Spain: Over 250 illegal wells for tropical fruit production found
Police in Spain have discovered and raided over 250 illegal wells, boreholes, and ponds tapped by farmers of tropical fruit like avocados and mango to water their crops.
The four-year investigation has left 26 people arrested over the last couple of months and 44 others under investigation in the alleged scheme for this illegal practice which is further damaging southern Spain, which has been hit by a multi-year drought.
According to Reuters, Spanish producers estimate that avocado production will drop by 25% this year due to high temperatures and a lack of water. Spain is the biggest producer of tropical fruit in Europe.
Even though no detail was given on whether the arrested suspects are commercial or small-scale growers, they are being investigated for “misappropriation of public waters and alleged fraudulent use of water for irrigation of subtropical crops,” said the police.
The Civil Guard’s environmental crimes division estimated the damage to public water infrastructure at almost US$11 million.
The lack of rain has put water management under the spotlight in Spain, particularly around the Donana wetland, a wildlife sanctuary also in Andalusia and endangered by climate change and illegal irrigation in nearby strawberry farms.
Spain registered the driest and warmest April since records began, according to the national weather agency AEMET.
The average water level in reservoirs in Catalonia and Andalusia - the worst-hit areas - stands at around 25%.