You can almost hear the land sighing with relief. After months of concern about the lack of water, just three weeks of heavy rain have provided up to 511 litres per square metre in places such as the higher area of the Guadiaro river, which is the natural boundary between the provinces of Malaga and Cadiz. More than 466 l/m2 of rain also fell in Pujerra, in the Serranía de Ronda, and over 400 at Los Reales, in the Estepona mountains.
This rainfall has recharged the springs and filled rivers and streams. Reservoir levels are rising again: those in Malaga province have recovered about 120 cubic hectometres. La Concepción is almost completely full, and fears of drought in La Axarquía have been relegated to the past, thanks to the water now in La Viñuela.
The extra water that is still flowing in the Guadalhorce, Verde, Guaro and Genal rivers and their tributaries will ensure that the reserves continue to increase in the coming days. Rivers and streams have come back to life have become an unexpected tourist attraction, with hundreds of people heading into the countryside every weekend to enjoy the sight.
La Concepción reservoir, which supplies 11 municipalities on the western Costa del Sol (Marbella, Estepona, Ojén, Istán, Casares, Manilva, Mijas, Fuengirola, Benalmádena, Benahavís and Torremolinos) is mainly fed from the Río Verde, although since 1995 it has also received water from three tributaries, Guadalmina, Guadalmansa and Guadaiza, which on average provide around 60 per cent of its supply.
Situated between Marbella and Istán, this reservoir is unusual because it is so small that it empties at almost the same rate as it fills. In fact in the past three weeks it has gone from being half-full to over 93 per cent, and last Friday the sluice gates had to be opened so that some of the water could be released before the heavy rainfall forecast last weekend.
A couple of weeks ago it was decided to open the spillways of the Guadaiza river because of the amount of water it contained. They were closed again afterwards to stop it flowing into the already-full reservoir. The water from the three tributaries is a boon during periods of drought, when the Río Verde almost dries up, but when it rains very heavily, as it has done recently, the volume needs to be carefully monitored to make sure the reservoir doesn't overflow.
La Concepción, which was built in 1972, might be one of the smallest reservoirs in the province (it can only hold 62 cubic hectometres) but it receives more water than any other, even in dry periods. There were plans to enlarge it, but they were shelved during the economic crisis and have not yet be recovered.
The source of the Guaro river, in the municipality of Periana, provides most of the water to the Vélez basin. After the recent heavy rain, it is looking impressive. Water is flowing fast from the mountains, through a river which crosses the village on its way to the reservoir. The Guaro receives water from its tributaries - the Sabar, Benamargosa and Salia- as it heads towards La Viñuela, the biggest reservoir in the province. In years when there is heavy rain local people are obliged to put sandbags into place in case it overflows.
La Viñuela reservoir, which shares its name with the municipality in which it is located, can hold 165.4 cubic hectometres. There are also eight smaller dams, built to collect and contain water from other rivers such as La Cueva, Solano, Seco, Alcaucín, Bermuza, Almanchares, Granados and Rubite. These are tributaries on both sides of the Guaro and there is also the Arroyo de la Madre stream, which has been artificially incorporated into the Almanchares.
Work didn't start on the reservoir until 22 October 1982 and it was completed in 1989, although it wasn't completely filled for the first time until 1998. It stands 230 metres above sea level, is 90 metres deep and covers an area of 565 hectares.
One of the main sources of water for much of Malaga city is the Guadalhorce river, which flows from the San Jorge mountains in Villanueva del Trabuco. The spring feeds what is known as the 'Fuente de los Cien Caños', or 100-spout spring, the main tourist attraction in the area, especially now that water is flowing fast.
The Guadalhorce river contains more water than any other in the province and feeds the reservoir system of Guadalhorce, Conde de Guadalhorce and Guadalteba. It flows through 12 municipalities on its 166-kilometre journey, which also includes the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes gorge, below the Caminito del Rey.
Serranía de Ronda
In the Serranía de Ronda there are plenty of springs and rivers, which have come back to life with the recent rainfall. The 'Nacimiento' spring is in Cuevas del Becerro, a village on the edge of the Guadalteba region. The water emerges from the rocks, a beautiful sight especially after heavy rain. From the Nacimiento, the Cuevas river crosses the village and flows into the Guadalteba. It supplies the reservoir of the same name and irrigates agricultural land in the mountains.
The source of the Genal river is in Igualeja, at the entrance to the village. It is classified as a natural monument and special beauty spot (Rincón Singular) of the province. The river gives its name to the Genal Valley, which is home to 15 white villages.
Its waters, which are more abundant after the recent rain and are principally used for irrigation, flow into the Guadiaro river in San Martín del Tesorillo, which is part of the municipality of Jimena de la Frontera, in Cadiz province. Parts of the countryside through which the Genal flows are extremely beautiful, and in summer there are numerous pools in which to swim.
According to the weather forecasts we have seen the last of the heavy rain for the time being, but the unusual images of plentiful water flowing through the countryside will last for several weeks.