Rain finally soaks the Costa del Sol but fails to wash away fears of an imminent water shortage

2016-10-15 06:00:00

Autumn has finally arrived on the Costa del Sol and across Malaga province.
Heavy rainfall drenched residents and visitors alike on Wednesday and the first part of Thursday. The last time it rained properly across the area was at the end of May.
The October 12th ‘Fiesta Nacional’ public holiday was a washout for most. Marbella was the wettest area of the Costa, with almost 30mm falling on Wednesday. Temperatures also dropped from their unseasonable highs.
While many tourists were disappointed by the rain, it was very welcome news for local residents, especially farmers and gardeners, following months of blue skies. However it has made little difference to the precarious level of the province’s reservoir network.
Levels well down on last year
Water reserves are dramatically down on a year ago. Currently Malaga’s seven reservoirs are only 40 per centfull on average. This time last year, the reservoirs were at 56 per centof their capacity.
These are the lowest levels since 2009 and follow a very dry year so far. Annual rainfall in Malaga city was a third down in the year ending 31 August.
The last official drought, from 2005 to 2008, when heavier water restrictions were imposed, was declared when reservoir levels reached 35 per cent, a figure only five points below the current levels.
Despite the delicate state of the water supply, little has been done to improve reservoir infrastructure and learn the lessons of the last drought, as a round-up of the different areas of the province shows.
The most urgent works are needed in the inland area, north of Antequera, where some villages get their water from tankers as local supplies have already dried up. The Junta de Andalucía is still drawing up plans to improve links here with nearby Iznájar reservoir in Cordoba.
Western Costa del Sol
The western Costa del Sol, from Torremolinos to Manilva, gets most of its water from the La Concepción reservoir behind Marbella. In addition, smaller amounts come from the Marbella desalination plant, wells in Fuengirola and pumping from near Gibraltar, among other sources. Local water company officials cite the main problem in the area as the limited capacity of La Concepción, which can fill up with just a week of heavy rain, when all excess is then forced to flow out to sea. Currently there is no money available to increase its capacity or pump the overflow to other parts of the province.
Guadalhorce and Axarquía
Malaga city gets its water from the Guadalhorce reservoir system. Just under half the water is used for irrigating farmland and the rest for the local population. The city water company has complained that old or damaged field irrigation ditches are wasting water that the general public could use.
The area’s largest reservoir is La Viñuela, covering the Axarquía and eastern Costa. Many local farmers fear the worst with levels at only 34 per cent.
During the last drought, they called for a new desalination plant to reduce dependency on La Viñuela and 11 million euros of emergency measures were approved. None of the plans came to fruition.
Despite the low levels across the whole province, regional government officials say there’s no need to panic yet. According the Junta de Andalucía, there’s enough water in the reservoirs to last at least a year for the western Costa del Sol, a year and a half in the Axarquía/eastern Costa del Sol and two years in the Guadalhorce valley and Malaga city urban area.
The Junta’s environment minister, José Fiscal, reassured local people on a recent visit to Nerja. “If the normal amount of rain falls, as forecasts say, there’ll be no need to put water restrictions in place. Let’s hope the forecasts turn out to be correct,” he explained. He added that there might be some restrictions put in place on agriculture soon.
The weather is expected to continue slightly unsettled into the weekend but with only a slim chance of rain. Temperatures should recover as well, reaching highs of about 22 degrees.source surinenglish