chapter  22
10 Pages

The Canary Islands

WithE. Custodio & M.C. Cabrera

ABSTRACT: The volcanic Canary Islands, in the Atlantic Ocean, have the characteristics of small islands in an environment varying from sub-humid to arid, and quite different from one island to another and even within the same island. These conditions produce specific water availability circumstances to be solved in each of the islands, through island Water Councils. The two most important islands, Gran Canaria and Tenerife contain about 90% of the 2 million inhabitants. Intensive groundwater exploitation for more than a century, and especially in the last half century, has produced a deep change in groundwater flow, the drying up of springs and the depletion of aquifer reserves. This has given rise to a special culture of water winning and use. To solve water problems the progressive and decisive introduction of seawater and brackish water desalination has been a key element, and more recently of reclaimed wastewater, although gradually. This forms a complex system that includes private water markets and public water offers. About 50% of water is for irrigation, at prices that occasionally may reach or exceed 1 €/m3. The up to now unsustainable situation has had the benefit of allowing the economic and social development from an agriculture-based economy toward tourism and services. Currently it is evolving toward a more balanced economy but with high water costs and some environmental, although bearable, damage.