The progressive salinization of the irrigation water available in Almería could jeopardize the diversity of the province's horticultural production, since it would force producers to only plant crops that are more tolerant to salinity, drastically reducing the capacity of the fruit and vegetable sector to offer the wide range of fruits and vegetables that it produces today.
As verified by the Mesa del Agua, the poor quality of irrigation water is taking a severe toll in several areas of the Poniente, Levante and Almanzora. Many producers have reported reductions in their productions, with the affected crops reaching also smaller sizes than usual. Because of all this, Almería's Mesa del Agua is asking for new water resources to guarantee the survival of the province's fruit and vegetable sector.
Another consequence of the excessive salt content of irrigation water is an increase in the production costs, since it becomes necessary to use crystalline fertilizers and compound fertilizers, which are more expensive, as well as amino acids, liquid organic matter and humic acids more frequently. Moreover, producers need to use more desalinated water, whose price is higher.
The gradual salinization of irrigation water also hinders the recovery of the groundwater currently in poor condition, jeopardizing the sustainability of the provincial agricultural model.
Desalinated water, a solution?
The Mesa del Agua recalled that the solution is not to irrigate only with water from desalination plants, since due to its excessive purity and low mineral content, the exclusive use of desalinated water entails higher fertigation costs. It can also have detrimental effects on the productivity by causing toxicity due to an excess of elements like boron. Furthermore, desalinated water is highly corrosive and can seriously deteriorate the pipes of the distribution systems and even break down cement and concrete.
The Mesa del Agua stressed that new water resources from transfers, desalination and reuse are urgently needed. The idea is to have other sources of water that can be mixed with those of underground origin, which are the ones in the worst condition.