I is for IRRIGATION – Tenerife has no rivers or streams – not even a spring – and our only source of water is the snow that settles on our two-mile-high mountain, and the clouds.
They don’t release their contents often - ten totally dry months are common – but the forest of Canarian pines on the mountain condenses water from the clouds to fill the underground aquifers.
Every bottle of water you buy here was collected this way..
Many of these aquifers are naturally-formed by volcanic activity and their use dates back centuries. Others have been hewn out of the rock by modern man.
Breathing apparatus is necessary to enter them for maintenance, and there is an occasional tragedy when hikers ignore the warning signs and go exploring, only to be overtaken by fumes.
The island’s agricultural land is also dotted with water tanks. They're not pretty but they are essential. Although all that cool water on a scorching day might look inviting, once you get up close it's a different matter. This green surface I saw the other morning looked solid enough to walk on, but who knows what lurks beneath with the mosquito larvae and abandoned guppies?And you can see pipes everywhere - in a land that is 99% rock you don’t dig unnecessary trenches. The more observant visitor may also spot some of the original irrigation channels that were hewn from volcanic rock.
Tenerife is, of course an ISLAND, and we now have some desalination plants, which makes sense as we’re surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. But they’re not cheap to run, and with the population being quadrupled constantly by tourists, stocks are always running low. Yet we have never known a water ban in the fifteen years we’ve lived here!
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