Facing the loss of water due to climate change and run off, the Sierra Nevada region of Spain is restoring a centuries-old system to collect more water. MemoLab is helping with the project.
Precipitation in the Mediterranean region comes in short, but plentiful bursts, which leads to much of the water running off into rivers or the sea. To capture more of that water, they are using an acequia, or a network of irrigation ditches, to collect more water.
The acequia, which was believed to be created more than a thousand years ago, begins at an altitude of 5,900 feet. It collects the water or melting snow and allows it to absorb into the land, replenishing aquifers below.
Aquifers are permeable rocks where water can be stored underground. They can serve as underground reservoirs for groundwater. The water in aquifers can be pumped in or out when needed. When the water in aquifers is low or gone, like a cell phone battery, it can take a long time to recharge and may never reach its full capacity.
“The system is efficient, the aquifers get replenished and no technology is required,” says Sergio Martos-Rosillo, a geologist involved in the project. He added that similar methods are under review in several Latin American countries and in California where current irrigation techniques are not sustainable.
According to Martos-Rosillo, the acequia method is "much more manageable and adaptable than building a dam and much more resistant to climate change."