Saltmakers in the valley of the Anana Salt Flats, like those in many parts of Europe, used wind and sun to produce white salt by evaporating brine, but the area was quite exception in its use of terraces and high timber structures supporting evaporating pans and the channels that fed them with brine from the three natural springs in the valley. The salinas are situated in the region of Alava, some 50 km south of Bilbao. There are records of salt production in the area since the 9th century ad, and the town of Anana was granted its first charter in 1126. The following year King Alfonso VII declared salt production to be a royal monopoly, but gradually the works passed into individual ownership, and all constraints on private enterprise were finally removed in 1814. There was competition amongst owners of the salinas to gain the maximum amount of sunlight for their evaporating pans, and platforms and their associated structures were continually being raised. Brine was raised from storage tanks fed from the springs into the evaporating pans by crane-like balances called ‘trabuquetes’. Almost all the historic salinas in the valley were still operating in the 1960s, but closures since then have caused deterioration of the structures. Concrete, used in some of the structures during the twentieth century, has added to their instability.
The Association of Saltworkers of Gatzagak was formed in 1998-99, and has taken responsibility for the conservation of the saltworks. A perimeter fence has been constructed round the structures and wooden channels have been restored so that brine can once more flow through the valley. Loadings on the platforms have been reduced. Every feature of the saltworks is being recorded by GIS, and research is being carried out into the geology of the valley. It is intended that salt will once more be produced at the Salinas de Anana, and that the amazing wooden structures will attract tourists and educational groups and contribute to the regeneration of the surrounding area.