It’s the second biggest problem in Turre, after the whopping 10 million euro they owe to the banks: the quality of water in Turre. Turre used to have the best water around – cheap, clean, tasty and bountiful. What happened?
The problems are three fold:
- Overuse of the main aquifer. Turre town hall owns water rights from several aquifers but in the last decade has only bothered to use one (to save buying a new pump it seems), the same one that still feeds the fountain in town. A lack of maintenance and over exploitation of the main well caused lots of mud to be sucked into the system, damaging everything it touched. Most of the water is now purchased from Galasa, the local water (and very heavily indebted) company, at a high price – I understand that there is still some fountain water added to the Agua Nueva and Fuentemore sections of town which causes the terrible cal problem – but still the water is affected by the next point:
- The infrastructure is antiquated and in some places non existent. Parts of the town still use ancient cement or lead pipes from the first half of the last century, and one of the town hall workers showed me photos of repairs they’ve done when they’ve dug down to the leak only to find the pipe has actually corroded away leaving just a hole in the ground. Martin Morales from Somos Turre told Mayor Arturo on the radio yesterday that Turre wastes €220,000 worth of water a year through leaks – Arturo did not deny that he neither knew this nor that he had never bothered to do the sums. When money comes in to make repairs, the townhall spends it on other pressing issues (ed: like the milk bottle at the entrance to the town? ).
- Pricing. The Galasa water is being sold to us at a loss – anything up to 65%. The reason being that Galasa resells us the water at a higher price than it cost Turre to extract water from the mountains, and although Arturo has put up the price a couple of times in the last few years, he’s still heavily subsidising the water costs. Arturo belongs to the same party as the county council (which owns most of Galasa) and has had some of his friends and party members given jobs at Galasa in the last two years, so his hands are tied when negotiating. A further issue is that the townhall receives all the money from the water bills, and this is used to pay whatever bills are outstanding instead of going towards investment in the infrastructure.
Here’s a summary of what the main parties are proposing (according to my understanding) in their manifestos for the election:
- PP – they will keep it as it is, run by the townhall, patching it up when they can.
- PSOE – they will give it over 100% to GALASA, the regional water company.
- Somos Turre – they will spin it off into a townhall owned company and ring fence the budget so it can’t be touched by the townhall for other purposes. That way, they will ensure that all money paid for the water is spent on improving the tubes; they will negotiate new water supplies directly from the desalination company instead of via Galasa (cutting out the middle man and reducing the bulk cost), and they will commission the University of Almería to carry out a study to see how much water they can extract from townhall owned springs in a sustainable manner.
Martin Morales has presented a financial plan showing how this will work. As he points out, just by keeping the same budget but reducing the cost of the water will immediately give a cushion to start improving the infrastructure and reducing leaks. Which in turn increases the budget available for more repairs, etc.
Giving the water over 100% to Galasa will solve nothing. We’ll see an immediate raise in costs as Galasa puts up the prices to match other towns, but they won’t carry out any capital investment in the town because they don’t have any available. It will still be up to the town hall to raise the cash to improve the infrastructure.
I know which plan I like the most….