Water is vital to all life on this island. There are those who say the island has plenty of water available and others who say there is not enough.
Who knows? Gambling that there might be enough water is sheer lunacy. The problem apparently faced by Majorca is the excessive drain on water resources posed by the inhabitants and their economic necessity, tourism. Some years ago it was mooted that Majorca only had enough water to supply the tourist facilities or the farmers - but not both. We residents are now into the year Y2K and still do not know the extent of the water resources available on the island. There are hundreds of wells across Majorca but were they ever surveyed to establish the level of the water table? Has this level, if known, changed and changed beyond the normal annual variation? What is the sum of their practical, continuous outputs? When we arrived here from England in 1985 it was instructive to discover that, if you bought a house in the country, there was no mains water, no mains electricity (and no postal or newspaper deliveries either). Blocks of flats and houses had a cisterna (a static water tank) under them. Some cisternas are fed rain-water from the roof, when they then become alhebes. Cisternas/alhebes are topped up as necessary by water tankers - lorries carrying perhaps 13 tons of water to you from a local well. You provide the pump which provides the water pressure.

Living in the countryside with a cisterna, which you pay to have filled, makes you very conscious of the need to be very careful with water.
What needs to be done?

Baths and Showers:
Must be restricted to shallow and short and infrequent, with strip-washing filling the gaps. Shower heads can have a valve fitted to restrict the flow or to temporarily stop it altogether whilst soaping down. Shower head sprays can be concentrated or made smaller by blocking the outer ring or rings of holes with silicon sealant. The bath/shower drain can be diverted into an outside tank and this grey water kept for watering the garden.

The amount of water used per flush is usually adjustable - not by putting bricks or other bulky objects in the tank but by changing the water level in the tank by use of the adjusting screw fitted to the float valve. The recommended water level is normally marked inside the tank by the manufacturers. Lowering this level in an effort to save water can cause the toilet not to flush adequately, leading to the wasteful necessity of a second flush. On the island of Barbados some of the hotels had signs on the WCs which read In this land of sea and sun we don't pull for number one i.e. no flush for a pi-pi! WCs made by Roca used to have a flush knob that was lifted to start a flush and could then be pushed back down after a few seconds to stop it. This mini-flush disappeared from more modern versions but can be restored How? Turn off the water supply to the tank.

The knob is screwed onto a rod, so raise it enough to grasp the rod with a pair of pliers and unscrew the knob.
Remove the tank lid. Put it carefully to one side. Don't drop it! You'll probably see that the rod, when lifted up, lifts an arm that opens the flush valve. The rod passes through a hole in this arm. What you need to be able to do is to push the arm downwards again to stop the flush. So, measure the diameter of the rod. Obtain a tiny ring that will fit tightly onto the rod and yet is big enough to allow it to limit the rod's travel down through the arm. Fit the ring so that the rod protrudes through the tank lid and allows the knob to be fitted comfortably clear of the lid. Check this clearance by temporarily re-fitting the tank lid.

Turn on the water supply again.
Ensure the tank is full (to the correct mark or to your (try it) lowered level), lift the rod to start a flush and gently press it down again to stop the flushing. Adjust the position of the ring if required. When the ring is in the right place, re-fit the tank lid, screw on the knob and check the mini-flush again. Brief the family and guests.

Should not be used.

Automatic Washing machines:
Should not be used. Twin tubs use less water; washing by hand even less.

Most Majorcan country houses drain to a pozo negro (a black well). We had a 2-chamber septic tank built to English specifications (a 3-chamber is even better) and this feeds into the old pozo negro and on into French drains (trenches full of gravel). The nearby lemon tree is very happy. All the water we use is put back into Mallorca or evaporated.

Less water evaporates if you water those precious garden plants in the evening.
Wells: When a well is over-pumped the level drops so much that sea water enters. It is said that it can take some 15 to 20 years before the well can be used again as a fresh water supply. This has happened in the plain of Palma and in Port D'Andratx, to mention just one other site. It is no good drilling yet more wells down to a falling water table for at a certain depth sea water will surely infiltrate.

What Majorca must do and do quickly is limit the amount of water extracted from the (Alpine–fed) water table. This implies a restriction on the number of tourists or the irrigation of their crops by farmers or the size of the island's population. We, the residents, Majorcans and extranjeros alike, must face the fact that without drinking water some or many or all of us will simply have to live somewhere else. Water is as important as that.

De-salination plants of both main types are cash and energy hungry. Does Mallorca have enough electricity and money to produce enough surplusto-needs water to pour back down onto the fresh water table to keep the inland wells usable? Or, will all Majorca's habitable houses be connected to water mains?

The number of humans on this island, allowing for their activities, must NOT exceed the supply of water. No water, no life.

John Kitchen


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