Sometimes the fact that the island is surrounded by the sea makes us forget that water on Mallorca is a very precious resource that is in increasingly short supply.
It was in the summer of 2016 when a water shortage emergency was declared on Mallorca that it finally became obvious: the island’s water supplies are limited.
During that summer, water reserves became so scarce that some regions on Mallorca had to be supplied with drinking water by road tanker. Beach showers and water fountains were turned off, and home owners were banned from watering their gardens or filling their pools with drinking water.
However, this problem is in no way unusual for Mallorca. In the mid 1990s, diminishing reserves meant that the island had to be supplied with drinking water from the mainland.
Climate change, an ever-growing number of tourists, and current developments such as the number of swiming pools being constructed on private property all mean that the situation is getting gradually worse.
In the meantime, no year passes without people keeping an anxious watch on the island’s drinking water reserves, which are generally stretched to the limit by late summer, even with active seawater desalination plants.
Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go before all the options in the fight against water shortages on Mallorca are exhausted. The careful and considerate use of valuable water resources by the island’s inhabitants and property owners can help to make a positive contribution.
Before we give you our tips and recommendations on how to conserve drinking water, we should have a look at how Mallorca’s water supplies are managed and why conventional measures on their own are insufficient.
There are three methods for extracting and producing drinking water on Mallorca:
All three methods have their weaknesses.
Little or no rainfall during the winter has a negative impact on the amount of water in the reservoirs. In the summer of 2016 for example, water levels in the Embalse de Cúber were so low that it was almost completely dry.
Extracting water from deep wells means there is an impending threat of groundwater salination, because when groundwater levels sink too far, salt water from the sea will seep in to replace it.
The sea water desalination plants in Palma, Alcudia and Andraxt cannot produce an endless supply of water to make up for low reserves. Furthermore, the disposal of the resulting brine is a controversial environmental issue.
So far there has been little discussion on Mallorca about a more environmentally aware use of water.
After all, apart from climate change, the water shortages are mainly a consequence of increasing tourism and the often thoughtless way that individuals consume valuable drinking water.
In the summer months in particular, the millions of tourists who flood the island cause its water reserves to become depleted. Iván Murray from the Balearic University calculated that the average tourist consumes 440 liters of water, three times more than the island’s inhabitants.
Furthermore, there is an ever-increasing number of swimming pools on Mallorca, which leads inevitably to increased surface evaporation. On Mallorca alone, 3.2 billion liters of water evaporate per year, according to a recent study carried out by the Balearic University, which based its calculations on data from 2016
So what can environmentally aware inhabitants and property owners actually do to ensure that the water shortages do not become worse, without having to go without all of life’s comforts?
We have a few tips for you.
One option is for owners to collect as much of the rainfall on their property as possible and store it in water tanks. When treated accordingly it can be used, for example, to water the garden or to top up the domestic swimming pool, and therefore counterbalance the effect of natural evaporation.
An additional measure would be to re-use so-called grey water, which is household waste water that originates from hand basins, or the bath or shower. For example, treated grey water can be used for flushing toilets or watering the garden.
In fact, in the garden there is an even easier way to save water – by simply choosing the right plants! All plants that are native to Mallorca can cope quite happily with its climate and the natural environment, without having to be given extra water.
But ultimately, being careful with natural resources begins in in our own minds. By simply being aware of how wasteful we are with such a precious resource as water, we can find many ways where each of us as individuals can save water – whether it means using water-saving household appliances or spending less time under the shower.
Water shortages will continue to be a recurring issue on Mallorca. One of the main reasons is human behaviour, in other words it is our own often careless use of one of nature’s precious resources. If we can become more aware of how we waste water and what we could do to save resources, each and every one of us can make a contribution in the fight against water shortages and help to protect Mallorca’s natural environment.
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