Springs are considered as elements of the natural and cultural heritage all over the world. They are part of the immaterial heritage, as a source of inspiration of legends, poems, and songs. They also present their particular architectural and hydraulic engineering structures, such as cisterns, watermills, pools, wells, water mines and reservoirs, being thus linked to the hydraulic heritage.
Furthermore, springs are part of the natural heritage, including the hydrogeological one, as elements associated to groundwater and its hydrochemical characteristics. Additionally, they are ecotones, boundaries separating different ecosystems (surface and groundwater environments), which are of great importance for the distribution of aquatic fauna. In these special environments, some specialized organisms are found, making them of great value from the ecological and biological heritage point of view.
Sant Hilari Sacalm is a municipality situated in Les Guilleries Range (NE Spain), locally known as “the hundred springs town”. Since the XVIII century, the economy of this town has been linked to these springs, with the settlement of distinct bottling mineral water companies, and some spas. However, some of these springs have been degraded, and even, a part of them were completely lost, due to both, human activities and natural processes.
In this context, the inter-university Chair of Water, Nature and Wellfare has promoted the elaboration of a Springs Catalog, with the aim of inventorying and documenting all the springs located in Sant Hilari Sacalm, in order to: a) evaluate its conservation status, and identifying the environmental impacts that maybe affecting them; b) identify their main characteristics; c) classify the distinct springs depending on their hydraulic, hydrogeological and hydrochemical characteristics; d) collecting evidences and all the available information related to immaterial and material cultural heritage linked to these springs; and finally, e) develop a database that could be used as a catalog, and could be continuously updated.
The results of the Springs Catalog of Sant Hilari Sacalm (www.catedraaigua.cat) allowed us to identify 49 new springs, with a total of 206 records. These springs have been classified from the hydrological and hydrochemical point of view in five main groups: a) springs related to igneous weathered and fractured rocks; b) springs associated to dikes; c) springs linked to the main fault system; d) springs related to quaternary formations; and, e) artificial springs. As regards its conservation status, most of the springs showed a good or fair conservation status, but 20 of them were completely lost. From the cultural point of view, water mines, old laundry facilities, hydroelectric mills, and ponds were identified, and more than fifteen songs, legends and poems were recorded. All these results will provide Sant Hilari Sacalm with the basis to take care of, protect and promote this natural and cultural heritage.