Malaga has been in drought for over two years.
The La Viñuela reservoir in the heart of the Axarquía has capacity for 165 million cubic metres of water. It provides water for irrigation to hundreds of farms and drinking water to thousands of homes.
Up to the 26th of February – six months into a nine month “rainy season” – it held just 35 million cubic metres: 21% of capacity. So the promise of a week or more of rain seemed heaven sent.
Of course visitors, seeing this winter’s gorgeous weather are hugely disappointed when their one week crosses with rain. Nothing to do but buckle up and get on with it. You can’t go out if it’s coming down cats and dogs, but an on-off day you can. Sometimes there’s patches of light and shade; the land is fresh, the plants happy, the cloudscapes beautiful. You can have fun in a rainy week : Having a laugh in any weather.
At any rate, though everyone moans, every Spaniard I’ve spoken to this week – colleagues, taxi drivers, shop-keepers, parents – says first off “Oh, but it’s good for the land!”
Well, not quite all the land. When it does rain here is comes in a downpour. I’m grateful we’re having some steady rain, as well as the storms (it soaks in better). But its always startling to see. The villages have so many narrow alleys and steep, stepped streets that the whole thing becomes a water park. There are drains and vents bubbling and overflowing, terrace drainholes spouting waterfalls from three stories up, rivers gushing broadly across the street, damp spatterings from every overhang. There is so much water in every direction you expect the whole compact village to lurch, tilt sideways, wrench loose and float away.
A lot of the land does. Whether it is a week of heavy rain on parched dry steep slopes or a real humdinger of a storm, the result is erosion. We have landslips and rain damage.
The landscape here has been built by erosion abetted by humanity’s unending urge to chop down trees, light fires, and cut channels for roads on steep hillsides. It is barely slowed by our counter-measures of terracing and replanting. Everywhere you look you see the marks of water – the sculpted limestone, the steep valley sides, the deep gullies of busy little mountain streams.
And anyone who commutes between the Sayalonga and the Salares valley, just this week, knows it. The immense rainfall, when the path of an existing stream was blocked by debris, formed a new channel and washed away the land below the road – which then fell in. Very glad no one was on this when it fell.