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Marbella's La Concepción reservoir which supplies much of the western strip of the Costa del Sol. Josele
Junta de Andalucía's drought committee set to relax water use restrictions by 25% until October across the whole of Malaga province
Drought crisis

Junta de Andalucía's drought committee set to relax water use restrictions by 25% until October across the whole of Malaga province

Although the crisis is far from over, the Junta has recognised the situation has improved following much-needed rainfall last month and a maximum of 200 litres per inhabitant per day will be set, compared to the 160 stipulated until now

Chus Heredia

Malaga

Tuesday, 9 April 2024, 12:16

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The Junta de Andalucía's drought committee is today set to relax limits on water consumption by 25% for the whole Malaga province.

Although the drought is far from over, officials recognised that the situation has improved following much-needed rainfall last month boosting the levels in the province's reservoirs. Over the next few days, the consumption limit will be raised from 160 litres per inhabitant per day to 200.

Only La Concepción reservoir, located between Marbella and Istán - and which serves much of the western strip of the Costa del Sol , can be upgraded to a 'moderate' drought status, the least serious of the three levels, if summer goes according to plan. Malaga, on the other hand, although it meets the numbers to climb out of 'crisis' to 'severe' level, can still not officially do so as the water in the reservoirs is still at a low capacity. La Viñuela, in the Axarquía, is still a long way from leaving the maximum severity threshold.

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Following the drought committee's most recent meeting, the province's reservoirs have gained 65 cubic hectometres since 8 March. That is enough to provide drinking water for Malaga city for more than a year. By the end of the day on Monday 8 April, the reservoirs were heading towards 163 hm³ (barely 26% of their full capacity).

Axarquia, no water transfer

La Viñuela stores almost 30 cubic hectometres of water, 13 more than this time last year. Rainfall is only slightly higher. The guidelines set by the drought committee are to continue with the suspension of agricultural irrigation under the Guaro Plan and to stop receiving water from Malaga city. In addition, a strategy of maximum use of the wells of the river Chíllar has also been established. The new guidelines will become effective at the end of this week, according to documents seen by SUR.

The maximum volume of water expected to be applied in the hydrological year is estimated at 14.74 hm³, half from the reservoir and just over eight cubic hectometres, almost already covered, from Malaga city. The wells go up to 3.18. However, the report shows the serious threshold of 41.5 cubic hectometres is far from being crossed, as there is no guaranteed water for more than one year.

The western Costa del Sol leaps two steps

The Costa del Sol faces the summer in conditions very similar to those of last year. The reservoir is already at around 39 cubic hectometres and there will continue to be a few more inflows of run-off from surrounding mountains.

The report calculates that by the end of the summer it could reach almost 24 cubic hectometres in its reservoirs. The difference is notable with respect to the previous committee, which stated that in no case could there be less than five cubic hectometres.

The Marbella desalination plant will also have to operate at full capacity between July and September and, adding the supply from the wells, the time that remains until October should be well resolved. There would be 39 cubic hectometres, of which 12.3 would come from the desalination plant, 4.6 from the Fuengirola wells, and 1.4 from the Guadalmansa wells. The reservoir has collected 405mm so far this hydrological year, compared to 330mm the previous year.

Malaga, new wells

In Malaga city, the situation is much improved, but rainfall received, depending on the reservoir, varies between 137 and 208mm. These are very poor figures, leading authorities to urge caution. Only the Conde de Guadalhorce is better than last year's figures, while Guadalteba and Guadalhorce are in the middle. All of them, including Casasola, add up to 90 hectometres, 18.6 above the maximum serious threshold, which authorities have decided to maintain due to the lack of rainfall and the projection of data for autumn.

The guidelines? The volume of relief irrigation for woody crops will be increased by one hectometre, to 6, and the maximum possible use of water from wells and the Aljaima weir is fixed. In the case of subterranean resources, they will be increased by 200 litres per second. Not transferring water to La Viñuela is also expected to contribute to savings of 20%.

For the remainder of the hydrological year, 22.0 hm3 is set for the supply network. The aforementioned resources from wells and rivers add a further six.

What about swimming pools?

There is no new development on the filling of swimming pools or beach showers. As it stands, pools in public facilities such as sport centres, hotels, camp sites and health centres will be able to open. Any other swimming pool filling must be decided by respective municipalities.

Environmentalists urge caution

The so-called Mesa Social del Agua sent a statement to SUR expressing its concern that the measures are being relaxed too much. This platform, which includes Ecologists in Action, CCOO, Facua, UGT, Coag, Greenpeace, WWF, SEO Birdlife, Savia, the Andalusian New Water Culture Network and Aeopas, said a situation of water scarcity has not changed. In their opinion, there is "excessive euphoria" after the latest episodes of rainfall, which, according to them, are still below what is desirable. They called for the application of the special drought plans and municipal emergency plans.

This alliance of organisations warns of uncontrolled irrigated crops in areas such as the Axarquía and the overexploitation of resources due to demographic and tourist pressure.

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