The months when the highest amount of water is used on the western Costa del Sol are over now, and the reservoir levels are higher than they were in September last year. With only a couple of weeks to go before the start of the new hydrological year - it runs from 1 October to 30 September - the results following the peak tourist season, when the population in towns such as Marbella can triple, are looking positive.
It seems hard to remember now, but during the early part of this year we were living under the threat of water restrictions and a Drought Decree. In the end these were not necessary because it finally rained and relieved the pressure on the reservoirs, some of which had been almost empty. In the case of La Concepción, which supplies 11 municipalities on the western Costa del Sol, the heavy rain filled it in just 20 days in March, and water had to be released from it on several occasions.
That reservoir was still completely full at the start of the summer. The situation was similar last year, although more of the water was used during the peak season in 2017 than this year.
At present La Concepción, which on 1 June contained 60.92 cubic hectometres of water, currently has 44.11, which is 71.32 per cent of its capacity, according to figures from the Red Hidrosur, which is part of the Junta de Andalucía's environmental department. There has been a reduction of nearly 16 cubic hectometres (slightly more than normal consumption over two months in this area) during the three busiest months of the year. Last year at the same time the reservoir contained nearly three cubic hectometres less. Looking back at previous figures from Hidrosur, the average amount of water stored in La Concepción in September in the past ten years has been 40.40 hm3.
The present figures refer to a hydrological year in which there was less rainfall than the previous year. The amount of rain accumulated between last October and the start of this September was 638.7 litres per square metre in La Concepción reservoir, compared with 719 in the previous year. The average rainfall in a hydrological year is 670.2 litres.
The rainfall measured by El Capricho weather station is even lower, showing 554.2 litres since October, nearly 264 litres less than last year and far below the average rainfall of 703.43 litres. The head of the weather station, Jerónimo Amores, stresses that the rain that fell in March and April this year saved the situation in the Marbella area. In those two months alone, the amount was far greater than average (in March257.7 litres fell per square metre).
There are several reasons for the change this year. On one hand, the desalination plant, which is used during very dry periods, has been working. It was producing about 21,000 cubic metres of water a day, according to the Acosol water company. The CEO of Acosol, Manuel Cardeña, says the desalination plant was working at 60 per cent of capacity to compensate for the loss of water from the reservoir. Other reasons for the amount of water stored at this time of year is that there have been awareness campaigns by the authorities, water companies and private entities about the need to save water; and another factor is that there were fewer tourists this year.
The current forecasts are predicting a rainy autumn and winter this year. We have already seen the first of the rain, but it looks as if we can expect a great deal more to come.