Minister of Environment and Climate Action, Duarte Cordeiro has warned, “we will have to get used to living with less water”.
He says the Portuguese will have to get used to living with less water, saying the Government “has no limitation in the application of restrictions” on consumption.
In an interview with Agência Lusa, at a time when the country is experiencing one of the worst droughts on record, Duarte Cordeiro emphasizes that the most important thing is to have water for people to consume, and that in the event of a lack of water, the Government must apply “whatever restrictions are necessary”.
He warns that those who invest without taking into account the scarcity of water may suffer consequences. “It is important to explain that we are going to have to get used to living with less water, everyone, agro-industrial activities too, the economic sectors, and we all have to look at the opportunities we have”.
Responding specifically to golf courses, the minister asks investors to protect themselves. “Economic sectors that need water should invest in what allows them to have water, which is capture at sea, reusable water, taking advantage of efficiency… they really have to do it, it's not a matter of choice”.
Duarte Cordeiro was speaking to Agência Lusa about the United Nations Ocean Conference, which starts today in Lisbon and runs until Friday. As part of the conference, the largest ever held about the oceans, under the theme “Save the Oceans Protect the Future”, a high-level symposium on water, organized by the Government and which will be opened by Duarte Cordeiro, is being held today.
The symposium, the minister explained to Lusa, is “one of the most important side events associated with the Ocean Conference”. It aims to “seek to build links between the importance of safeguarding fresh water” and the preservation of the oceans and the fight against climate change.
The minister applauded Portugal on work done so far, going from 15% of wastewater treated in 1990 to 99% today. “And this has an immediate impact on the level, for example, of blue flag beaches”, this year around 430.
In other words, he said, treated water ends up at sea, which is reflected in the quality of coastal waters, which is also reflected in marine biodiversity.
In the minister's words, the symposium, whose opening session features speeches by four ministers and the UN Under-Secretary-General for the Economy and Social Affairs, Liu Zheenmin, will also serve to debate topics such as climate change, adaptation to the lack of water or new sources of abstraction.
“The symposium is the link between fresh and salt water. We want to make a list of the importance that the treatment and preservation of fresh water has for the quality of the oceans”, stressed Duarte Cordeiro, adding that when talking about the depollution of the oceans, the need to preserve biodiversity, it is important to have a notion of the importance of water quality.
And this relationship with water is also linked, he added, to climate change, rising sea levels, the impact on the coastline, extreme weather phenomena, but also the ability to adapt to situations of less water and management drought, also topics of the high-level meeting.
Today's meeting will focus on the United Nations' sustainable development goals related to water, but also on the possibilities for cooperation between States. More than a dozen ministers and officials from international organizations participate in it, including the European Commissioner for the Environment, Virginijus Sinkevičius.
Today's meeting precedes the UN Water Conference, in New York in March next year, and aims to contribute to the preparatory process for that conference, says the Portuguese minister.
In an interview with Lusa, minister Duarte Cordeiro recalls that currently 34% of the continent is in severe drought and 66% in extreme drought, and says that in July an awareness campaign on the matter will begin.
And there's no doubt, these campaigns can't stop. “All this work must have a dimension of continuity, we cannot say that we have to prepare for less water and not have a constant awareness-raising work”.