Addressing Drought and Water Supply Challenges in the Costa del Sol

The picturesque Costa del Sol, renowned for its stunning coastline and vibrant lifestyle, faces a pressing issue threatening its sustainability: drought. The scarcity of rainfall in recent years has not only impacted the region’s natural environment but also strained its water supply, prompting authorities to implement measures to mitigate the crisis.

Drought Impact on the Costa del Sol

The drought gripping the Costa del Sol reflects a more significant trend affecting the entire national territory. In the southernmost provinces, including Malaga, rainfall has been insufficient to maintain adequate reservoir levels. However, the situation is not new; it started in the early 21st century. 2005 Decree No 240 was adopted, which could impose exceptional drought management measures in several municipalities in Malaga.

Under this decree, stringent restrictions could be imposed to conserve water resources. These include prohibitions on non-essential water usage such as street washing, filling private swimming pools, watering gardens, and washing cars outside authorized establishments. Public awareness campaigns have also emphasized the importance of water conservation during this critical period.

The effect of drought on you and me

When we often read about climate disasters, global warming, or drought in the morning news, we feel like this is a distant issue; that is someone’s problem. Then, we plunge into our garden pool or take a shower, turn on the garden irrigation system, and head out to play golf with friends. But what if, from one day to the other, these things that have been taken for granted until now become unattainable? Read on and find out!

Implementing Solutions Through GIS Techniques

A key initiative to address water supply challenges in the Costa del Sol involves integrating Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS) techniques. This project seeks to establish an infrastructure to support water resource management in the Western Costa del Sol and the metropolitan area of Malaga.

The project’s objectives include conducting comprehensive inventories and monitoring swimming pools and gardens to assess water demand accurately. By harnessing the power of GIS, spatial data analysis can provide valuable insights into water usage patterns, enabling authorities to optimize resource allocation and implement targeted conservation measures.

Andalusia’s Drought and Heatwave Challenges

Last year was one of intense drought and extreme heat episodes for Andalusia, marking the culmination of nearly eight consecutive years of meteorological drought.

With rainfall deficits worsening over the past two years, Andalusia experienced a 45% deficiency compared to normal in 2023, exacerbating the already dire situation. The year ended with precipitation levels well below average across all meteorological observatories, with some areas receiving only a fraction of the expected rainfall. Moreover, extreme heatwaves punctuated the year.

These extreme weather events and prolonged drought conditions underscored the impact of climate change on Andalusia’s environment. They highlighted the urgent need for sustainable water management strategies and adaptation measures to mitigate future risks.

Restrictions implemented

2024 February started with the implementation of strict water restrictions. They remained in place until mid-April on the Costa del Sol despite a rain boost to the province’s reservoirs. The drought order measures in Malaga limited inhabitants to 160 liters of water per day. Local water companies, coordinated by Acosol, had started lowering water pressure at night in February and March to comply with restrictions imposed by the Junta de Andalucía regional government to minimize water usage. The drought led to measures such as prohibiting or limiting the use of treated drinking water in various settings, including parks, gardens, golf courses, swimming pools, and car washing.

Back to the Middle Ages?

According to the special ”Andalusian time zone”, which means a late start of the day, the “night” water restriction can last until 7-8 in the morning. Therefore, if you are an early riser, you can wash in a washbasin instead of taking a shower, then flush the toilet with the bathwater or water the flowers with it. If the whole family leaves early in the morning and likes to take a bath after getting up, you can be a part of scenes reminiscent of medieval life. It can actually be both romantic and troubling in equal measures  when the head of the family bathes first in the water heated on the stove, then the children and finally the wife… If experiencing this way of life is not on our bucket list, it is worth preparing for such unexpected cases. But it is even better if we all try to control water consumption at the community level with responsible and conscious water use, so that we do not have to experience such drastic restrictions.

Strict restrictions will be lifted as the 2024 tourist season starts.

The latest reports on recent developments regarding drought regulations in Andalucía, Spain, have been promising and positive. Town halls in the region have been granted the authority to lift the ban on filling private swimming pools, a restriction imposed due to ongoing drought conditions. This decision comes amidst efforts to balance water conservation measures with the needs of residents, particularly as the summer season approaches. While the ban on filling private pools was initially implemented to mitigate water scarcity, local authorities can now assess the water situation in their respective areas and adjust restrictions accordingly. This move reflects a nuanced approach to water management, acknowledging the importance of conservation and considering the social and economic implications for residents and businesses in Andalucía.

How do the most prominent tourist and property investment destinations cope?

Marbella, the most popular location, has successfully dealt with the situation. Recent improvements have been implemented to the city’s water treatment plant to enhance its efficiency and capacity. The treatment capacity will be increased to about 4,300 liters per second, equivalent to about two million people. As an example, Malaga City averages a usage of 1,500 liters per second. These upgrades will enable the plant to treat more wastewater, ensuring better environmental protection and water quality for residents and tourists alike. The project includes installing new technology and equipment, such as a biological treatment system and advanced filtration processes, to meet stringent regulatory standards. Additionally, the improvements will allow the plant to recycle a larger volume of treated water for irrigation purposes, reducing reliance on freshwater sources and promoting sustainable water management practices in the region. Overall, the upgrades signify a significant investment in Marbella’s infrastructure to support its growing population and tourism industry while prioritizing environmental sustainability and water conservation.

Estepona’s approach is promising.

Estepona, the other most important touristic and property investment destination on the Costa del Sol, is taking proactive steps to combat its drought challenges by planning a fast-build desalination plant near the sea. The town has secured the land, developed plans, and devised a funding scheme for the project, which could produce 20,000 cubic meters of water per day in just four months. Unlike traditional desalination plants, this “express” installation will be containerized and self-sufficient in energy, utilizing solar panels to power its operations. The mayor, José María García Urbano, is confident in the project’s feasibility, emphasizing Estepona’s potential for water self-sufficiency and the environmental benefits of utilizing abundant solar and seawater resources. With plans to potentially expand the project and share excess water with neighboring municipalities, Estepona aims to address its water needs independently and sustainably.


Due to the drought on the Costa del Sol, the Junta de Andalucía took proactive measures to safeguard water resources and ensure sustainable development. Stakeholders can work together to address the challenges posed by water scarcity through a combination of regulatory measures, technological innovations, and strategic planning.

By harnessing the potential of remote sensing techniques, authorities can enhance monitoring capabilities, improve water management practices, and promote responsible water usage among residents and businesses alike. With concerted efforts and practical solutions, the Costa del Sol can overcome its water supply challenges and thrive in adversity.

But for this to happen, visitors and residents must understand that responsible water use is in everyone’s mutual interest.