Julio Escuderos, the last remaining resident fisherman in the natural reserve of Las Tablas de Daimiel, smiles in his modest house within the park. "The Guadiana is a beautiful river," he says. On Sunday night, for the first time in a quarter of a century, the waterway gurgled into life. Surprising experts, the over-exploited Aquifer 23, which has been battered by irrigation and illegal tapping, appears to have recovered.
It may be a false dawn but hope springs that investment in, and control of, one of Spain's most important ecosystems is paying dividends. Las Tablas is a vast wetland in Castilla-La Mancha that supports migrating birds and native wildlife. In 2009-10 a government plan to divert water from the Tajo-Segura aqueduct was approved to tackle subterranean peat fires threatening the park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. In the end, a deluge came to the rescue. Now a combination of the force of nature and human intervention may be turning the tide in Daimiel.