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View of the Guadalteba reservoir, which stores 32 cubic hectometres. SUR
Reservoirs that supply Malaga city climb to a level just above 'crisis' threshold, ahead of Easter when demand could treble
Drought crisis

Reservoirs that supply Malaga city climb to a level just above 'crisis' threshold, ahead of Easter when demand could treble

The water reserves at La Concepción, which supplies the western strip of the Costa del Sol, and La Viñuela (Axarquía) continue to remain alarmingly low - despite the recent rain

Chus Heredia

Malaga

Monday, 25 March 2024

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Drought levels have three thresholds: moderate, severe and crisis. Malaga province is in the latter, the most alarming. These levels are carefully assessed and set out in the Junta's 2021 drought plan. But recently, the reservoirs that supply Malaga city have exceeded 71.4 cubic hectometres, which means they have risen above the red drought alert level and into the amber zone.

The situation is looking slightly better, but people are still being urged to be cautious. It comes ahead of Holy Week when Malaga city could almost triple its water consumption, however the weather forecasts predict several days of rain. Rising reservoir reserves must continue for a month before the level is officially raised, which the Junta de Andlaucía will decide on in April.

Its drought committee wants to re-evaluate the entire restrictive framework once it has more data on reservoir water and rainfall, given that the passage of storm Monica, which occurred over the weekend of 9-10 March, had a significant effect on the reservoirs.

Related news

The early-morning report on Saturday showed a gain of 16 cubic hectometres in all the reservoirs in Malaga province. But only the reservoirs supplying Malaga city are close to rising to a more secure level. Between them, they have more than 113 hectometres and are at 18.5% of their capacity, with much more needed before the drought crisis can officially end.

Sum of four reservoirs

Which reservoirs are included? The Junta's drought plan includes the Guadalhorce, Guadalteba, Conde de Guadalhorce and Casasola reservoirs, although Casasola doesn't add much to the equation with a mere 0.3 hectometres added between October and February. In the run-up to Palm Sunday, the four reservoirs totalled 72.5 cubic hectometres. This is enough water for more than a year under normal conditions, but it must be remembered that Malaga contributes 270 litres per second to the Axarquía, more or less a fifth of what the city has circulating through its network of pipes.

Guadalteba exceeds 32 cubic hectometres. It has gained 1hm³ with the latest rain; Conde, which reached a minimum of 11hm³ a few months ago is now at 16 (gaining 3hm³ with the latest rain); Guadalhorce exceeds 18 (adding 3hm³), and Casasola, almost 6hm³ (has barely gained anything). El Limonero does not really count and supplies barely 0.9hm³ per year. It is, in any case, below 5hm³.

What is the plan?

So what is the city's roadmap? The battle against drought is being fought on several fronts. Firstly, by the end of April, public water company Emasa wants to lower the pressure throughout the city. This is in addition to restrictions on public and private irrigation or washing streets with potable water, as well as awareness campaigns, better control of water leaks, and turning off supplies to beach showers, drinking fountains and foot baths.

In terms of works, new wells will be operational next month in Aljaima and Fahala with which they hope to supply up to 400 litres per second. In this area, where the Grande has just flowed into the Guadalhorce, is the weir that serves to harness the water flowing down the river in real time. During the storm and the days that followed, it reached the 1,500 litres per second consumed by Malaga city. However, it has since gone down. This whole river-well system is a great help for the city to conserve reservoir water.

In the autumn, 18 wells in the Bajo Guadalhorce (San Isidro, Amoníaco...) are expected to function and could provide, pending confirmation, 25 cubic hectometres a year. Their quality is low and they are probably salinised, but it will be treated at the water treatment plant at El Atabal, which will be connected to the boreholes with a pipeline.

Also in April, the Junta will have to decide whether or not to bring water in ships to the ports of Malaga, Algeciras and Carboneras from Escombreras desalination plant (Cartagena).

Costa del Sol and Axarquia, far from leaving the threshold

And what about the rest of Malaga province? La Concepción, which supplies the Costa del Sol, has exceeded 20 cubic hectometres. It gained 5hm³ with storm Monica and 7hm³ if previous dates are taken into account. The area will continue with cuts to water pressure at night (except on Saturdays) for the time being, and this summer it will have an additional 1hm³ a month as a result of the first improvement works at the Marbella desalination plant. However, it is still a long way from coming out of the crisis drought level, set at 28.7 hectometres in March and 31.4 in April.

Meanwhile, in the Axarquia, it is a similar story. La Viñuela reached 16.38hm³ this Saturday, gaining 3hm³ with the storm. But the reservoir is a long way from the 41.5hm³ that marks the exit of the crisis drought level.

The unknown of the rains

Rain is forecast for this Holy Week, although it is unsure where it will fall in Malaga province and how much - but it was forecast from Palm Sunday afternoon until at least Holy Thursday.

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