The Seprona located more than 1,400 wells illegal in only five months

The result of the work of tracking carried out in Spain by agents of Seprona —the Service of Protection of Nature of the Guardia Civil— in search of catchments

The Seprona located more than 1,400 wells illegal in only five months

The result of the work of tracking carried out in Spain by agents of Seprona —the Service of Protection of Nature of the Guardia Civil— in search of catchments illegal water helps to understand the magnitude of the problem: in just five months they have been located 1.410 wells that extract irregularly water from underground aquifers and 47 rafts from where it is distributed then that resource, normally, to agricultural plots. In total, has been arrested and investigated 107 people and have been localized to catchments in 42 provinces.

The Seprona has performed in all the national territory, in a systematized form this operation —has been named Suzuran— against the theft of water from this type of wells, a phenomenon that takes warning from decades ago. Historically there have been black spots of theft of the water very well-known and, typically, associated to the impacts that such a theft cause in protected ecosystems, such as Doñana. “After the operations that we have been doing in the last few years, both in the National Park of Doñana and its surroundings, as in Murcia, or the Tables of Daimiel, we have seen that this problem goes beyond that,” says lieutenant colonel Jesus Galvez, chief of operations of the Seprona. “And we decided that you had to launch a national campaign,” added Galvez.

After the increase of the abstractions that cause the overexploitation of aquifers is “the recent acceleration of climate change coupled with the exponential change of crops that has been occurring particularly in certain areas of the Spanish geography, accompanied by a general increase in temperatures, especially in the Mediterranean”, has pointed out this Sunday in a press note from the Civil Guard. The armed institute remember that these holes represent, in addition to an “illegal activity”, a “significant risk to people and animals when leaving the catchments.


the epicenter of The looting without punishment of the water of Doñana Brussels, complaint to Spain for the inaction in the face of the theft of water in Doñana

Although in the field of agriculture and the protection of the environment is known the problem for decades —“since the start of the Seprona in 1988, there are complaints by wells,” admits Galvez—, just a year ago the risk posed by this type of wells out of control became more evident. It was with little Julen, the child who died after falling in a pit spot located in Totalán (Málaga).

After the accident, environmental organizations and responsible Authorities warned of the enormous amount of wells illegal that exist in Spain, beyond the black dots classic of Doñana or Murcia. Teresa Gil, head of the water program in WWF, remember that for more than three decades, your organization pointed to the existence of over 510,000 wells, according to data provided by the Government. Greenpeace, subsequently, raised that figure to a million of deposits.

When it recorded the case of Julen, the Ministry for the Ecological Transition argued that “the lack of an inventory of illegal uses”, and he refused to offer figures. Yes, spread the data on cases opened by the different hydrographic confederations against abstractions illegal. On average, between 2014 and 2018 is no 1.242 records of this type. The basin, which is spearheading the cases opened each year is that of the Guadalquivir.

“global Vision”

however, in the operation carried out by the Guardia Civil in the province that more violations he has accumulated has been Valladolid (266), followed by Málaga (175), Murcia (131) and Badajoz (122). The Civil Guard has reviewed this Sunday that this operation has allowed us to achieve “a global vision of the problem at the national level that allows to unify criteria for future actions”.

Galvez, who announces that during this year we will repeat this operation, explains that the problem of the wells illegal is something that is not a given in other countries of the European Union. “In Spain, specifically, there are two issues that policialmente are very important: the issue of water and forest fires”, abounds. And in both the climate change, according to the scientific reports, you can further accentuate the impacts.

“The problem has been increasing. Has not stopped in recent years and has gone to more,” says Teresa Gil. And that has consequences. Gil put as an example what occurred in Lucena del Puerto (Huelva), the epicenter of the stealing away of the water from the aquifer that lives in part of Doñana. After years of litigation, the Hydrographic Confederation of the Guadalquivir, under the Ministry for the Ecological Transition, culminated in the closure of 77 wells and several rafts this summer. “The problem is not cut off when it was emerging,” notes Gil. And when it has executed the closing, which had to collaborate with the Civil Guard, there has been a lot of opposition from some farmers who had been incorporated into their production systems, water that they got for free. “In addition to the damage to the ecosystems, is a problem of unfair competition to the farmers that do have deposits and legal,” adds Gil.

The problem in Spain has acquired such a dimension that the European Commission, after several warnings, he denounced a year ago the Government for lack of action against the theft of water in the environment of Doñana. In the balance of its operation, the Seprona highlights the support provided for the closure of the 77 wells, an operation that began in his day by the Guardia Civil. During the past year, in addition, there were 37 other wells illegal in Almonte (Huelva), and was charged with 16 people.

Desalination plants and catchments in Murcia

last year, The Seprona also finished off a major operation that had to develop from 2017 in the region of Murcia. The agents were able to locate and seal 38 plants desalobradoras illegal and 35 wells are irregular. Many of the desalobradoras were in the interior of zulos camouflaged in the subsoil to prevent them from being detected. Other, even were installed on trailers of vehicles, as pointed out by the Civil Guard through a press release this Sunday.

The Court of Instruction 2 of Murcia is investigating this case, in which there are about 60 farmers alleged. In addition to extracting water illegally from the masses underground, in this case also is investigating the dumping of contaminated waste from the process of desalination of sea water, which could be affecting the protected and punished Mar Menor, which last year experienced a huge episode of death of fish.

Updated Date: 19 January 2020, 19:00

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