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Malaga Braces for Red Level Drought Alert

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drought in Malaga

Spain’s Malaga is braced for a Red Level Drought Alert as water reserves continue to plummet to historic lows

The approaching new year holds a concerning forecast for the Guadalhorce valley and Malaga city, with red-level drought alerts looming unless a meteorological miracle brings rain during the festive season.

While red-level warnings have been active in the Axarquía and the western strip of the Costa del Sol for months, the sustained absence of rainfall poses a critical threat to the supply in three vital Guadalhorce valley reservoirs feeding the city. The water level has dipped below the 71 cubic hectometre threshold set by the Junta de Andalucía.

As of last week (17 December), the Guadalhorce, Guadalteba, and Conde del Guadalhorce reservoirs measured 67.9 cubic hectometres, a drastic decline that echoes the consumption needs of Malaga city for an entire year.

However, not all the water can be utilized, and a portion is currently diverted to the Axarquía, amounting to 300 litres per second.

The Guadalteba stands at just over 36 cubic hectometres (23.76% of its capacity), the Guadalhorce at 20 cubic hectometres (16.10%), and the Conde at 11.23 (16.89%), marking historic lows.

Despite expectations of a wet autumn, the collected rainfall in the Guadalhorce reservoirs this season is a meagre 47mm, leading to increased water scarcity.

The situation is predicted to worsen in March 2023, especially along the coast, and water restrictions are intensifying in the Axarquía, starting with Rincón de la Victoria. Measures include a 20% reduction in regular water supply, with restrictions on filling swimming pools, watering parks and gardens, and other non-essential uses.

Malaga city has already curtailed consumption by 20%, particularly in inland areas, where lowered water pressure affects residents. If the Guadalhorce valley falls below the red level, irrigation supplies for 2023-24 may be slashed from a maximum of 20 hm³ to 10-15.

The Deputation of Malaga provincial authority estimates a potential 40% impact on the province’s gross domestic product if the drought persists, posing a serious threat to the tourism sector. The situation underscores the urgent need for conservation measures and highlights the potential economic repercussions of prolonged water scarcity.

The cause of the lack of rain in Spain can be attributed to the appearance of anticyclones and ridges. The reason for the prolonged drought in Spain is meteorologically simple: stability. The prevailing weather patterns throughout the months of this year have been characterised by the prevalence of anticyclones on the surface, or crests at altitude and, on certain occasions, both at the same time.

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