April 22, 2024

Drought in Spain: Europe’s largest wetland region is drying up

© Jan-Uwe Ronneburger / dpa / picture alliance (Details)

Drawing in the sand | With an antler tipped, game ranger Nacho Camino charts in the sand how low the water table will be below Donana National Park in the spring of 2023.

One reason is dehydration, from which not only Andalusia suffers, but almost all of Spain. Scientists have long warned that climate change increases the likelihood of such extreme weather events. “We now have a state of water in the spring that is only available in the middle of summer. And then it’ll be awful,” Nacho fears.

The massive consumption of water to grow strawberries as well as blueberries and raspberries around the natural paradise exacerbated the situation disastrously. 80 percent of the fruit is exported, including to Germany. About 4,500 cubic meters of water is needed for berry farms per hectare and year, says Manuel Delgado, spokesman for the Almonte Growers Association. The wells, through which large amounts of water are drawn from the national park, are up to 60 meters deep.

The problem is the illegal wells and fields

“There has to be a balance between nature conservation and agriculture,” says Camaro of the WWF, which has been fighting to protect wetlands for more than 20 years. “If there were only about 10,000 hectares of legally irrigated arable land in the area, there would have been enough water for the Donana.” But in recent years, farmers have illegally dug wells from which water is pumped for about 1,600 hectares of equal water. Illegal arable land. “These additional withdrawals will kill the national park,” Kamaru fears. According to the Water Authority, hundreds of these wells have already been closed, but farmers are simply digging new ones.

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There are very different answers to the question of how this can be achieved in a constitutional state. According to Kamaru, some of the farmers in the area have simply expanded their legal areas a bit, following the slogan, “It’ll be fine.” He noted that “if a farmer who illegally extracts water suddenly drives a bigger car and can afford to buy a vacation home by the sea, the neighbor will do the same.” Delgado mentioned something similar. “They did what they wanted. They quickly cleared a piece of forest at night and then planted new strawberry fields,” he says. That’s not the case in Almonte, but further west toward Huelva it is.