We are grateful to Katherine Berry for taking the time to translate and summarise a 244 page report on Ibiza’s water crisis. Katherine is described by Sandra Bebeniste, Director of the then IPF, as becoming the most knowledgeable person on issues relating to Ibiza’s water supply, so we think it fair to say she knows her subject well.
Ibiza’s Water Crisis
- Katherine Berry, local acupuncturist and IPF Volunteer.
Ibiza’s Rain is Like a Drop in the Ocean
While the recent wet weather has replenished water levels in Ibiza’s underground water reservoirs (aquifers) from 23% to 52%, it’s important to note that these measures don’t take into account water quality, just quantity.
A study funded by the IPF and released in July revealed that the foremost issue is that no one knows the scale of the problem because Ibiza’s water data sources are segmented. There is no clear picture of Ibiza’s entire water cycle as a whole.
In short, the problem could be worse than we think. Currently, five of the 16 aquifers are perilously close to irreversible depletion. When the water level drops, a shift in hydraulic pressure allows salty seawater to seep in. Pollution from encroaching seawater is the greatest threat to the exploited aquifers. There is no point measuring volume when what you’re measuring is brine!
Water scarcity is an on going issue for Ibiza and requires drastic changes to water consumption and long-term water sustainability planning.
Ibiza is unique in that it has no surface water reserves (lakes and dams) and is solely reliant on its aquifers and water produced by its two working desalination plants.
In the absence of a coordinated storm-water system, most rainwater is washed out to sea – often collecting untreated sewerage water on its way. Squandering rainwater is a travesty for an island declared on ‘drought alert’.
The Balearic Government has already initiated drought management plans under a new emergency drought law, announced in September. This includes water conservation policies such as a suspension of licenses for new wells and making water providers, including truck water, use desalinated water.
Sandra Bebeniste, Director of the Ibiza Preservation Fund (IPF) said: “These emergency measures will be reviewed in 6 months, so we need the different stakeholders involved in water consumption and management to agree on long term sustainability measures.”
The 224-page report details an analysis of water management and 10 proposals to Government to improve its management, summarised in the table below.
|1. The aquifer that supplies Platja d’en Bossa, Sant Josep and Cala Tarida is at a perilously low level with encroachment from seawater. By declaring it over-exploited, a cascade of legal measures are set in place under the Hydrological Plan of the Balearic Islands (2015) to ensure its recovery. It is narrowly considered “deteriorated but reversible”.||Declare overexploited the aquifers of Serra Grossa|
|2. Once Serra Grossa is declared unusable (as above), the network will need to be supplied with ancillary water.||Prioritize connections of desalinated water to the South West of Ibiza|
|3. Because of over-use there is a low water level in the Serra Grossa, Sant Antoni and Es Canar aquifers. Hydraulic pressure has dropped allowing the permeation of seawater. The water level needs to be replenished artificially.||Infiltrate desalinated water in strategic aquifers: Serra Grossa, Sant Antoni and Es Canar|
|4. The wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) in Platja d’en Bossa, Vila and Portinatx are substandard to the criteria of the Water Framework Directive. The water output of these plants indicates that wastewater treatment is insufficient. In a storm, treatment plants divert untreated sewerage out to sea.||Separation of rainwater from sanitation (sewage) networks|
|5. Salt is Ibiza’s greatest pollutant. Seawater is not only leaking into the aquifers, it is getting in to the sewerage system where sewage pipes are below the water table and are not watertight. For example in Vila, where part of the network is close to the sea, basements, warehouses and car parks are below sea-level. To keep the space dry, pumps divert the marine or brackish water to the sewage system. In addition, some hotels and establishment have installed illegal desalination plants and discard the salty brine directly into the sewerage system, undetected.||Prevent the entry of brackish or marine water to sewage systems|
|6. Talamanca Bay has two emissaries; sewerage waste water from Vila WWTP and brine from the desalination plant of Ibiza town. Maintaining these two networks is inefficient. The Vila sewerage pipe is frequently broken by dragging anchor chains, allowing wastewater to be discharged too shallow and closer to shore.||Unify marine emissaries of treated wastewater water and brine in Talamanca Bay|
|7. Reclaimed or ‘recycled’ water is wastewater sufficiently treated in the WWTPs so that is usable for watering gardens or cleaning streets. Inefficiencies in the WWTP, rainwater infiltration and high levels of salt in the sewerage system have challenged water-recycling programs. Ibiza needs to address this salt issue and invest in water reclamation systems.||Clean water resource use|
|8. No one knows how much water is leaking from the pipe networks. There are losses in the extraction of water from wells, in its general and domestic distribution and in the sewage network back to the treatment plant. While water meters are obligatory, they are not enforced or monitored. Calculations are done simply by comparing billed water in relation to extracted volume – however there is no agreed relationship between volume and cost. Replacing old pipes and poor connections are examples of infrastructure changes that need to take place at a municipal level. Detecting losses also needs to occur in domestic, recreational, agricultural and industrial settings.||Reduction of losses|
|9. A multifaceted approach needs to take place to generate cultural changes in water use. Join the IPF mailing list to get involved and for more information.||Water saving campaigns|
|10. Ibiza has limited resources that are being depleted with little consideration of regeneration and sustainability. The “carrying capacity” needs to be measured taking into account resident population growth and increased demands from tourism.||Sustainable land occupation or continuous growth|
For more information