Home News Guardia Civil Crackdown On Illegal Water Pipes

Guardia Civil Crackdown On Illegal Water Pipes

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The Guardia Civils’ Seprona Unit intensifies its crackdown after investigating 106 offenses related to illegal water extraction.

During the past year, 1,724 inspections have been carried out on various farms, along with 326 controls, leading to the arrest or investigation of 92 individuals for committing 106 criminal offenses.

Additionally, 1,342 illegal infrastructures have been detected, and 2,341 administrative offenses have been reported.

The most common offenses in this area are against natural resources and the environment (66%), territorial planning (15%), water fraud (8%), and electricity theft (3%).

Over the last three years, the Guardia Civil has launched a series of campaigns, primarily conducted by Seprona units, aimed at locating and investigating illegal water wells, boreholes, and reservoirs.

The Guardia Civil is investigating 106 offenses related to illegal water extraction.

In the framework of Operation “Mizu III,” the Guardia Civil has investigated or arrested 92 individuals for committing 106 offenses against natural resources and the environment, territorial planning, water fraud, and electricity theft. The operation included 1,724 inspections on various farms and 326 controls.

Moreover, 2,341 administrative offenses have been reported, mainly for non-compliance with water regulations (67%). There have also been 347 violations of urban planning and territorial organization regulations and 312 violations of mining regulations.

Due to the significant number of services, inspections, and controls conducted, there has been an increase in both criminal and administrative offenses. The Guardia Civil, overall, and Seprona, in particular, maintain continuous efforts in combating desertification, protecting the scarce resource of water, and minimizing risks associated with abandoned wells and operational wells lacking necessary safety measures.

Illegal Infrastructures

Operation “MIZU III” focused on monitoring and controlling water usage, especially underground sources.

During these inspections, a total of 1,342 illegal infrastructures associated with illegal water extraction were identified. More than 80% of these infrastructures were wells and boreholes, with other structures for illegal water collection (reservoirs, irrigation channels, and river or stream channels). The main irregularities detected included the lack of authorizations, diversion of water without permission, lack of safety measures, or manipulation, malfunction, or absence of volumetric meters.

Use of New Technologies

Seprona has utilized remote sensing in the fight against illegal water extractions. These data enable the analysis of changes in land use and agricultural practices over time on any rural property. In recent years, intelligence gathering has improved thanks to the use of satellite, aircraft, or drone imagery, as well as the software available to the Guardia Civil for analyzing such data.

In general, remote sensing techniques, although complex to handle, complement on-site inspections and help direct investigations to identify the existence of illegal water extraction techniques.

Other ‘Operations’ in force:

  • Operation “MELIN”: Seprona investigated or detained three individuals in Cuenca for offenses against natural resources and the environment, electricity theft, and usurpation. The investigations revealed a company conducting massive water extractions exceeding reported amounts, camouflaging them by manipulating meter readings with magnets.
  • Operation “CHAAK”: Continuous extractions of public groundwater were confirmed in the Axarquía region (Málaga), estimated to have illegally diverted more than 25 million cubic meters of water. This led to the arrest of 26 individuals and the investigation of 44 others for offenses against natural resources, the environment, and usurpation of public waters, identifying over 250 illegal uses among wells, reservoirs, and boreholes.
  • Operation “UNDERWATER”: Seprona, in collaboration with the Segura Hydrographic Confederation, conducted 53 agricultural inspections in the Ramonete stream area (Mazarrón-Murcia), identifying 51 illegal wells, mostly for intensive agriculture. The operation resulted in the investigation of 18 individuals for offenses against natural resources, the environment, and water usurpation.
  • Operation “EEMAME”: The Central Operational Unit for the Environment (UCOMA), investigating the environmental impact of certain irregular livestock operations in the Mar Menor, discovered 15 irregular water intakes supposedly supplying these livestock operations and animal consumption. These illegal wells were located over an aquifer declared at quantitative and qualitative risk, within the protected space of the Natura 2000 Network called “Saladares de Guadalentín,” aggravating the act of conducting illegal wells in these protected areas.

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