Will heavy rainfall end water restrictions in Málaga and on the Costa del Sol?

by Lorraine Williamson
water restrictions

Heavy rains are common in Spain in the spring. This is not ideal for visitors of the Semana Santa, but very welcome for the water shortage. Málaga already has sufficient reserves to get out of the situation of severe drought. Marbella is close by. What does this mean for water restrictions?

There is great relief that the reserves in the reservoirs in southern Spain have increased. With this, the spectre of more drastic water restrictions in a large part of the province of Málaga during the coming summer seems to have been averted. This is the case in the city of Málaga, which is supplied by the Guadalhorce system. And in the west of the Costa del Sol, with the reservoir of La Concepción. On the other hand, the water level in La Axarquía is not yet high enough, although the situation in La Viñuela is also improving.

At the moment, the entire province is classified in the “severe drought” level, which is the worst threshold (the other two are “moderate” and “severe”). This is laid down in the 2021 drought plan.

Enough water for a year and a half

The Junta’s Hidrosur Network indicates that the reservoirs of Guadalteba and Conde de Guadalhorce collected about 50 litres per square metre in the period from March 23 to 30. This means that Málaga will leave the red level behind, if the city can maintain this level for 30 days, that is, the entire month of April. On Palm Sunday, the four large water reservoirs together contain 72.5 Hm3. That means that there is enough water for a year and a half.

Málaga draws from Aljaima

To cope with the situation of water shortages, the city has another fundamental weapon: the Aljaima or Barullo dam, in Cártama, and its associated springs of Fahala. It is managed by Emasa and, in times of flooding of the Grande River like now, can supply up to 100% of the city’s consumption. This was again the case at the end of March. In this way, everything is used for the city, although the reservoirs must take a minimum for the operational safety of the canals. The supply from the reservoirs is minimized, which provides savings for the summer season.

Good news for water level in La Viñuela

From La Axarquía comes cautious good news about the critical drought in the eastern region. For the first time, the La Viñuela reservoir contains more water than a year ago. In fact, it is the only reservoir in the province with such a milestone. But no matter how much water will flow in the coming days, the level is still far from what would be optimal to no longer supply Vélez-Málaga and its surroundings through the Guadalhorce system. Nor is it enough to normalise supplies, which are now severely interrupted at night.

Rainfall on the western Costa del Sol

In the case of the Costa del Sol, everything now depends on the balance between consumption and the degree of water supply. Water consumption was now high due to the arrival of tourists during Easter week. This number was less than expected, precisely because of the weather forecasts. The rainfall was heavy in the western area. The rain gauge in La Concepción showed 85 litres per square metre. In the surrounding areas, such as Ojén (118) and Los Reales de Sierra Bermeja (93), even more rain fell.

The goal of getting out of the severe drought is not easy, but it is achievable. For that, La Concepción would have to gain just over six cubic hectometres in the coming days (to 31.4). This should also be maintained throughout the month of April.

Desalination Plant Marbella

The decisive factor is the first phase of the expansion of the desalination plant in Marbella. This summer, for the first time, it will deliver up to one cubic hectometre per month. In addition, additional sources from Guadalmansa and Fuengirola will be added.

Water restrictions measures re-evaluated

The regional government plans to reevaluate the restrictions in the province of Málaga in mid-April. That will be as soon as the rain has stopped. And if most dams have processed most of the surface contributions after the “Nelson” and the previous “Monica” shower. With this, and with the rain forecasts for April and May, we are looking at the conditions under which the Costa del Sol will have to withstand the acid test of what is expected to be the toughest summer in recent history.

Also read: Drought in Catalonia

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