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The First Rain Of Autumn


The people in Mallorca are pretty clever. They certainly used to be clever.

Mallorcans were particularly clever in matters of survival, like for instance water. Water is essential for washing, cooking, drinking, for domestic animals and for crops and vegetables to eat. That’s why houses had cisternas (water tanks) to store enough water for a dry spell. And there were – and still are – lots of dry spells in Mallorca, as you all know. You will not find a single dwelling on the whole island that was built before 1970 that would not have its own cisterna or algibe.

The ceramic device shown here forms part of the system by which rainwater would be collected to be stored in those cisterns. The first rain water of the autumn, however, would be diverted away from the cistern. The hot and dry Summer would cause lots of dust and dirt to accumulate on top of the roof, dust and dirt that was not wanted for a supply of clean water. The first autumn rains would be used to wash the roof tiles clean as well as terrasses and patios, such as the heavy rainfall that we had these last few days. Only later rains would be diverted into the cistern, by unblocking the opening provided inside the devise shown.

The median rainfall per year used to average out at about 135 litres per square metre of roof space in Mallorca. That figure may have fluctuated over the last twenty years or so, as far as I can tell. There is less rain throughout the year now, it would seem, but when it rains, more of it comes down than in the old days.

Nowadays, most townhouses are connected to mains water, and so are quite a few small holdings in the countryside. But most Mallorcan friends of ours insist on collecting their own rainwater for its quality and for its purity. Rainwater is softer than water from underground wells or from the tap. But water from the first autumn rain is never used, ever.

The photo was taken near Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: August 13th, 2009. The time was 17:57:54.

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September 2009


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