General information

Location Marbella, Spain
Population 130.000 – second largest in Málaga province

The city of Marbella is located in the southeastern part of Spain. The city is located by the Mediterranean sea, and therefore, it is under the influence of Mediterranean climate, with dry and hot summers and wet and warm winters. Due to the weather and the attractive beaches of the area, tourism has become one of its main economic activities. Because of the tourism, the city experienced an important urban growth, which in many cases was not properly planned. As a consequence, flood vulnerability, and hence risk, have increased considerably in many areas.

Problem Description

The meteorological phenomenon known as “gota fria” occurs often when a front of cold air at high altitude penetrates into the warm air, causing high intensity precipitation events, stormy periods that mainly occurring in autumn. Such rainfall events imply urban floods with short lead times, when the drainage network has not enough capacity to drain all the water runoff.
Storm surges occur often creating important problems in recreational ports and increasing erosion problems in the numerous beaches of the city. Both situations are critical in the city because Marbella’s main activity is the tourism attracted by its beautiful shore. The combination of events is especially critical. When intense precipitations occur at the same time with storm surges, water can’t be discharged to the sea increasing the severity of floods in the coastal areas.
Under a change climate, intense precipitation events and the sea level rise are expected to increase. Hence, the existent structural measures may lose its effectiveness. Furthermore, jellyfish blooms can have high impacts on tourism.

Research focus

Collaboration with other work packages in PEARL are as follows:

  • WP2: development of extreme event scenarios for the case study area;
  • WP3: assessment of the several impacts (beach erosion, urban and coastal floods, jellyfish blooms, etc.) and holistic risk assessment;
  • WP4: implementation of a warning system using radar data and dissemination of the risks to population;
  • WP5: testing the several adaptation and mitigation strategies to cope with the impacts implementation of the collaborative platform and stakeholder involvement.


The FloodAlert web Early Warning System (EWS)

Learning & Action Alliance (LAA)

On 12 January 2016 Marbella hosted the first workshop for the establishment of the Learning & Action Alliance (LAA), a framework where local stakeholders share their views about the problem of coastal flooding in their territory and discuss possible solutions together.

The importance of the creation of such a forum was totally understood by the local community, which widely participated in the meeting. More than 60 representatives of municipalities, public and private water companies, universities, neighbourhood associations and public institutions illustrated their experiences with floods and expressed their opinion about the main issues at stake. The atmosphere of mutual trust produced by the informal setting allowed many innovative perspectives and ideas to emerge, bringing to the development of an action plan for the future reoccurrence of these events.

Dialogue was further stimulated by the interesting presentations of the researchers of the PEARL project. After a general introduction about the PEARL project, its objectives, strategy, and products, a description of the case study of Marbella was provided. This was followed by the explanation of the GADU (Gestión Avanzada del Drenaje Urbano) philosophy and its application to the Marbella master plan. Last but not least, the local Early Warning System for flooding and impacts on the surrounding environment was outlined.

Pictures of the workshop can be viewed in the Gallery.

Read the press release by the local organisers, CETAQUA and HYDS.