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Environment: Fountain of San Rafael

If you prefer bottled water here's the inside track on where smart locals and savvy island visitors go to get their water.

The Fountain in Sant Rafel

The beautiful little island of Ibiza, blessed with so much, does not escape the global issue of water need, quality and management.

Ibiza is blessed with a rugged terrain consisting of permeable limestone mountains. This permeability supports the formation of massive underground aquifers (permeable rock from which water can be extracted) that are fed by a vast underground river running under the sea from the Pyrenees as well as by annual rainfall. Traditionally and until recently all water on the island has been supplied by wells, natural springs and catchments built for rainwater.

The demands of an increasing population and a large seasonal influx of tourists have necessitated two modern additions to the water supply, de-salination plants and wastewater treatment plants both of which reduce the stress on the aquifers. However, not everyone is keen on the de-salinated water.

Hard water, or water containing lime, which much of the water available on Ibiza is, is actually healthy for us to drink as it contains calcium and magnesium. Nonetheless, for those not used to it, it can taste unusual. The solution for most tourists and many locals is to buy bottled water. Most people buy imported water because they do not know that there is a delicious, cheap local option.

If you are staying on the island for more than a couple of weeks much money and plastic waste can be saved by visiting the community fountain in Sant Rafel or by having them deliver water to your door.

The Aquifer Sant Rafel is a family run business. The family had a voluminous spring on their land that offered particularly clean, light in lime and good tasting water. At first, the water was offered up to friends and neighbours, but then, as the owner puts it, the demand became so great that he could have stood there all day with a garden hose in his hand! So, twenty years ago they installed pay stations for individuals to re-fill their own bottles. Then, it was 5 centimos for 100 L but nowadays customers pay 2 Euros for 50L. If you fill less, you pay less. Bottled water coming from the mainland costs on average, depending on the brand between 1 and 5 Euros for 5 litres.

The Aquifer, though a private business, is monitored by the government and also subject to a ration. People come from all over the island for the Sant Rafel water. Some people use the spring for their fish tanks, as their tap water and well water are not suitable. Mostly it is used as drinking water. The fountain is busiest on the weekends when it is not unusual to see line-ups all weekend both summer and out of season as well.

The water comes from the aquifer deep in the Sant Rafel Mountain. The water flows through six massive ‘decanters', at each station the water is left to settle and the sediment is released until it makes its way, sediment free to us. The water is filtered and monitored to make sure it is in accordance with government regulations but it is not treated. Nothing is added.

I interviewed numerous people at the fountain. All claimed to prefer the flavour to their home tap water, thought they were contributing to conservation efforts by re-using plastic water bottles and appreciated the cost savings. The customers I interviewed came from near and far: San Antonio, Sant Rafel and near San Joan.

Directions - Sant Rafael

The Fuente Jara can be reached on the Ibiza- San Antonio road. It is directly beside the Repsol petrol station at Sant Rafael. Before the tunnel, take the exit to San Rafael and straight on you'll find the petrol station and Fuente Jara next to it. (Google Maps Ref.)

The fountain is self-serve and is open 24 hours a day but the office keeps normal business hours.

Contact: / +34 971 198 445 Ibiza-San Antonio road KM 7.2 07816 Sant Rafael, Ibiza

There are also other filling stations on Ibiza, for example on the main road from Ibiza Town to Santa Eulalia (Pozo Can Guasch, Google Map Ref.) and in San José (Google Map Ref.).

So, grab your empty plastic bottles and head down to the ‘Fuente' for a delicious, cost effective, environmentally friendly alternative!

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