The current water level at La Viñuela reservoir, which is the largest in the province. / ÑITO SALAS

La Viñuela reservoir is only 23.2% full, and the water level is at its lowest since 2008

The water reserves are 176 hm3 lower than at this time last year and the agrifood sector in La Axarquía is starting to be concerned

MATÍAS STUBER MALAGA.

Like a slim tongue of water stretching across the ground and getting smaller every day that there is no rain. That is the current picture at La Viñuela reservoir, which is the biggest in Malaga province. According to the regional government's Hidrosur network , it contains 38.8 cubic hectometres of water at present. That is just 23.2 per cent of its capacity and is the lowest since 2008, when the levels were similar and La Viñuela was about to be declared a dead reservoir. That was avoided in the end, thanks to the heavy rainfall in the autumn of that year.

The comparison with 2020 also highlights the delicate situation this reservoir is in at present. Just a year ago, it contained 51 hectometres of water. Today, there are 17.6 fewer. Right now, everyone keeps looking hopefully at the sky.

Malaga meteorologist José Luis Escudero says the only solution for La Viñuela now is steady, sustained rainfall.

"We just have to hope for some good storms, although in September in Malaga that is uncertain. We know from previous years that short bursts of heavy rain may cause floods, but they don't solve this problem," he says.

The concern about the state of La Viñuela reservoir is shared by farmers in La Axarquía, who fear there will not be enough water to irrigate their products.

Baldomero Bellido, the president of Asaja Malaga, the largest agricultural association in the province, warns that problems could lie ahead. "We hope for rain every day now. La Axarquía is very dependent on La Viñuela for irrigation," he says.

Bellido denies that water consumption now is higher than in 2008, when La Viñuela was in a critical situation.

"The minimum consumption might be a bit higher, but the allocations are strictly controlled. In fact, this year, they have been reduced to 3,000 cubic metres per hectare," he insists.

Asaja has figures for the amount of water used by farmers in the area: "They are using around a hectometre per week, which is about normal," says Bellido, who explains that several factors have come into effect simultaneously. "There has been a lack of rain, but also tourism figures this summer have returned to levels similar to those before the pandemic. That puts greater pressure on resources," he says.

Domestic supply guaranteed

Official sources at the Junta de Andalucía admit that the situation at La Viñuela is "complicated" and that rain is desperately needed. However, they say they can guarantee that there will be no problems with domestic supplies in municipalities where the water comes from La Viñuela.

It is also reassuring that the other reservoirs in the province are not in the same situation. Apart from the Conde de Guadalhorce and Guadalhorce reservoirs, none is less than 50 per cent full. The one with the most water, in relation to capacity, is Guadalteba, which is 66 per cent full, followed by La Concepción (60.8%) and Casasola (51.2%).