by Kelsey Brandt
We walked on a very straight, flat road almost the whole day, with farms on both sides. Crops of different varieties were just beginning to sprout. On either side of the road ran irrigation channels providing water for these plants to grow. As I’m studying to be a civil engineer with a focus on water resources, these particularly piqued my nerdy interest. I was surprised to see such a system still in use, since the channels have obviously been in place for quite a while. Although the channels are beautiful and provided a nice backdrop to our walking, completely open irrigation channels are one of the least efficient ways to provide irrigation since the water is very susceptible to evaporation, especially here where the sun is strong. Southern Spain is experiencing a water shortage similar to what’s happening in the southwest US, and as I walked I found myself dreaming big about how I could help ease their water crisis if I could implement an irrigation system that covered the water and reduced evaporation losses. However, it is a difficult balance between historical tradition and new technologies. Those channels have been there for years and are a part of the farming culture of Spain. Someday I hope to be able to study Spain’s water system in depth, including why their water towers are cone shaped and how their water is treated to be even better than water in the US, and to ultimately be a part of finding the balance between tradition and technology so that Spain can continue to have clean water without sacrificing its history. For now though, I just hope tomorrow brings less blisters and more engineering!