Guadiana flows in Daimiel reserve after 25-year drought

River appears to have recovered from irrigation extremes that led to underground blaze

A view of the River Guadiana before it reaches the Tablas de Daimiel.
A view of the River Guadiana before it reaches the Tablas de Daimiel.GORKA LEJARCEGI

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.

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