After the Rain


Last week Málaga saw some of the worst rain it has seen since 1989, and large parts of the city was flooded, damages on houses roads etc have not yet been estimated, a woman died and several animals have drowned.

It is a tragedy that is increasing in occurance here in Europe and whether it is climate change or poor watershed management, the solution is more or less the same: Plant more trees, make sure water can seep into the ground, slow the water down. Unfortunately the people in charge at government level seem dead set on not slowing the water down, but quite the contrary getting it away as fast as possible: It  isn’t legal to build gabions or check dams on your land, rainwater collection is illegal, you cannot make terraces where none were etc. etc. In addition the public building projects all add far more hard surfaces, and the water drainage lead the water via concrete drainage canals and drainpipes as fast as possible to the rivers and streams. It is a catastrofe waiting to happen… and last weekend it did.

On top of that, many Spanish houses are poorly built, have leaks in the roof, terraces that lean towards the house etc. etc. And most people here don’t have an understanding of the dangers of mold in their house and will simply paint andy moldy spots over and never report it to their insurance, never get it fixed.

Well we have done our best to aviod theses problems when we renovated our house, and I and I am happy to say that it has worked, for the most part at least.

It actually rained for two weeks prior to the big rainstorm, and we even had a smaller rainstorm a week before the big one, which took out our Internet  (which is why I haven’t put up my post about composting). During the first week of rain, I noticed that the ceiling in the living room had a damp spot, and I called our builder up and told him to come and fix it. He came immediately and crawled up on the roof and saw that one of the silicone plugs that sit underneath the screws that hold the roof in place (roof in the living room is metal) was missing, he fixed it on the spot and we haven’t had any leaks anywhere since. The house is dry, through and through.

Last year we had the east and west terraces done, so that their inclination was away from the house, because every time we had a major rain event we would have a large puddle of water on either side of the house, right in front of the kitchen door and the door in Marcus’ office – the latter often times threatening with spilling in on his floor.

On the east terrace we have installed a rainwater garden that collects all the water from the entire terrace (and most of the water from the east side of the roof, bc. the rainwater collection system is malfunctioning again…) down hill from the rainwater garden we have placed big boulders, underneath the garden is pebbles for drainage, and the garden itself is filled with compost with lots of biological material, and the last year we have been mulching it with straw and rabbit manure, which has added even more biological material. So the garden in itself can absorb a lot of water. In addition the terrace has been layed out with flat rocks on dirt – our builders thought us crazy when we didn’t want concrete, but we wanted the terrace to be able to absorb as much water as possible, while still being able to drive on it, and reduce the dust around the house in the summertime. At no time were there ever more than 1cm of water anywhere on the terrace, even though some reports say that at it’s worst the storm delivered 30cm/hour.

On the west terrace we have made the inclination away from the house was well. The inclination is stopped by a small gabion half way between the house and the arroyo, which we had to put in because the pipe from the rainwater system had to run over the ground  for a few meters, because it was the only way the give it the inclination needed to transport the water to the other side of the house. Outside the gabion is a swale filled with pebbles, and outside the swale is a small berm. I have been worried that the gabion would prevent the water from flowing away from the house fast enough, but even at its worst the water wasn’t close to the doorstep, and at most there was 1 cm of water on the terrace. The swale filled completely, but the water just lay there and nothing was ruined (and now a week later the grass is growing vigorously).

The other earthworks that we have built also worked according to intention and nowhere is there any sign of erosion.

But that is the extent of what worked… because what didn’t work was the bridge across the riverbed in front of the house – our driveway. We fixed the road when we fixed the east terrace, and we made sure that the water would drain off of the road, we put in a stone setting around the tube going under the road, and we put in a sunnibowl underneath the tube to catch any soil running out of it. That actually did work really well. What we hadn’t anticipated was that the tube would clog up from leaves, branches and gravel being washed down from our neighbor’s  land. The tube already clogged after the first rainstorm, and ran over the road and started eroding it next to the stone steering we had made, another smaller tube the un-clogged and the rest of the water ended in the small terrace we have created underneath the carob tree. But the second,  bigger rainstorm clogged up the smallest tube again, and now the water had nowhere to go but over the road. The water masses were so enormous that the eroded the stone setting and started eating away at the road… The only reason we can get out is that the road is wider on the other side, because of all the gravel that has been deposited there… This is not actually on our land, but on the neighbour’s land, and we will have to work with him to fix it. Fortunately his insurance might cover it. At the end for the driveway, the municipal road is badly damaged and is in need of a serious amount of love and care. We will not be able to get our Berlingo out across that part before it has been fixed (thank God we bought a 4WD), and if we wait for the ayuntamiento that will probably not happen any time soon… But one of the neighbor’s have been driving around fixing his part of the road, so I’m thinking maybe I can persuade him to do the same at our end.

The parts of our land that have been left to complete and utter neglect have before entering holding up OK – the fact that the goats haven’t been grazed here for two years means that a lot of small bushes and grazes have sprung up, and this held on to most of the soil. I haven’t made a complete assessment of the damages tough.

I promised myself that I would post this before the end of this week, so I will post it now, and then when I can get to my pictures I will add them (I don’t have electricity and my computer is out of battery, so I am writing on a tablet, while the pictures are on my computer).

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3 thoughts on “After the Rain

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  1. Great to hear, that you toughtful renovation of the house was so far succesful! Sound like the exection was impeccable. Would be great to see some short video on the rain damages and how the system was behaving. Extreme rainfall event is the best teacher and shows fast if the calculatios were made good and what need to be fixed, best time to go out and observe. Sounds like the pipe going under the road was not big enough to handle the 100- year/extreme rainfall event. Sad to hear Spains legistlation is so against reasonable actions :(. I remember that you was good in process of thinking about the fire risks as if the fireprone bushes colonize the site due not grazing and what would be the right strategies and actions to mitigate them and how to renegerate the system and hydrate the landscape so that the hills are more safe places to live in fast warming climate. Wishing U and your whole family nice Jultide and happy and Successful New Year!

    1. Hi Pauli
      Unfortunately the rain yesterday showed that the repair we had on the roof wasn’t good enough, so there are minor leaks 😦 But all the things we have done around the house are good, and we are so pleased! I’m actually thinking that the pipe under the road is a mistake in and of itself – that a check dam in front of the road would be better, at least as long as the neighbour’s land is so overgrazed. I’m hoping that if I plant Moringa trees though, that he will catch on, and that he will eventually plant some too.

      WRT goverment et al I think that deciding to let the problem be the solution is the best way forward… instead of fighting them we will let our minds be like water 🙂

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