Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Spanish lands hide an estimated one million boreholes drilled for, the most part, illegally in attempts to tap into subsoil water, which have caused two deaths in recent days.
While Spanish authorities have not made an official count of illegal boreholes since detecting 510,000 in 2006, the number is believed to at least double that, according to a report Friday in Spain's The Local.
The boreholes allow enough water to be extracted to be used by 58 million people, the report added. Spain has a population of 46.6 million.
Spanish rescuers recovered on Tuesday the body of a 2-year-old child who'd fallen into a borehole 360 feet deep, about 10 inches in diameter, on Jan. 13. That led to intensive efforts involving dozens of rescuers and heavy machinery.
The boy, Julen, fell into the hole during a family outing. It had been drilled a month earlier and poorly covered after no water was found. Monday, the body of Juan Antonio Santamaria, who fell into another borehole in the Malaga region, was recovered. The 45-year-old had gone for a walk with his dog a day earlier. His body was found 10 feet deep in a water-filled hole.
The man and his dog likely died of hypothermia due to the winter temperatures, El Espanol reported. Authorities believe he may have gone inside the well to rescue the dog and, after falling, was unable to get out.
El Espanol reported that Spanish police counted a total of 3,306 water use violations in 2018, most involving the construction of illegal boreholes. The boreholes are a threat because many are still open and there's no information on their locations.
The El Espanol report cited a source from a borehole drilling company as saying the problem is caused by a slow, bureaucratic city administration that takes too long to approve drilling. Permits can take as long as a year to obtain, which leads some farmers and individuals to drill them illegally, the source added.
Drilling a hole can cost between $2,300 and more than $20,000. The permit costs between $580 to $918. Many boreholes were drilled long ago, before regulations existed, and are even harder to detect, the report said.