The development of intensive horticulture in Almería, with a huge increase in greenhouse surface area, is related to three essential factors: climatic characteristics, groundwater use and mulching sandy soil. The purpose of the present paper is to draw a picture of the integral management of water irrigation in the intensive horticultural systems in the region, by identifying the most significant water resource contributions and alternative water resources. Results indicate that the use of groundwater for the irrigation of horticultural crops in the greenhouses presents a high degree of overexploitation of the aquifers, but due to the continuous search for alternative water resources, such as desalinated and reclaimed water, as well as in-depth knowledge of the integral management of water irrigation through automated fertigation and localized irrigation systems, the current status of the water resources could be sustainable. Moreover, being conscious of the pollution generated by agricultural leachates, the horticultural system of Almería is implementing complementary sustainable systems such as recirculation, cascade cropping systems and phytodepuration for the reuse of the leachate. Considering all these factors, it can be concluded that the intensive horticultural system is on the right path towards respecting the environment and being sustainable in terms of water use.
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