An Article by Bernie Power with The Voice Fuerteventura
If you were here at the end of February 2020 you will have seen our worst sand storm, or Calima as it is known locally, for over two decades.
What an unbelievable amount of Sahara dust! So much so that is even shut down some of the airports for a while. Finally when the sand did finally settle, which is managed to do everywhere! Everyone set about cleaning it up, but for some of us on the island….the water was off! When this happens it brings people to wonder where does the water on the island actually come from?
How does the water in Fuerteventura get to my tap?
When you consider we have no rivers or lakes here in Fuerteventura, the question ‘So how does it get to my tap?’ is one that is often asked. Since the arrival of Europeans to the island, the supply of water has been a major concern. As we are so close to the Sahara region (just 100 km’s away) we are affected by the same desertification and so rainfall has always been scarce. Many times droughts have occurred that halved the population so the islanders have had to invent ingenious ways to divert and store what little water they had. If you notice the terraces on the sides of some mountains, they are one of the ways in which farmers directed the water. There are also hundreds of wells or ‘aljibes’ all over the island and some are still functioning.
Aljibes And Wells
Most villages also still have a tank or reservoir that used to supply them and there are two large ones located in El Cotillo. They are just called Los Aljibes and can be found by the coast. They were even the site of a murder back in 1959, due to a dispute over access. Some of them are incredibly deep and all of them were made by hand and lined with stone, which must have been an enormous task.
The problem started to be solved when the desalination plant was opened in Puerto del Rosario in 1970. It was designed to clean seawater so that it could be used for domestic use. A year later the pipes reached Corralejo, but of course, then it was just a small fishing village. By 2000 the demand had massively increased and they decided to build their own plant. It was totally a private concern, and opened in 2009.
If you look out from the Corralejo port area, you will see the two turbines that are used to power the plant. It is one of the most modern and efficient plants around and uses the system of reverse osmosis to extract the salt from the sea water. This process purifies the water and allows it to be used for washing and irrigation etc. but leaves many minerals behind such as Magnesium, calcium, iron and even gold!
Can You Drink The Water?
If you drank the water these minerals would build up in you and eventually cause some tummy problems, so most people don´t drink it. Lots of people boil it to make tea or cook vegetables though, or brush their teeth without any side effects. Ice in bars is also safe to add to drinks as it is not made from local tap water, so you don’t need to worry about the excess minerals. Only bottled water is used in ice machines and many bars buy it in from specialist ice suppliers in bulk, all of which is made from frozen mineral water, so its safe to consume and shouldn’t upset your tum.
The electricity produced by the turbines (1.5 Mw) is sufficient to run the desalination plant and return 40 to 50% back to the grid in order to help power the town. The turbines are 45 metres high and the blade diameter is 52 metres. There are two more located just out of town. This is part of the local commitment to rely less on fossil fuels, as you can see from the yellow smoking chimneys of the power station as you approach Puerto del Rosario!
So those of us who live out in the countryside, don´t moan too much if the water gets cut off for a while, as the main resorts are full and using all the desalinated water, because many of us have been here a while and can still remember what it was like, waiting for the water tanker to arrive from the docks!