Treated effluent from the new Wastewater Treatment Plants at Companheira, near Portimão and from the one being built between Faro and Olhão, will be reused for irrigation.
This guarantee was given by Carlos Martins, Secretary of State for the Environment, at the ‘Water Challenges’ meeting in Albufeira.
Martins told reporters that "in the case of Companheira, water certainly will be reused because work is already done between Portimão’s municipal water company (EMARP) and Águas do Algarve to reuse treated waters.
This water, subject to 'a more robust system in terms of technical control, will have great potential for reuse. EMARP already has a set of projects for its reuse and very soon, these plans can be translated into something concrete."
Regarding the Faro - Olhão treatment plant, "the studies are not at the same stage of development, but both Olhão and Faro municipalities are keen to make some use of this water. Olhão, in particular, it has been analysing the possibility of this water being used in agricultural areas that, in recent years have had problems. This water can support the irrigation of orange groves and other crops," said Martins.
Treated water can be used for direct irrigation “provided it meets certain specifications. But, I would say, with the level of treatment that these treatment plants will allow, it could be used for direct irrigation of fruit trees without any problem," added the Secretary of State.
“The reuse of the effluent from these new stations will be a reality in the Algarve, but it is also needed at a the national level to mitigate the effects of the drought that affects the country,” Carlos Martins added that the Portuguese Environment Agency "was tasked with creating a national strategy for the reuse of treated wastewater from treatment plants and that work should be completed by mid-2018.”
This strategy should be completed in June and the 50 biggest waste water treatment plants will submit a concrete plan by 31 December this year, including investment costs and economic feasibility studies. "We intend that, by 2019, these plans are ready," said Martins, clearly in no great hurry.
According to the Secretary of State, 'the water treated at waste plants, depending on the level of treatment, has all potential for reuse. We can reuse water to wash streets, containers, municipal vehicles and for almost any type of irrigation, it can be a reserve for firefighting ... it can even be incorporated into the aquifers for recycling."
The percentage of water reused at national level currently ranges between 1.5% and 2%, but the Government wants this to rise to 10% and, in seven years' time, this figure is 20%.
In October 2016, Carlos Martins, a former Chairman of Águas do Algarve, lamented that the €22 million construction of a waste water treatment plan, about to be started, between Olhão and Faro was not destined to be linked to local irrigation systems and that all the treated water would end up in the Ria Formosa, thus continuing the problems of weed growth and oxygen level depletion.
António Pina, the Olhão mayor, said then, that this is a "day of great satisfaction for everyone, especially for lovers of the Ria Formosa," but did not, of course, mention that millions of litres of nutrient and chemical rich treatment water would illegally be pumped into the natural park’s waters to mix with the raw sewage that flows daily from under the city into the lagoon.
The technology for the new Faro-Olhão plant uses an advanced biological treatment process for filtering and disinfection with a flow rate of 28,149m³ per day, with a peak of 3,942 m³ per hour, but the thought that this water could be used for irrigation was omitted from the project planning. This now may be re-thought by the councils whose lack of a plan to reuse water has been astonishing.
This lethargy and stupidity may now have been interrupted as, if Carlos Martins has been accurately informed, some of this grey water may now be used by local agriculture and Portimão, Faro and Olhão’s councils.