If water does not reach the medians of Tenerife urgently, the agricultural catastrophe in the Island’s countryside is as certain as it is imminent. A cry of the drought that launches in a forceful way Romeo Rodríguez Herrera, winegrower with vineyards in four municipalities of the Northeast region: The lagoon. Tegueste, Tacoronte and El Sauzal. This first-person testimony from the field reflects that «The capacity of the ponds in this area is currently zero.». The producer adds that «All the Balten (Balsas de Tenerife) tanks to supply water to this area are currently empty». A drought that, he emphasizes, “is not from now, from the last few months, not even because of this unusual heat, but rather recurring for more than a decade and we have publicly denounced it for at least three years ago.”
Rodríguez understands that there is also “little transparency of the public administrations about what happens to the irrigation water. He believes in this sense that «We lack information, both producers and society in general“and clarifies that “the figure of 13% capacity of the ponds on the Island will be true, but in this area it is currently zero.”
“Communications and demands to public officials have been frequent throughout these years,” explains Rodríguez. He adds that “In the last three the situation has worsened with continuous and frequent water cuts or modulations in crops located at levels higher than 200 meters above sea level». He emphasizes in this regard that “this has not served to study and seek urgent and priority solutions to a problem that has been seen coming for a long time.”
Romeo invites you to “check the state of the ponds that provide water to our region, Valle Molina and El Boquerón, a reality of absolute drought that is extendable to the rest of the Island.” Regarding the pumping from the Northeast Wastewater Station (WWTP), in Valle de Guerra (La Laguna) to the Valle Molina Reservoir, “barely any water has risen,” he assesses. Furthermore, “almost all of it is consumed in the networks of crops located at the level below the location of the plant.” Despite this, he indicates that “we are very happy with the management of the WWTP and the quality of the water it injects into the Balten network for the coastal area, up to 200 meters of altitude.” The Northeast WWTP is a wastewater treatment and regenerator in the Region that uses the latest membrane technology (MBR) to remove all solids from the water through an ultrafiltration system and then an EDR system to lower the conductivity of the water to about 650 microsiemens approximately. Balten is in charge of distributing this regenerated water to farmers in the area. It is estimated that currently around 4,000-4,500 cubic meters of water per day reach the treatment plant and all of it is regenerated for agricultural use. The brine rejection percentage is approximately 15%.
Regarding the pumping from the El Boquerón pond to the Fray Diego reservoir, in Tacoronte, Rodríguez clarifies: «It is carried out at very specific and sporadic times, it does not cover the needs of the crops in that high area of Valle de Guerra. and the loss of Tacoronte,” he summarizes. He considers that “this lack of water in the area translates into a decrease in the presence of farmers on weekends at the Market.”
Regarding the water received by the El Boquerón pond, the winegrower explains, “most of it comes from the Santa Cruz treatment plant, through The Board». Romeo points out that “in addition to being less than 1,000 m3/day (2,000 pipes), its agronomic quality is very poor” with an Electrical Conductivity (EC) around 2,000, “practically salty.” Water with excess salts harms the crop and destroys fertile soil.
Romeo Rodríguez also gives his opinion on the possible solution suggested by the Primary Sector advisor of the Cabildo de Tenerife, Valentín. Gonzalez: put the El Chorrillo Desalination Plant into operation in Santa Cruz. He indicates that “we are not told the volume of water to be treated nor what we will have available for the agricultural sector.” Nor, he adds, “the agronomic quality parameters resulting from said treatment.” And finally, “given this growing water shortage, what is the expected date to have this water available in our region?”
The farmer analyzes the three adverse factors indicated by the administrations as fundamental to explaining the water crisis in the Tenerife countryside. First of all, the weather, that is, the strong heat. He points out that “they use it in communications, and then remain inactive, without providing solutions.” Regarding the August fire, “just 1.5 cubic meters of water is what each helicopter transported, with the exception of the Kamov, whose volume is 4.5.” Furthermore, “they were fed from ponds on private farms because the Balten ponds barely had enough water height to not compromise the safety of refueling.”
Regarding the inoperability of two ponds –Montaña de Taco and Benijos–, due to the change of waterproofing canvas, he assesses: “Perhaps it would have been more effective to choose the forecast date and accelerate the execution time.”
Romeo emphasizes: “The data regarding the water accumulated in the North Balsas are erroneous and are corroborated by the photos.” He insists that “they are all empty or with just a sheet of water covering the mud, which makes their distribution through the networks unfeasible due to the high concentration of suspended material that would be dragged.”
The Tenerife farmer maintains that “the cultivated area in the region has been decreasing in recent years, as can be seen from the data on the Crop Map.” For this reason, he interprets that “this 23.5% increase in the demand for water in Balten that is proposed, may be motivated not so much by the increase in temperatures, but by the excellent quality of water from the WWTP,
Romeo explains: “The lack of water is greatly manifested in farmers who cultivate at altitudes higher than 200 meters.” That is, “the midlands of our region and the rest of the Island that suffer and have suffered for years from the lack of water to guarantee the development of the complete cycle of their crops.”
Rodríguez reflects: “The cuts and restrictions in the supply of Balten have been a constant for the last three years and there is no promising future in sight.” He is critical: «The lack of solutions is normalized by public managers, without proposing urgent and effective actions when there is no water. “We do not know the decrease in the flow and quality of water in wells and galleries, much of it directed at human consumption.” Furthermore, he highlights “the lack of knowledge and social awareness, regarding the reality regarding the need for water on our islands.” That is why he requests “fixed campaigns that reach citizens to take care of and ensure that our water is taken care of because they even put grass on the tram.”
Runoff, management, discharges…
Romeo Rodríguez asks himself a series of questions out loud about water-related issues. For example, about the runoff from the Vega Lagunera or the Las Mercedes Valley, two of the areas with the highest rainfall on the Island, since “3 winters have passed without being able to channel the water from the Barranco de Santos to Valle Molina and El Boquerón , due to the breakage of the pipeline in La Higuerita. On the other hand, he demands “an audit of water management in the municipalities”, since in his opinion “the enormous loss, greater than 50% (up to 62%), in the distribution networks is normalized” .
What happens with private supply and channeling networks is also questioned; proposes “an island management to permanently lease white water (from wells and galleries) capable of maintaining the ponds at minimum levels of 50%.” He also appeals to the institutional response, “with reasoning and arguments”, to the continuous statements of engineer Carlos Soler in which he warns that “the current water management formula is wrong.”
Finally, he wants to know “how much water is poured into the sea without treatment.” He recalls that Juan Rumeu, president of the Canarian Association of Environmental Consultants, assured that in Tenerife millions of cubic meters a day of untreated water are lost in controlled discharges, without taking into account those that are not controlled.