Algarve farmers “want water” and fair distribution of restrictions

Representatives of the main Algarve sector associations took a stance on the announced water cuts for agriculture

Odeleite Dam - Photo: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação

«What we want is water», said today, Tuesday, January 16th, the representatives of a hundred farmers and association leaders who met to debate the announced water cuts for irrigation in the Algarve.

Algarve farmers want their activity treated on an equal footing with tourism and urban supply, when it comes to water distribution, and they guarantee that they are not waiting for money to be given to them.

José Oliveira, from the AlgarOrange producers' association, and Macário Correia, from the Sotavento Regantes Association, were the farmers' spokespersons, at a press conference that took place at NERA's headquarters, in Loulé, where the day before there had been a sector meeting.

Today, in the room, there were also representatives from Frusoal, Madrefruta and the Algarve Wine Commission.

“We don’t want them to give us money. (…) What we want is water. What we want is for money to be used to bring water, to create new sources of water for the Algarve», assured José Oliveira.

More than demanding, representatives of Algarve farmers brought with them several proposals for “urgent, emerging and alternative solutions”.

One of them is the use of municipal boreholes.

«20 years ago, all municipal councils had boreholes and were supplied with water from these boreholes. Some have low aquifers, we know that, but others don't. There are aquifers that are higher today than they were years ago. It is necessary that Águas do Algarve, under the terms of the concession contract, be able to explore these municipal boreholes, releasing water from the dams for agricultural irrigation», Macário Correia began by asking.

«Then, it is necessary to quickly open a notice for private boreholes, in aquifers where it is possible to extract water. We want there to be a warning of support for capturing water and not support for losing crops,” he added.

The farmers also want “the ecological flows of some dams to be reviewed. There are places where we are releasing 1 cubic hectometer (hm3) into sugarcane fields, which would be enough to water 400 hectares of orchards».

«On the other hand, it is also important to end irrigation in non-agricultural areas. There is little water, agriculture produces food. (…) There is irrigation of ornamentals, roundabouts, sidewalks and tarmac, which are not necessary. Cut it out!” demanded Macário Correia.

The option for mobile desalination plants and the reuse of treated wastewater to irrigate lawns and golf courses – there are several investments underway for this purpose – are other “concrete measures” that Algarve farmers propose.


Macário Correia and José Oliveira – Photo: Hugo Rodrigues | Sul Informação


There is also another measure demanded by farmers, linked to an issue that both José Oliveira and Macário Correia made a point of denouncing.

"At measures that were pre-announced are neither affordable nor comparable to those imposed on other sectors. Compared, for example, to the measures being taken in Catalonia, the measures announced here in the Algarve for other sectors, particularly tourism, are light. The measures that are being taken for the agriculture sector are calamitous», considered the director of AlgarOrange.

«We don't understand how, for some, the situation is almost normal and, for others, it is close to calamity», reinforced José Oliveira.

In reality, the same person in charge warned, «we are heading towards a calamity situation and this is how we think the entire problem of water supply for the Algarve region should be faced».

What farmers do not accept is that the sector in the Algarve «is seen as largely responsible and the largest consumer of the region's water» and, more than that, «seen as the sector that loses the most water or wastes the most water. water in the region”.

«We think we use water correctly. The Secretary of State for Agriculture, not long ago, recognized that, in the last 10 years, agriculture in the Algarve had a 50% reduction in water consumption», recalled José Oliveira.

«Today, the large orchards, the large irrigated areas, all use the best technologies available. We continue to invest every time we have access to new products. Naturally, we cannot say that 100% of irrigation in the Algarve is in these conditions. But, the vast majority, yes», he assured.


Photos: Hugo Rodrigues | Sul Informação


However, they accuse, this is not the case across the board.

«There is an official document that was released some time ago, which is a document from the Algarve Regional Water Efficiency Plan, crossed with the funds from the Recovery and Resilience Plan. (…) This document shows that losses from the urban cycle are 30 million cubic meters, 30 cubic hectometers. There are five losses in the agricultural sector», said Macário Correia.

«Losing 30 hm3 is losing water for irrigating 10 thousand hectares. 2023 was a dry year. 2024 is also expected to be a difficult year. In two years, 60 hm3 are lost in the urban cycle. If that volume of water was in the reservoirs, we wouldn't be meeting here, this meeting wouldn't be necessary», defended the president of the Sotavento Irrigation Association.

“This is a crime. And we do not accept that anyone who wastes water in this way be compensated with a symbolic reduction of 15%. Is not fair! You cannot attribute a 70% reduction to those who save and a minimum reduction of 15% to those who waste», he concluded.

To recover these 30 cubic hectometers lost in the urban distribution cycle, measures must be taken “urgently”, namely the carrying out “of treatments using internal ducts. There are engineering solutions that make it quick to solve some of these problems. Not all, but some can be resolved quickly».

The rest will have to be done with investment in renewing failing supply networks, managed by municipalities, something that farmer representatives consider to be “incomprehensible” that it is not a priority for the most wasteful Chambers, in a region like the Algarve.

In the short term, and one day before the meeting of the Interministerial Drought Commission, which will take place tomorrow in the Algarve, farmers want to see the sacrifices well distributed.

«We just want to be on an equal footing with other sectors in the region. We don't want anything more than that. We want to be treated equally», summarized José Oliveira.


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