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A university study has found that the region has received less rainfall than the Sahel in Africa

Thursday 7th August 2014

javeamigos.com | JAVEA · DRIER THAN THE SAHARA

The continuing drought in the Marina Alta is a serious cause for concern as rainfall has all but deserted the region in the past twelve month. Now, a study from the Laboratory of Climatology at the University of Alicante has found that the region has become one of the driest populated areas on the planet with just 104 litres per square metre of rainfall in the past year, 16 less than the Sahel region of Africa which is renowned for its regular droughts. In recent months, almost no rain has fallen and the region is beginning to experience a desert climate.

The study shows that 2014 has been extraordinarily dry and that the region is experiencing what it calls a "historic drought". Since the beginning of the year just 31.8 litres per square metre has fallen on Dénia, just 11% of its normal precipitation. It is second only to El Campello, just north of the city of Alicante, which has seen just 4%. Other major towns in the province are fairing a little better but still lack rain with Concentaina (34%), Alcoy (33%), Elche (20%) and Alicante (14%) all seeing much reduced rainfall. The phenomenom is very strange for the Marina Alta for the region has always boasted generous water supplies, almost surplus to its needs, with its mountainous inland terrain a valuable source.

The study confirms the official stance of AEMET, the state meteorological agency, which has released special maps which show that our region has become the driest area in the whole of Spain along with part of the Marina Baixa and the coast of Safor, la Ribera and l'Horta. The map above shows extremely dry conditions that have occurred on the central eastern coast of Spain since July 2013. A second map (not displayed) detailing precipitation since September 2013 sees the red colour extend deeper inland to cover wider areas of the provinces of Alicante and Valencia.

Since May, the Confederación Hidrográfica del Júcar (CHJ), a body that regulates water supply networks in the region, has considered the Marina Alta to be at an emergency level for drought (read more about this here). Many municipalities are fed by aquifers, underground layers of water-bearing permeable rock from which groundwater can be extracted using a well, and the CHJ has already warned that the Dénia-Ondara well is already severely depleted in supply. The mayor of Benissa has recently warned that if the lack of rain continues, his town could experience problems with the supply of water next year whilst in Murla the local authorities have already put in place a ban on the filling and topping-up of swimming pools. Things are even worse further inland where municipalities in the Vall de la Gallinera have been without drinking water since the beginning of July, the ongoing drought limiting the storage capacity whilst the poor state of the infrastructure has meant that what water supply there exists has become unfit for human consumption.

Jávea is somewhat of an exception to the region-wide 'disaster-in-the-making' due to its desalination plant which draws water from the sea and removes some amount of its salt content and other minerals to produce fresh water suitable for human consumption or irrigation. Although the town is beginning to use more water than it is currently producing, the plant is not operating at full capacity and studies are already being made into the possibility of creating a regional network of pipes to top up existing wells with fresh water produced by the desalination plant.

The university study has insisted that supply is guaranteed until the end of the year. However there is some concern as to what will happen should the autumn rains not arrive with some municipalities are already reaching crisis point with supply. In most cases, the cause of problems has been the inadequacy of the infrastructure, albeit aggravated by the distinct lack of rainfall. And, despite the real cause for concern, the problem is being kept low profile for the time being as many municipalities don't want to raise an issue that might cause a drop in valuable tourist income. However, that has not stopped the Consorcio de Aguas de la Marina Alta from meeting for the first time in many months to discuss the problem of drought and find a solution, both short- and long-term.

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