Posted by: puebloman | July 31, 2013

Hill farming in southern Spain – how we get water

Dry Rio

This little river looks like a trout stream in winter, clean as a whistle, clear water over slate. Today its choked with canes and not a drop of water to be seen

Well, it’s July going into August – our hot “winter” when nothing can be planted and the trees and vegetables hunker down to survival routine. Due to the long tap roots of the muscat grape and mango, cutting up to 15 metres into crumbling pre-Cambrian shale, water can still be tapped so that the fruit can swell. It’s grafting time for mangoes now, because during grafting the temperature must never drop below 70 degrees F day or night. As I write, at 11pm,  it’s 82.5F (30C). But you’ve got to have water.

Water is the basis of everything here and without irrigation everything would drop dead within hours under the blistering sun. Shade is also important and this year I neglected to rig up shade sails. Consequently my local cherry tomatoes, which have given a bumper crop are now too weak to stand and have been burnt to a crisp.

As the year advances, my time is increasingly taken up getting water. As the weather hardens into July the earth becomes baked solid and weeding becomes impossible without water to pre soak the soil. I run black plastic 15mm piping from the water deposit next to my very steep land, up stream above the level of the deposit searching out those little puddles that are all that’s left of what in March looked like a cheerful little trout stream with pools and waterfalls.

The work is treacherous and difficult. The stream is fringed with big canes, called cañas in Spanish. They resemble huge bamboos but have nothing like the strength of a bamboo, quickly collapsing and disintegrating. Shiny and slippery, they are hard to traverse and the spikes of sliced  canes cut you like a knife.

The heavy rains at the turn of the year means that there is still some to be had now, but every other day I need to crawl up the cane choked river bed to encourage the pipes to keep producing.

A little spring in the rock to the right acts as a water source until August. I crawl up “stream” to find more.

At this time of year I have to collect as much water as I can in the big deposit at the bottom of the valley, then pump it up to the ridge where it is stored in a deposit. Then the cocks are opened and the trees can be watered by gravity.

Here is July’s water, running into the lower deposit. the three pipes together produce 5 litres per minute. That’s 300 litres per hour or 7200 litres per day or 50,400 litres per week. Wish us luck in August and rain in September!

Normal 5 litre flowWritten from  July 2013



  1. I’m always amazed how the ground can be so hard and sun-baked in the summer, but turns to “soup”, in some places, after the autumn rains 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: