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The irregularity of rainfall has resulted in intermittent rivers that often run dry in summer; most of the many streams that cross the city have been bridged.The La Concepción reservoir supplies the population with drinking water; apart from this there are other reservoirs like El Viejo and El Nuevo (the Old and the New) that irrigated the old agricultural colony of El Ángel, and Las Medranas and Llano de la Leche that watered the plantations of the colony of San Pedro de Alcántara.Between 19 the population grew by 897%, with the decade of the 1960s having the highest relative increase, at 141%.In 2001, only 26.2% of Marbella's population had been born there, 15.9% were foreign-born, and those born in other towns in Spain made up the difference.The existence of a Roman population centre in what is now the El Casco Antiguo (Old Town) is suggested by three Ionic capitals embedded in one section of the Murallas del Castillo (Moorish castle walls), the reused materials of a building from earlier times.Recent discoveries in La Calle Escuelas (School Street) and other remains scattered throughout the old town testify to a Roman occupation as well.Average rainfall is 628 l/m², while hours of sunshine average 2,900 annually.Because most of the mountain areas around Marbella cannot be managed by the City Council and they are under the management of the central government, remnants of the land in its natural state are still preserved in the mountains, where there are chestnut and cherry trees, reforested firs, Aleppo, Monterrey and maritime pines; pinyons, and ferns.
The population is concentrated in two main centres: Marbella and San Pedro Alcántara; the rest is scattered in many developments in the districts of Nueva Andalucia and Las Chapas, located along the coast and on the mountain slopes.Despite the intense urbanisation of the coast, it still retains a natural area of dunes, the Artola Dunes (Dunas de Artola), at the eastern end of town.These include the Guadalmina, the Guadaiza, the Verde and the Rio Real, which provide most of the water supply.Some historians believe that the first settlement on the present site of Marbella was founded by the Phoenicians in the 7th century BC, as they are known to have established several colonies on the coast of Málaga province.
However, no remains have been found of any significant settlement, although some artefacts of Phoenician and later Carthaginian settlements have been unearthed in different parts of the municipality, as in the fields of Rio Real and Cerro Torrón.
After the plain lies an area of higher elevations of between 100 and 400 m, occupied by low hills, behind which rise the foothills and steeper slopes of the mountains.