Dealing with a lack of water for irrigation and consumption restrictions in Tenerife amidst plans for a new city and additional hotels

The motion proposed by the Canarian Coalition (CC) and their government ally, the PP, was approved on the last Friday during the full session of the Tenerife Cabildo. This motion urges the Insular Water Council to start the process of declaring a water emergency on the island. The approval of this motion did not come without incident as two activists disrupted the session, questioning the decision to declare a water emergency while simultaneously promoting the construction of more hotels on the island, such as the Cradle of the Soul tourist project (comprising a hotel and over 400 luxury villas in a pristine area in the south of the island) and the La Tejita hotel, without implementing any measures to control water usage in the tourism sector.

Commencement of proceedings for declaring a water emergency endorsed by Tenerife



Tenerife declares water emergency



The declaration of a water emergency, as outlined in the approved document, is justified by technical data underscoring “the impact of warm thermal anomalies and the deficient rainfall in recent years on the island.” The document also references findings from Balten, a company affiliated with the Cabildo, highlighting the ongoing “severe and prolonged drought in the central areas” of the island.

The motion presented by CC and PP states that precipitation levels have dropped by 15 to 40% across all monitored stations, while evapotranspiration has notably increased in the central regions by 10 to 25%. These changes are closely linked to rising average temperatures and heightened solar radiation, resulting in decreased water supply for agriculture due to reduced precipitation by about 15 to 30%.

By February 1, 2024, both parties reported that the storage capacity of Balten reservoirs stood at 34.6%, significantly lower compared to the previous year’s 52%, despite a considerable portion of the usual rainy season having passed.

The stated goal of the declaration, backed by CC and PP, is to “ensure, as the warmer months approach, a sufficient flow to sustain agricultural production and safeguard essential sanitary and domestic water use.” To achieve this, the council has identified 34 urgent projects and initiatives. These include ramping up desalination and water recycling in various parts of the island, including the capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, and the southern region. Notably, none of the proposed measures affect the tourism industry.

Following the vote, two female spectators interrupted the plenary session, condemning the politicians for irresponsibly endorsing the emergency declaration without considering the implications for the hospitality sector. They highlighted that each tourist consumes approximately six times more water than a resident, yet the motion failed to address any measures impacting tourism. Criticising the relentless growth model that is destroying the islands, they urged the Canarians to halt this destructive path, prompting an agitated response from island president, Rosa Dávila, who demanded their removal as they were out of turn to speak. Subsequently, the activists were ejected from the session, leading to a temporary break.

Social Media Reactions

Moments after the incident, social media platforms were abuzz with reactions mostly favouring the sentiments expressed by the two individuals.

Imposed Water Restrictions

Presently, two municipalities on the island have reported limitations on water usage for their residents: starting with Fasnia, which has under 3,000 inhabitants (INE, 2023), and devoid of a significant tourism presence.

Arico, with over 8,300 registered inhabitants (INE, 2023), is a non-tourist municipality. The restrictions imposed apply solely to citizens: the use of private swimming pools, tanks, and ponds is prohibited, as well as cleaning facades, washing cars, using drinking water for irrigation, and beach showers.

Population Growth and Tourism

Tenerife is also looking to establish a new city in the south of the island, in the touristic area of Arona, with one million square meters designated for tourist, urban, and commercial purposes. The development, known as El Mojón, includes plans for new hotels, residential complexes, leisure areas, and a venue called Arona Arena. The City Council approved this project, except for Nueva Canarias who expressed concerns about potential traffic issues on the nearby highway.

Moreover, the capital city of the island is expanding towards the south with the “largest urban project” in Spain, covering 576,000 square meters of land previously occupied by the Cepsa refinery, known as Santa Cruz Verde 2030. This development is expected to lead to gentrification and increased tourism in Tenerife, according to a study by Urban Planning expert Marcus Hübscher.

Recently, the mayor of Santa Cruz, José Manuel Bermúdez (CC), announced plans to construct a new hotel with around 500 rooms near Las Teresitas beach, where such accommodations are currently lacking.

Tenerife’s population has grown to nearly one million residents in 2023, with significant increases in the south and tourist regions. Adeje and Arona have experienced substantial population growth, becoming key tourist hubs on the island.

In addition to local residents, foreign tourists have also contributed to the island’s economy, with nearly 6 million visitors in 2023. The Canary Islands welcomed a total of 14.1 million foreign tourists last year, marking one of the highest figures in its history.

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