The highest rainfall for nearly 20 years has restored water levels in the dams of the Alentejo and prevented a "catastrophe" for farmers but this water must be "used efficiently," warns the Portuguese Environment Agency.
"It was a blessing that fell from the sky" and, "at this moment, water availability is greater for agriculture, but not unlimited," said André Matoso, director of the Alentejo Hydrographic Regional Administration.
With the drought, said Matoso, priority public supplies were not at risk but if the end of February scenario had continued, there certainly would have been areas that could not be irrigated.
"This catastrophe we were facing, fortunately, is completely averted. This rain water is stored and now we must manage it and use it sparingly," added Matos.
Rainfall since February 28 has been impressive and has altered the drought scenario that the Alentejo has been facing since 2015.
"It has rained twice as much as it rains in a normal March," said the water expert, adding that in Portalegre, on February 28, "it rained more than in all of January."
As an example, the Monte Novo dam in Évora, which was down to 30% at the end of February, reached capacity on March 10.
The Monte da Rocha reservoir, in Ourique, which has dropped to 8% in February, now is at 26.4%, higher than the same time last year when it only reached 20%.
Another of the Alentejo’s lowest dams, Vigia, in Redondo, was at 15% of capacity in February and now is at 43%, higher than 35.7% this time last year.
"Alqueva also has gained a lot of water," reaching almost 80%, and "the same has happened at Pego do Altar and Vale do Gaio reservoirs in Alcácer do Sal, which already are over 50% full," said a delighted André Matoso.
"The fact that the reservoirs and the aquifers are progressing favourably, we must not forget the recent past. Now that the water is here, we have to preserve it."