The traditional Horta (Cropland) of Alacant includes the municipalities of Alacant, El Campello, Mutxamel and Sant Joan d’Alacant. This unique fertile space is located on a coastal plain NE of the city limits of the capital of the region of L’Alacantí, framed on the north by the hills of Xixí and the mountains of Bonalba and Ballestera; NW, with the lands that link to the plains of Sant Vicent del Raspeig; on the east by the coast of the beach of Sant Joan d’Alacant; SW, by the Calvari hills, the Llomes del Garbinet and the Lloma Redona; on the west by the hills of Les Llometes and on the south by a coastal mountain range formed by Serra Grossa, Cap de les Hortes and Llomes del Far.
The Montnegre river cuts through this landscape of black limestone; it is defined as a river-rambla. This instability, which lasted until the first decades of the nineteenth century, can be identified thanks to the rogativas (rogations) ad petendam pluviam or pro pluvia and pro serenitate to cry out for and calm the waters respectively, thanks to the memoriales (memorials) and reports made for policy makers and thanks to the data from the analysis of the series diezmales (tithing) and the fluctuations in the prices of agricultural products.
Therefore, this agricultural society has been, over the centuries, linked to the irregular flow of the Montnegre river and to the irrigation system that has been built and preserved throughout these centuries. This system comprises the reservoir of Tibi, which closed its sluice gates on 13 October 1593; and the irrigation dams located in the municipality of Mutxamel: Les Fontetes, dated in documents from the late fifteenth century and rebuilt in the early nineteenth century, Nou, construction aproved on 21 June 1377 by King Pedro IV, although by 1578 the Alacant’s Consell (Council) determined a new dam, and El Campello, existing since the late eighteenth century.
This irrigation system resulted in a variety of crops, where pear trees and fig trees, olive trees of the ‘grosal’ variety, vineyards, almond trees, carob trees, grains, saltwort, silk and other productions or plantations of mulberry trees, palm trees, millet and chickpeas stood out. In Benimagrell hemp, flax and rice were grown. Among all these products, wine reached its peak at the end of the century after the signing of different free trade agreements with the French, after their vintages were decimated by phylloxera in 1877 and 1882. These treaties were valid for ten years but the arrival of that plague to these lands, the final covenant in 1892, the recovery of the French vineyards and the growing Algerian production led to a serious crisis in the Horta (Cropland) of Alacant.
Did you know?
The flood of 13 November 1697 broke a few pieces of timber in the reservoir of Tibi and opened a gap of 10 x 8 meters at 30 meters above the channel, although the Marquis Jorge Prospero Verboom – prestigious chief of the military engineers corps created by Philip V- believed that the huge breach was the result of sabotage carried out by the owners of Old Water.
After repair, on 4 December 1738 the gate was closed so the reservoir could stock the water again and in this way regulate the irrigation in the Horta (Cropland) of Alacant.
The flood of 17 August 1789 broke the dams of Mutxamel and Sant Joan d’Alacant and disabled the Séquia Major (Main ditch) when it was filled with the dragged remains, according to the report of Antonio Montenegro, the judge in charge of managing the reservoir.
The flood of 7 September 1793 exceeded the terrace of Tibi’s reservoir over three meters ruining the spillway and the bridge. The monolith next to the bridge refers to its reparation with the inscription: “CAROLVS IV / Pater PATRIE / PONTIS; VIAMQUE ROTIS / PROVEXIT / A. (NNO) D. OMINI) MDCCXCV “. In addition, the flood tore off the dam of Les Fontetes and its casemate, destroyed fields, roads and eight flour mills stopped working. The flood of 11 April 1794 destroyed the Moli Nou (New Mill) and threatened to fall into the Séquia Major (Main ditch).