There are believed to be a million illegal boreholes in Spain, used to irrigate agricultural zones. The country's water crisis and illegal water extraction is having fatal consequences, not only for the environment.
Last year, a toddler died after falling into an open borehole near Malaga, Spain. Felipe Fuentelsaz is an activist campaigning against illegal boreholes and water extraction and pushing for sustainable water usage, hoping to improve awareness of the issue among both farmers and consumers. For the past 16 years, Felipe has been using satellite imaging to locate illegal boreholes and agricultural zones, which he then reports to the local water authority. But so far his efforts have had little impact. He is mainly active in the Doñana National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site which is under threat because some 1,000 illegal boreholes have been drilled here for fruit cultivation. 30 percent of the EU’s strawberry production is located in the region. Groundwater levels in the park have fallen dramatically as a result of the illegal wells: its marshes, streams, rivers and lagoons are increasingly dry. Felipe Fuentelsaz believes that Europe uses too much water, and is determined to help bring about improved management of water resources. But Spain faces a dilemma: the country is still struggling with the fallout from the financial crisis and its economy relies heavily on agriculture, one of its few stable economic sectors. But export commodities such as fruit and vegetables are highly water-intensive.