After more than 20 years, posts here will now only be occasional (see why) for big events such as Tenerife Carnaval, so please "Like" and follow our Facebook Page because that's where to see future updates.

The Water In the Canary Islands

Galerías de agua

Years ago, on a trip to the Bananera Jardines del Atlantico - a park constructed from an old banana plantation in the Valle San Lorenzo in the south of Tenerife - I learned how water is obtained on this island via galerías (underground galleries) in the mountains, explained by the use of a working model of the island.

In an article from locally "adopted son", historian and University Professor, Manuel J. Lorenzo Perera, we learn a little more about this process of obtaining water from these underground sources, with photos of the gallery in the El Palmar valley in area of the aptly named Monte del Agua (Water Mountain). This is also the area that contains and you can visit, some of the island's only last remaining bits of ancient laurisilva (subtropical cloud forest endemic to the islands).

Many people, including locals, do not know that there are no rivers from which to obtain fresh water on these islands, nor do they know from where the water is obtained. Nobody explains that you shouldn't fill the bath, nor run the shower or tap for a long time, out of respect for this scarce and difficult to obtain resource.

Perera calls the water trade "Un negocio doblemente subterráneo" (A doubly underground business), given that it is where it physically takes place and the manner in which, in days of old, that it was managed. The two men pictured in the article are amongst those who had worked in this dangerous business, wading about in water with no boots, no safety equipment, no work contracts, no health or accident coverage and an atmosphere full of dangerous gasses.

Most of the galleries in Tenerife were opened during the 20th Century and are horizontal tunnels, orientated to extract what has always been a scarce and precious resource. The galleries vary in length, between 1,000 and 2,000 meters, which were excavated - with dynamite and hand tools - 3/4 of a meter, or a meter at most with an experienced worker, during the 8 to 12 hour working day. It wasn't until the 1950's, when any sort of mechanization was introduced.

For many young men in the area, working in these water mines was the only employment available to complement working the land for subsistence. It was an unknown world worked, in blood and sweat, in deplorable conditions, by these authentic hombres-topos (mole-men) down in the dark tunnels.

In those days, the water was not a matter for the local council either. Once it was excavated, it was channelled to a "trusted source" who then saw to distributing it, via private "shareholders", to the enclaves they considered convenient.

These labour conditions explain why throughout the history of the galleries, quite unsurprisingly, there have been numerous grave accidents: loss of limbs, partial or total loss of hearing from the blasts and even the death of some miners.

It is therefore unsurprising that when the gallery of El Carmen in Las Portelas in the El Palmar valley was first opened, a niche was constructed to the right-hand side of the entrance, in which was placed a small image of the Virgen del Carmen. Outside the gallery there is a rosebush and every day, the daughters of the miners would take roses to offer to the virgin, when they took food to their fathers, both to protect their ancestors and so we never lack the water of life.

El agua en Canarias. Un negocio doblemente subterráneo

Tenerife Land of Eternal Christmas

Sunbathing SantaDesert Island ChristmasScuba Diving SantaTropical Santa
Santa's Having a Whale of a TimeSurfing SantaWaterski SantaCamel Rodeo Santa
With a wide range of products in each design, click the pics (above) to see the full selections.