UP to 15,000 farmers took to the streets of Madrid on Wednesday to protest against new protection rules for the river Tajo which will cut water supplies to irrigate crops.
Farmers from Alicante and Almeria provinces as well as the Murcia region met in front of the Ministry for Ecological Transition building and called for the resignation of minister, Teresa Ribera.
Protestors were also joined by mayors and politicians from the three areas.
Lucas Jimenez, president of the Central Irrigation Union, told demonstrators: “Without the water from the Tajo, the orchard of Europe will become a desert and fill Alicante and Murcia with unemployed people.”
Despite three years of arguing, the government has not budged from its position that the Iberian Peninsula’s longest river needs fresh protection due to climate change.
That includes establishing a new minimum water level for the river Tajo to maintain its ecological health.
Farmers say that will mean reduced water supplies for their fields obtained by the Tajo feeding into the river Segura.
Five court rulings have insisted that a minimum level has to be applied to the Tajo which has lost 12% of its water since since 1980.
Last year’s minimum level of six cubic litres per second has been raised to seven litres.
Levels will periodically rise with a target of 8.6 cubic litres per second by 2027.
The government says it plans to main current supply levels to farms by using water from desalination plants, but farmers say the cost is too high.
Irrigators say the end of government subsidies means the price of desalinated water from the Torrevieja plant for example has suddenly trebled in price compared to December’s rates.
The Ecological Transition ministry says it is investing to modernise the plants and install solar panels in a bid to cut water costs.