Water is a scarce commodity across the island of Tenerife. Due to it’s varied topography and location, depending on where you are in Tenerife, you’ll find yourself in a unique microclimate unlike anywhere else on the island. Should you traverse the caldera that borders us and climb up and over the epic volcano Teide, you would find yourself in an almost otherworldly pocket of green.
Average rainfall sits within a meagre 11mm-30mm range for much of the year, which means water catchments are almost null and void. Of course, this amount varies depending on which microclimate you’re in. As a result, 70% of Tenerife’s drinking water comes from desalination plants.
Alternatively, facing toward the Sahara where we are, renders us in a much more barren landscape. Flora and fauna are minimal, yet well adapted - which means we need to be too!
Two of the main ways that we literally squeeze every last drop out of our water supply is through blackwater (sewerage) and greywater (water from kitchen sinks, showers and the washing machine).
We have to be careful what products we put down our kitchen sink, use on our bodies or in our manual washing machine - as all of this water flows out into our grey water channel which then feeds part of our garden. We use natural methods to help filter this water, such as added sediment, pebbles and papyrus.
The same rule applies for our toilets, although it goes through a much more rigorous clarification process. We don’t use any harsh chemicals and let nature do all the hard work for us! So what does that look like?
It’s done through various biofilters. Firstly, we make sure all the liquids and solids are separated by using a bubbler that oxygenates the water. Next, liquids flow into the biofilter basin which works as a hydroponic pond (gravel, water, plants but no soil). Here it remains for 2-3 days, where the gravel helps to trap tiny particles and the papyrus removes chemical compounds. The water is oxygenated for a second time on its way to the second basin. It works on the same principle as the first, but as it is also home for some of our tortoises, it’s more turtle-friendly. This means more open space, diverse plants and shady parts for the turtles to hide from the sun.
The second basin works as a biofilter on the first half, and an open water pond for the tortoises to swim on the second half. The water stays another 2-3 days in the filter part, so it will be properly filtered when it enters the turtle pond. In the last step, the water flows from the turtle pond to the garden and can then be used to grow animal food!
With a total of 6 solar panels, we manage to soak up enough of those spectacular sun rays to power 10 or so laptops, 40-50 mobile phones, power banks, 3 fridges, AND have warm showers. However, we don’t have quite enough for any luxuries like blenders, microwaves or hairdryers.
Generally, power is on from 9am and switches off at 11pm, unless it runs out beforehand. This isn’t very common, as most days on the East facing side of the island where we’re located are warm and sunny year-round – with minimal cloud cover.
On the rare occasion that it is cloudy or rains, we don’t have enough energy stored up from the day before to power us for another full day of work. While we can do without the extras, one thing essential for the running of the rescue is our office team and all of their devices.
We do get visitors that are generous in bringing us supplies or cash donations. But the reality of our modern world is that the majority of our income comes from people in places all over the world. We wouldn’t be able to function without these donations, and the only way that we are able to get them in the first place is because we use social media to connect with people and share our story. Without our YouTube following, Facebook or Instagram supporters or followers on TikTok, it’s unlikely that we could maintain THR as it stands today.
While we have a generator as backup, we cross our fingers for sun – so we can live harmoniously within the natural environment and take advantage of what we’ve already got in spades.