The rain dance

When several reservoirs are almost empty, and with hardly any new infrastructure being built since the last drought, all we can do is carry images of the saints around the streets in procession and pray for rain

IGNACIO LILLO

This is the Mediterranean climate: alternating between very wet periods, which are generally short but intense, and long years of drought. Now, in theory (and hopefully!) we should be coming to the end of one of these dry cycles, which has been the worst since records began. So far this hydrological year has been the worst in 80 years and it shows no sign of improving any time soon. We can't control the climate and everything points to things getting worse, because scientific studies warn that due to climate change, the rain is likely to become increasingly torrential and destructive.

What does lie in our hands is the way we manage the situation. With the water and the infrastructure available - storage and artificial production - we can supply a certain number of inhabitants, visitors, industry and hectares of agriculture of a particular type. However, this fragile balance is now looking shaky. When the reservoirs are full it seems as though every mountainside is covered with oregano, houses can be built without moderation and avocados can be planted to the top of the last hill in La Axarquía. But when several reservoirs are almost empty, as they are now, and with hardly any new infrastructure being built since the last drought (the Casasola reservoir, yes, but practically nothing else), all we can do is carry the images of the saints around the streets in procession and pray for rain.

Having got to this point, we have two options: stop Malaga, declare that there are not enough resources for production (agriculture, tourism etc) and that there is no room for a single soul more. That would at least enable us to have drinking water for a few months, but we would starve to death. Or we could get our act together once and for all and do what needs to be done because now, with the European funds, there is going to be enough money to do it.

And what we have to do is, first of all, use the water which is regenerated by the sewage plants for irrigation so that not a single drop is wasted because at present, believe it or not, most of it goes into the sea. For this to happen we need a new network of pipelines, and that is what the money needs to be spent on. We also have to increase the capacity to transfer water from the Guadiaro to the Costa del Sol and from there to La Axarquía; in other words, from places which have surplus water to others where the population and agriculture need it. And we also need to build a desalination plant at the mouth of the Vélez river, driven by wind energy via a windmill, to reduce the impact on the environment.

We either start to work with long-term planning in mind, or we will just have to summon the wizard and ask him to do a rain dance for us.