The water shortage in the Algarve is the “worst ever” and if this scenario continues, at the beginning of 2024 it may be necessary to impose limits on consumption.
The vice-president of the Portuguese Environment Agency ( APA ) admitted yesterday that the “Algarve is in the worst situation ever. We have never been like this. This year, the Algarve is worse than last year, it is in the worst situation ever. We've never been like this. It is a new path that we are taking”, stated José Pimenta Machado at the National Meeting of Water Management Entities (ENEG), which started this Monday and runs until Thursday, in Gondomar.
The situation is of “particular concern”, and could “eventually” lead the APA to “take difficult measures”, in January or February, he anticipated, revealing during his intervention that the group of reservoirs in the Algarve region currently accounts for 30 cubic hectometres less than in 2022.
On the sidelines of the event, José Pimenta Machado clarified that APA monitors the water level in the reservoirs daily, and decisions are made based on this analysis.
“Everything has to be evaluated based on water reserves. We are in the middle of winter and it is in winter that the reservoirs recover water. We will have to carry out rigorous and continuous monitoring of the evolution of the level of the reservoirs and then, in January, February, we will have to take measures so that, above all, there is no shortage of water”, he stressed.
The vice-president of APA took the opportunity to point out the control of water consumption and the strengthening of groundwater inspection as possible measures to mitigate water scarcity.
The official also said that the situation in the Mira River Basin, in Alentejo, is similar to the Algarve region, however, in that case, “human consumption is more than safeguarded”.
According to the weekly reservoir bulletin on November 20th, the volume stored increased in 3 river basins in the country and decreased in 12, compared to the previous week.
According to the same bulletin, there are five reservoirs in the country with a storage percentage of less than 20%: Campilhas (6%), Monte da Rocha (8%), Vigia (16%), Arade (15%) and Bravura (8% ), the last two are in the Algarve.
José Pimenta Machado, who participated in a round table on adapting to the new European directives on water, was hoiwever satisfied with the work carried out by the 'task force' created in June to mitigate the effects of drought in the Algarve region. At that time, the Government decreed a reduction in the quota of water for agricultural use and for golf courses by 20% in the Odeleite dam, in Castro Marim. If golf courses have the capacity to reuse wastewater, the limitation increases to 50%.
The measures came at a time when a third of the country was in severe and extreme drought, with the Algarve and Alentejo raising the greatest concerns.
This was confirmed by the vice-president of APA, who said that in some stations in the Cávado and Lima basins, precipitation values in the order of 1,000 liters were recorded: “that is, it rained more in 15 days in that area than it rains in two years throughout the Algarve region”, he highlighted, adding that these phenomena bring added challenges.
The official also recalled that investments are being made in the Algarve region to find alternative sources, such as the project to build a desalination plant in the municipality of Albufeira, which is under public consultation until December 19th.
Public investments of around 342 million euros are also planned from the Recovery and Resilience Plan (PRR) and European funds, to increase water resilience.