Almería history

Iconic Ferris wheel surrounded by palm trees.

The article here on the La Voz de Almería site is the fifth in the series.

Read More for a Google translation of the article.

Almeria stories about landscape (V): The "government" of water

A series that aspires to intervene in the perception of geographical and territorial reality

Water management is an indicator of great narrative capacity about the vicissitudes of the human group in its geographical space: tell me how you get water and I will tell you who (and where) you are from.

 The history of Almería cannot be told without explaining how access to the liquid element has been resolved. In a Mediterranean area, with great contrast between the different stations, and in a geographical position that produces structural aridity, obtaining water for supply and irrigation is guiding the history of Almería, from the Thousand to the present day.


 A set of solutions have allowed the deployment of human life and the occupation of most of the territory. This technological range speaks of a situation of general water weakness, and of a great diversity of situations within the province. When rain occurs, sometimes torrentially, its potential destructive effects are mitigated by a passive device for terracing the slopes (VJ2). The surface runoff is used through the cisterns, a water system that includes the adaptation of the reception area, the channeling of the water, the sediment filter and the covered tank. The water that flows through the channels is captured for irrigation and fertilization of the land through the nozzles. A part of the water infiltrates the ground, when its geological conditions allow it. Sometimes it reappears in springs, around which a system of headwater ponds and ditches is organized that makes it possible to retain the water and distribute it throughout the farms.

Almería history

Cisterns tanks.

The irrigation ditches of Sierra Nevada constitute a singular use of great interest. Hydraulic mills are often located next to the ditches, which take advantage of the energy of the moving water. On the farms, reception rafts are also installed to manage the irrigation after each batch. Part of the infiltrated water remains underground, in aquifers, both carbonated (from the mountains) and detrital (under sedimentary soils, especially under the riverbeds). To extract the water, horizontal wells (mines, falsework, qanats) and vertical (wells in the strict sense) are arranged. In horizontals, the water moves by the force of gravity. In verticals, on the other hand, energy is needed to bring the water to the surface. This energy can be human (pole-pull), animal (norias) or wind (windmills).

An ecomuseum

The presence of all these solutions turns the province into an ecomuseum of traditional hydraulics. Much of these artifacts and devices are abandoned, in progressive deterioration. Comprehensive documentation and an inventory are urgently needed to maintain the territorial memory of this hydraulic history, and the selection of enclaves where its physical presence can be preserved, to intervene in them with a cultural landscape approach.

The hydraulic transition

This traditional hydraulics began to be overcome in the second half of the 19th century, filling the province with outstanding landmarks, such as the failed Isabel II reservoir (Níjar), the Cebollar intake gallery (Almanzora), the Canjáyar gorda canal, the Canal de San Indalecio (lower valley of the Andarax), the Cauce de la Buena Unión (Llanos de la Cañada and El Alquián), or the Canal de San Fernando (Adra), in addition to a multitude of projects and initiatives that did not see the light, for different causes. But it will be the motorization and electrification of the wells, first, and later the new drilling techniques used by the National Institute of Colonization, which will lead the transition to large hydraulics in the province, during the s. XX.

Almería history

Deep aquifer survey in Campo de Níjar (Photo: Ministry of Agriculture Media Library).

Threatened aquifer reserves due to prolonged extraction, the search for new resources begins, and this is where transfers, wastewater reuse and desalination come into play: large hydro is installed in a generalized way, dismantling artifacts in depth ways of acting and institutions characteristic of traditional hydraulics.

Next week, in Virado a Jibia, we will face the "great emptiness of the southeast", a geographic data of great importance to understand the position of the province and its strategic options.

Almería history

Spring pouring into a raft.