Keywords: aquifer, Canary Islands, co-evolution, conflict, environmental valuation, institutional economics, power, precautionary principle, social processes, water
Social processes, values and interests: environmental valuation of groundwater in the Tenerife (Canary Islands) case
We discuss the recent institutional history of water resources governance in Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, as a case of a real social process of environmental valuation. Emphasis is placed on the institutional and cultural factors for the emergence, and change over time, of collective understandings about co-evolution possibilities between natural and socio-economic processes. Tenerife aquifer water resources could be exploited sustainably. At present, however, a set of interests and collective perceptions dominates that treats water as a commodity to be appropriated privately, and that puts faith in new technologies of water production (e.g. desalination) to overcome scarcity. Yet there is sufficient scientific and economic evidence to support a more precautionary approach based on avoidance of irreversible deterioration of the aquifer resource.