La Viñuela reservoir is at an all-time low, with just 13 cubic hectometres, or 7.9% of its capacity. Salvador Salas
These are the areas of Malaga province and the Costa del Sol that must cut their water usage by another ten per cent
Drought crisis

These are the areas of Malaga province and the Costa del Sol that must cut their water usage by another ten per cent

The Junta de Andalucía's water management committee also maintains the twenty per cent reduction in water usage for the area served by La Viñuela reservoir in the province

Eugenio Cabezas


Monday, 9 October 2023, 13:08


The extreme drought affecting Malaga province continues to wreak havoc on the countryside and is putting the supply of water to the population at serious risk if there continues to be no significant rainfall in the coming weeks.

Faced with this complicated scenario, with the region's reservoirs at 20.7% of their capacity on Friday, the Andalusian regional government, as the competent water authority in the Andalusian Mediterranean Basin, has held a management committee to discuss measures for the coming months and allocations according to the different scenarios.

The session, chaired in Malaga by the Secretary General for Water of the regional Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Ramiro Angulo, detailed the savings measures for the different areas.

In the case of Malaga province, the water-saving measures in force in the Guadalhorce-Limonero and Western Costa del Sol systems have been increased from 10 to 20%, and the La Viñuela system has been maintained at 20%. In the latter case, the transfer of water from the Guadalhorce system, the boreholes of the Chíllar river in Nerja and the surface resources of La Viñuela has been approved to continue. In the latter case, work is being carried out on the installation of a surface pump to extract the water with guarantees that it can be made drinkable at the El Trapiche plant.

Meanwhile, in the unregulated areas of the province, such as the Serranía de Ronda, the headwaters of the Guadalhorce, the Bajo Guadalhorce and the Tejeda and Almijara mountain ranges, there are no changes with respect to the previous update, as reported by the Junta in a statement.

Exceptional drought

The western strip of the Costa del Sol has exceeded the threshold of severe shortage and is now declared a system of exceptional drought. "Therefore, water saving plans are activated with the aim of achieving at least a 20% reduction in the use of urban supply, maintaining the measures implemented for the maximum use of reclaimed water for irrigation of green areas or limiting the use of drinking water in irrigation," Angulo said.

With these approved reductions, it will now be up to the local councils to determine whether they have to impose new restrictions on consumption, as at least a dozen localities in Malaga have been doing since last July. In another thirty there are no cuts but there are limitations on use. The committee, made up of the different competent administrations, users, trade unions and business organisations, has unanimously decided to maintain the exceptional drought situation that was declared in the Campo de Gibraltar in October 2021, taking into account the accumulated resources in its reservoirs, and updating the water saving for urban use to 20%.

Infrastructure progress

The Secretary General for Water, Ramiro Angulo, explained to the committee the progress of the infrastructures being implemented by the Andalusian government through the three existing drought decrees on the interconnection of basins, works to improve supply, purification, the use of regenerated water and desalination. In this regard, Ramiro Angulo emphasised the start, last July, of the extension work on the Marbella desalination plant, which will double its capacity from six to 12 cubic hectometres, as well as the completion, in January 2024, of the pipeline work in the northern area of San Roque, which will contribute an additional ten cubic hectometres to the system.

Angulo also noted the regional Ministry's commitment to reclaimed water, with the completion this month of work on the Peñón del Cuervo treatment plant and its connection to Rincón de la Victoria, which will bring 22 cubic hectometres of reclaimed water to the Axarquía region.

The Secretary General for Water took advantage of the event to "thank all the users, town councils, irrigators, agricultural organisations and associations for their enormous effort and understanding" and requested "an additional effort to increase water saving measures that are necessary due to the exceptional drought situation affecting most of the district's systems, as well as the promotion of new awareness campaigns to encourage the efficient use of water".

Complicated situation

The most complicated situation in the province continues to be at La Viñuela reservoir, which is at 7.9% of its capacity, with barely 13 cubic hectometres stored. Of this amount, it is estimated that barely four hectometres can be made drinkable by the El Trapiche plant in Vélez-Málaga. The director of exploitation of the La Viñuela system, Francisco López, has warned in his report, to which SUR has had access, that "there has been a more marked drop in quality in the last three months of the hydrological year".

The Junta has established that for this new hydrological year a maximum of 180 litres per inhabitant per day can be provided for all 208,000 inhabitants.

Among the proposals set out in the report is a commitment to "further rationalise the demands to be served and... to implement restrictions within the framework of Decree 187/2021 that are the same for all in terms of amounts and concept". Angulo advocated "greater use of reclaimed water for cleaning and washing down roads, watering parks and gardens, etc., which is not a temporary measure but should also be implemented on a normal basis".

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