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If the scarcity of rain continues it is predicted that the Guadalhorce reservoirs will drop to 6% of their capacity by autumn. Salvador Salas
Red level drought status declared for Malaga city and Guadalhorce valley
Drought crisis

Red level drought status declared for Malaga city and Guadalhorce valley

The most severe measures to combat the lack of water are in place from this Friday, while the alert level has been red in the Costa del Sol and Axarquía districts for some time

Chus Heredia / Eugenio Cabezas

Malaga

Friday, 9 February 2024, 16:03

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A red drought level has been declared for Malaga city and the Guadalhorce valley from today, Friday 9 February, adding to the existing red drought level in place for the Costa del Sol and the Axarquía region. Worryingly, it comes as it is predicted that the Guadalhorce reservoirs will drop to 6% of their capacity by autumn if the drought continues.

The whole of Malaga province is limited to a daily consumption of 160 litres per inhabitant with maximum restrictions on the use of reservoir water. The warning is clear and the implications and cuts for each region are detailed below. The reports used to make these decisions, to which SUR has had access, are based on simulations and historical data. They are drawn up by the technicians of each river basin.

The report states the lack of rainfall is taking us back to the scenario of 1994-95 – the last major drought. We are at 31% of the average rainfall since the current water year began on 1 October 2023. So far the year has registered the least amount of rainfall in the province's reservoirs since records have been kept.

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Since last October, 2.05 hectometres (2.05 million cubic metres) have evaporated from the reservoirs. They have fallen by more than 18 hectometres and have long since passed the 71 hectometres mark that indicates the red drought level. In addition, a further three hectometres have been lost due to forced releases to maintain an ecological flow.

Malaga city has managed to reduce the pressure on the reservoirs by using water from the Aljaima dam (1.5 cubic hectometres). In the last four months Malaga city water reserves have also contributed 2.9 hectometres to the drought-stricken Axarquía region and will continue to do so. And water for agricultural irrigation is fixed at a maximum of 15 cubic hectometres per year.

The water year began in October with a volume of 83 cubic hectometres between the three main water supply reservoirs of Guadalhorce, Guadalteba and Conde (the Limonero and Casasola reservoirs are used for flood abatement). On 31 January, the Guadalhorce, Guadalteba and Conde reservoirs had a volume of 61 cubic hectometers.

Supply for Malaga city is limited to 2,990 hectometres per month for the June to September period and 2,815 hectometres per month for the period February to May. To boost the water reserves, a flow of 200 litres per second is now to be taken from the Fahala boreholes until May, which will be increased by an additional 200 litres per second from June with the entry into use of additional boreholes in Aljaima.

The El Atabal water treatment plant, in the west of Malaga city, which treats low quality water, processes 1,700 litres per second in the months of February to May, and 1,800 in the months of June to September.

The good news is that muncipial water company Emasa does not foresee water cuts, but will lower the pressure by half throughout Malaga city in April. There are already several areas where this is already in place, in addition to other measures to control leaks, as well as the use of untreated water for irrigation, and restrictions on fountains, and the filling swimming pools.

Costa del Sol

The report for the Costa del Sol makes it an absolute priority to leave a reserve of five cubic hectometres in La Concepción reservoir for the last quarter of the hydrological year. However, at the current rate of usage this would leave only 0.88 hectometres after the summer.

Forecasts include the annual 12 hectometres from the Marbella desalination plant, but not the eight hectometres planned from portable desalination plants. In the summer, the Marbella desalination plant will have to supply, as is already the case, almost half of the Costa del Sol. Three boreholes will also supply 150 litres of water per second.

La Concepción reservoir, which is located between Marbella and Istán, had 20.15 hectometres in October. It now has 13.1 hectometres. At current extraction rates, and, if it does not rain sufficiently, it will have 2.5 hectometres in September.

Axarquía

In the Axarquia region little more can be done, given that the majority of the towns and villages are already suffering supply cuts. The report for this area confirms the worrying level of the water reserves.

The suspension of irrigation water from La Viñuela reservoir is to be maintained; the supply from the reservoir is limited to 1.75 hectometres throughout the year. The region receives 8.68 hectometres per year from Malaga city, and the contribution of groundwater from the emergency wells of the River Chíllar is limited to 2.9 hectometres.

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