Water in Tenerife
Since there are no rivers or streams, you have to look for where it comes from, especially since it doesn’t rain much in the south of Tenerife.
The solution: water on Tenerife comes from water tunnels. But how does it work?
The constant north-east trade wind brings the trade clouds to the north side of the island. There they hit Mount Teide and rain down or the low-hanging clouds brush over the northern pine forests and moisture is caught in the long pine needles. From there they drip off and then migrate into the volcanic soil. Horizontal, gently sloping tunnels have been driven into the mountains since ancient times. So-called galleries. This is of course expensive and so several private individuals have teamed up to found a stock company.
Water for agriculture
With the collected capital, the tunnel was then driven into the rock and the overburden is transported out by means of a small cart on rails. The water now drips from the roof of the tunnel onto the concreted, slightly sloping brine and the many drops then turn into a trickle up to a small brook, especially since the tunnels can be quite long. The collected water then belongs to the shareholders.
It then runs into the main tank and from there is either sold or used by the shareholders themselves. Of course, the shareholders are entitled to the amount of water for their respective financial use. The municipality of Guia de Isora is the largest transshipment point for water in the south of the island.
If you consume a lot of water, it makes sense to buy a water share. Due to climate change, water is becoming an important commodity and the amount is limited on the island. Therefore, one can assume that prices will rise. There are more than 1 million meters of drinking water tunnels underground in Tenerife. It is questionable whether this will be sufficient in the future.
Pipas, the water unit in Tenerife
From the main tank it is now forwarded to the consumer via a previously open channel system, but today mostly via steel pipes. That makes Canalero, a profession of its own and very important. The water is not sold by the liter, but by the time. The Canalero opens several gate valves to deliver the water to the respective customer via many detours and pipes and closes the gate valves after the calculated time. Billing is in pipas (1 pipa = 480 liters).
Of course, the customer needs a tank to store the water. That’s why you see so many tanks when you drive across the country. The water from the gallery is untreated and mostly pure. Nevertheless, the volcanic rock which it passes through can be enriched with a variety of different minerals, which very much determines the quality of the water and often pollutes it considerably.
The galleries also supply the water utilities that treat the water to make drinking water. It is then fed to the households via a pipe network, some of which is very outdated. The topic of drinking water will be discussed in a later article.