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The Conde de Guadalhorce reservoir, at a minimum. Salvador Salas
Costa del Sol faces three vital months to avoid massive water cuts this summer
Drought crisis

Costa del Sol faces three vital months to avoid massive water cuts this summer

The province only has until March to mitigate the drought, after losing the two best months of rainfall, November and December, which last year were among the driest ever

Ignacio Lillo

Malaga

Tuesday, 9 January 2024

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This week has seen some rain in the south of Spain but not enough to reduce the severity of the ongoing drought situation. The two months that are normally the wettest of the year, November and December, have gone by with practically no rainfall when the average for each is around 100 millimetres. Neither did October bring the precipitation it normally does (an average of 57mm).

So, while the authorities work to produce their Plan Sequía Plus drought plan - which includes measures such as work to connect basins, portable desalination plants for both seawater and brackish wells, new boreholes and even last-resort plans such as bringing water by boat and testing the recharge of aquifers with regenerated water - the entire region is looking to the skies in search of signs of rain this first quarter of 2024.

The coming three months have lower all-time average rainfall figures: January (69 mm); February (60 mm), and March (52). To a lesser extent, some rain could also be expected in April (44 mm), while May is not a very wet month judging by history and statistics (20).

Therefore, these three months will be vital for the level of the reservoirs and aquifers (together with the measures being promoted by the Junta, the Diputación and the town councils) to ensure the water supply for Malaga and the Costa del Sol during the coming summer.

"If it doesn't rain in the next three months, there will be problems," said Jesús Riesco, director of the Aemet weather centre in Malaga.

The meteorologist refers to data from the Copernicus programme, which also fails to give a clear signal regarding the arrival of downpours for the first quarter of 2024: "There is a lot of uncertainty because the seasonal forecast does not give anything special for southern Spain."

This means that there is a 33% chance of a wetter winter, and the same possibility of a normal or drier winter. What Copernicus does indicate is that these three months will be warmer than average; although, Riesco said, "this is already normal".

Flash warming?

The director of Aemet clarified that this does not mean that it will not rain, but that the normal rainfall for this time of year could be collected, and pointed out that January and February are still historically abundant months for precipitation: "What is not clear is that they are going to be rainier than usual, and even if it rains normal amounts, it will not solve the drought problem; it will only relieve it." Therefore, all hopes are pinned on the first quarter. "Once we get into April, it would be a miracle if it rained abundantly, and from May onwards, hardly any rain falls at all."

José Luis Escudero, an expert in Malaga meteorology and author of the SUR.es blog Tormentas y Rayos, has echoed the concerns of almost the entire community of specialists in this field, who are currently engaged in an intense debate about the possibility of sudden stratospheric warming (SSW): a complex phenomenon that could take place during the month of January and which, in very brief terms, could cause storms to pass through these latitudes of the Mediterranean with greater frequency and unload precipitation.

Although, as Escudero pointed out, this could also come in the form of more cold and not more water. "All hopes are pinned on this possible phenomenon but, even if it happens, it doesn't mean that rain is guaranteed," he said sceptically.

In any case, there are atmospheric indicators that suggest greater instability from the beginning of the year, where cold air masses can spread more easily to temperate areas such as this one, which would also increase the possibility of downpours (although, as can be seen, this is all within a theoretical framework, of which it is still too early to know the extent and whether it will reach Malaga).

Municipalities with restrictions

Within this scenario, 13 municipalities in the province, with a total of almost 180,000 inhabitants, have started this year 2024 with water cuts, while the pressure drops have become generalised.

Levels of the reservoirs

in Malaga

On 6 January 2024

La Concepción

Casasola

23% of its

capacity

28.6% of its

capacity

Current volume:

13.3 hm3

Current volume:

6.2 hm3

Total capacity:

21.7 hm3

Total capacity:

57.5 hm3

El Limonero

Guadalteba

21.5% of its

capacity

22.5% of its

capacity

Current volume:

4.8 hm3

Current volume:

34.4 hm3

Total capacity:

22.3 hm3

Total capacity:

153.3 hm3

Conde de Guadalhorce

Guadalhorce

14.5% of its

capacity

16.9% of its

capacity

Current volume:

18.3 hm3

Current volume:

11.3 hm3

Total capacity:

66.5 hm3

Total capacity:

125.7 hm3

Todos los

embalses

La Viñuela

16.4% of the

total capacity

7.5% of its

capacity

Total current

volume:

100.4 hm3

Current volume:

12.3 hm3

Total capacity:

611.5 hm3

Total capacity:

164.4 hm3

Fuente: Hidrosur

E. HINOJOSA

Levels of the reservoirs in Malaga

On 6 January 2024

La Concepción

Casasola

23% of its

capacity

28.6% of its

capacity

Current volume:

13.3 hm3

Current volume:

6.2 hm3

Total capacity:

21.7 hm3

Total capacity:

57.5 hm3

El Limonero

Guadalteba

21.5% of its

capacity

22.5% of its

capacity

Current volume:

4.8 hm3

Current volume:

34.4 hm3

Total capacity:

22.3 hm3

Total capacity:

153.3 hm3

Conde de Guadalhorce

Guadalhorce

14.5% of its

capacity

16.9% of its

capacity

Current volume:

18.3 hm3

Current volume:

11.3 hm3

Total capacity:

66.5 hm3

Total capacity:

125.7 hm3

Todos los

embalses

La Viñuela

16.4% of the

total capacity

7.5% of its

capacity

Total current

volume:

100.4 hm3

Current volume:

12.3 hm3

Total capacity:

611.5 hm3

Total capacity:

164.4 hm3

Fuente: Hidrosur

E. HINOJOSA

Levels of the reservoirs in Malaga

On 6 January 2024

La Concepción

Casasola

El Limonero

23% of its

capacity

28.6% of its

capacity

21.5% of its

capacity

Current volume:

13.5 hm3

Current volume:

6.2 hm3

Current volume:

4.8 hm3

Total capacity:

21.7 hm3

Total capacity:

22.3 hm3

Total capacity:

57.5 hm3

Guadalteba

Guadalhorce

Conde de Guadalhorce

22.5% of its

capacity

14.5% of its

capacity

16.9% of its

capacity

Current volume:

34.4 hm3

Current volume:

18.3 hm3

Current volume:

11.3 hm3

Total capacity:

66.5 hm3

Total capacity:

153.3 hm3

Total capacity:

125.7 hm3

La Viñuela

All the reservoirs

7.5% of its

capacity

16.4% of the

total capacity

Current total

volume:

100.4 hm3

Current volume:

12.3 hm3

Total capacity:

611.5 hm3

Total capacity::

164.4 hm3

Fuente: Hidrosur

E. HINOJOSA

At this stage the only thing that we can be certain is on its way is the fourth drought decree for Andalucía.

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