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La Concepción reservoir is on track to triple its level in just one month Josele
For the first time in history, the Costa del Sol's La Concepción reservoir is the one holding the most water in the province
Drought crisis

For the first time in history, the Costa del Sol's La Concepción reservoir is the one holding the most water in the province

Storm Nelson has left an extra 58 cubic hectometres of water in Malaga's reservoirs, although they are still only at 25% of their capacity

Chus Heredia

Friday, 5 April 2024, 11:16

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Late on Wednesday, the runoffs from storm Nelson, which watered the province during the whole of Easter week, gave rise to a curious and historic fact. At 10pm on 3 April, La Concepción exceeded the Guadalteba by 0.01 hm3. At midnight, the advantage was 0.07: it registered 35.46 cubic hectometres. For the first time, the Costa del Sol reservoir, between Marbella and Istán, has become the dam that stores the most water in Malaga province. The paradox is that it is not, by far, close to its fullest. It is not even close to 2023 levels during this time last year, when it contained 11 hectometres more.

La Concepción is a reservoir that responds quickly to rainfall and that several times in recent decades, has needed to be drained because it reached its maximum capacity. The last time, as a precautionary measure, in 2022. The dam's record maximum occurred in January 2010, with 62.5 hm3. During the 1995 drought it was left at its lowest level with barely 0.4 hm3.

Road to the 36 cubic hectometres

The reservoir, at 61.63% of its capacity, was on Wednesday on its way to 36 cubic hectometres and was only a few tenths of a metre ahead of the Guadalteba, the second in the race.

The rising of the dam over the past few weeks started with the rains on 8 March (storm Monica), meaning the La Concepción reservoir has almost tripled its levels since then, going from about 13 hm3 to 36 hm3 in barely a month. At the start of the week, it climbed above the crisis drought threshold.

Works to prepare it to extract every last drop

Its reserves were very worrying until a few days ago, especially in the run-up to the demanding high season on the coast. On 20 March, the Andalusian Regional ministry of agriculture approved a one-million-euro project to prepare the reservoir to squeeze every last drop of useable water from the dam which involves a major update to its pumping network. So far this year, the reservoir has collected 405mm. The reservoir has a capacity of 57.54 cubic hectometres according to latest data.

Enlarged dam plan ruled out

The need to store more water for usage along the Costa del Sol led to the inclusion of the enlargement of the dam in the national hydrological plan, but this work has been practically ruled out due to technical complexity and possible environmental risks impacting the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park. The idea was to bring the reservoir up to 100.5 hm3, almost double, by placing a larger dam in front of the current one and enlarging the floodable area.

The plans have been replaced by the building of the Gibralmedina reservoir, between Cadiz and Malaga, which will regulate the flows of the river Guadiaro. It is planned to transfer 15 hm3 every year to the Costa del Sol.

The fifth largest

La Concepción is the fifth largest reservoir in terms of capacity in Malaga province. The largest is La Viñuela (164.37 hm3), followed by Guadalteba (153.30), Guadalhorce (125.72) and Conde de Guadalhorce (66.49). The Limonero, in Malaga city (22.34), and Casasola, in Almogía (21.72), are used for flood control.

Global comparative data for the seven reservoirs can only be made from the autumn of 2000, when Casasola, the last to be built, was inaugurated. La Concepción was the second dam in the province, in 1971, after El Conde, which dates back to 1921. Before that, the El Agujero dam was built in 1908, but it was cancelled by the Limonero dam (1983). In 1973, the Guadalhorce and Guadalteba reservoirs were put into operation.

Runoff

The province's reservoirs continue to increase their level after recent rains. They total 155 hm3 and are on the way to gaining 60 in a single month: the equivalent of more than a year's consumption in Malaga city. However, the drought is far from over, given the dams are only 25% full.

The Guadalhorce-Limonero system has 87 hm3, 16 hm3 above the crisis drought threshold and the Viñuela is at 28, and although it has tripled its level, is only 17% full. Last year at this time, provincial water reserves totalled 224.30 hm3. At midnight on 3 April it was 155.16, with a gain of 40 hm3 over Easter alone.

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