When I discovered the enormous possibilities of hydrolates and their many important properties (see Hydrolates, a luxury by-product), I came to the conclusion that the water used in distillations was of vital importance. If I was thinking about marketing the hydrolates as moisturisers with therapeutic properties, I was going to have to pay special attention to the quality of the water and where it came from.
In this way I chose to learn about the best natural springs of the Empordà and other districts nearby. Most can be easily found on maps and in guide books, although many of them have fallen into disuse, either abandoned or covered over with shrubbery. Only the inhabitants of each respective place really know where they are, but they will not always willingly say it.
This search for ideal water (in my cinematographic mind, like the search for the Holy Grail) has given me wonderful excuses to take my children on trips to discover beautiful, far-off nooks and crannies, turning our family outings into authentically adventurous expeditions.
On the lower plains, runoff from animal faeces has ruined many water resources, and few people now dare to drink from local fountains. Not even in towns where you have local drinking water can you really trust it, and many town halls have to regularly analyse what is churning through their pipes to test for nitrate levels. The problem has become especially dire, and it is getting worse and worse as years go by. There are certain organizations, like Salvem l’Empordà de Purins [Save the Empordà from Slurry], who are fighting to regulate the introduction of new pig farms and create purification systems for water reserves. But this is not easy. For the farmers, investing in pork production will always pay off, since they can get maximum results from a minimum surface area. Once again, economic and personal interests find themselves in conflict with commonly shared concerns and environmental conservation.
In the mountains, however, things are different. L’Albera, Serra de Tramuntana, Bassegoda, Les Salines, Mare de Déu del Mont and many others still have good water quality, and while in most cases the natural founts and springs do not have as much flow as they used to, they still have quality water, rich in minerals and free from animal residues and other pollutants.
It was only later that I learnt that, once distilled, water is stripped of everything that formerly came with it, such as minerals, metals and nitrates, so that it makes little difference if it comes from a natural spring or my tap at home. I also came to understand many other things related to water that I will explain later.
Even so, the fuse had been ignited. Our outings had been so pleasant that I decided to continue to look for natural springs as an excuse to continue visiting new, unknown parts of our landscape. The same happened when we found a book on the most majestic trees in the region. You do not really need a reason to go for an outing or get out of the house for a walk. Quite often I enjoy doing it without having a clear idea where I am going, although certain kinds of incentives help to make outdoor experiences more entertaining and exciting.