented the example of Fuente de Piedra lake basin matching a water-stressed endorheic basin in south of Spain, located in the northern sector of Málaga province. There are overexploited aquifers due to intensive pumping, whose groundwater was decades ago critical water inputs aimed to contribute with the hypersaline wetland sustainability. Intensive groundwater pumping for urban use and agriculture (predominately olive production) for more than 40 years has resulted in groundwater decline of several tens of meters (up to 90 m) and increased salinity in the carbonate Jurassic aquifers

Additional collaborators from other countries are still welcome.

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