HEADING FOR THE HILLS
we have not had a decent downpour here since July and it is deeply troubling IT IS 14 YEARS NOW SINCE THE BARCELONA WATER EMERGENCY, WHEN WATER WAS IMPORTED FROM FRANCE
Thousands have lived without love, not one without water. – British American poet W H Auden.
The skies will open now that I have written these words. How I wish. Please may it rain solidly for weeks on end, now and through the winter.
The farm’s normally reliable well has run dry and we have had to patch together pipes and cables to the spring high up the land to keep the flow going. The water diviner is coming next week. We will search for water somewhere else on the land and try to carry on. Incredibly, the olive trees and the vines are not succumbing, but the arbequina olives are small and the yield will be poor.
While clouds have burst just over the mountain down on the coast at Tarragona and in the nearby city of Reus and adjoining farms, communities – so near and yet so far and still nowhere near enough – we have not had a decent downpour here since July and it is deeply troubling. We see the grey smudge of torrent beneath distant iron clouds, but moisture has for the most part evaded us in our little valley.
We headed to the UK in our work van in mid-October to visit olive oil customers, family etc., and happily returned home from that fractured and dysfunctional island (don’t get me started) via the ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao. Back in Iberia we headed for Zaragoza and then south through Aragon to Caspe, past tractors trailed by plumes of dust as they harrowed the parched terrain. We dropped down through tinder woodland to cross the mighty Mequinenza reservoir also known as Mar de Aragon, which has a coast-line of more than 500 kilometres after the Ebre was dammed in 1965. It was virtually empty.
The recurring and deepening Iberian drought plight is no secret. Reservoirs have been at their lowest levels since 1995 and almost 20 percent below the average for the past 10 years. The stubborn cornerstones of homes and streets of drowned farms and villages rise from the dead. It is 14 years now since the Barcelona water emergency, when water was imported from France. That crisis was compounded by a fierce drought in 2005 because the rivers and reservoirs had not recovered anywhere near enough to sustain the city through another emergency.
So we look to the skies every day. We struggle through somehow and try and fail not to think the unthinkable. It will take so much for the rivers and lakes to replenish. Heaven forbid that 2023 is equally arid.
Daily I descend the long ladder into the shaft of the spring to check the solar pump and the level of the water. It is nearly a year now since it was high enough to reach the exit pipe through which it can flow naturally down to the bassa and farmhouse. So a new well it will have to be. Unless, I hope, my words and worries have been washed away by the time you are reading this.
I am not holding my breath.