La Viñuela reservoir at 9.2 per cent capacity, equal to its historic minimum. / E. Cabezas

La Viñuela reservoir equals its all-time low: 9.2% of capacity

The Axarquia reservoir currently has only 15.2 cubic hectometres of water, although rain is forecast for the coming days

EUGENIO CABEZAS

It is hoped that the long-awaited rains, forecast to fall in the province from Thursday 1 December, will help increase the drastically low levels of La Viñuela reservoir, on the eastern Costa del Sol.

This stands at 9.2 per cent of capacity (15.2 cubic hectometres), equalling the lowest ever level previously recorded, which was 14 years ago on 31 October 2008.

The Axarquia's main reservoir supplies 14 municipalities and about 220,000 inhabitants, and until last 1 October, when measures were introduced, it irrigated about 6,300 hectares of subtropical crops and greenhouses.

The current rate of consumption is about 0.2 cubic hectometres a week. Technicians from the regional government who manage the reservoir estimate that approximately six cubic hectometres could still be extracted for human consumption, but further extractions would not be technically feasible due to sludge and mud.

Supply for the population reliant on La Viñuela can only be guaranteed until September 2023. This is possible due to water transfers that have been arriving for several months from Malaga city and from the Chíllar river in Nerja, whose two wells began pumping water last Friday.

The bad news for the is that the water transfer from the city will be interrupted for at least a month in order to complete expansion work on the Atabal desalination plant. This plant treats all the water consumed in Malaga. Due to the low level of reserves in the Conde del Guadalhorce reservoir, at 25.9 per cent of its capacity, and the need to start drawing on the reserves of the Guadalhorce, at 32.6 per cent, which is more saline, it is necessary to increase the capacity to be able to guarantee the water supply.

Farmers are having to use reclaimed water and wells to irrigate their farms. However, these resources do not reach the 6,300 hectares of the Guaro area, since some 2,200 are not connected to the treatment plants and many of the farms are drying up.