Contingency plan for drought in the Algarve presented later this month

José Pimenta Machado admitted that the contingency plan will penalize agriculture more

The Portuguese Environment Agency hopes to present a contingency plan this month with new water consumption rules in the Algarve, which is going through the worst drought on record.

Speaking to Lusa, APA vice-president José Pimenta Machado admitted that the contingency plan will penalize agriculture more, but the quotas have not yet been defined and will be coordinated with local actors.

«This year, in the Algarve, we are going through the worst drought ever, we have never been in this situation, with the lowest levels of reservoir reserves ever and the same thing in groundwater”, a “consequence of ten years of drought” continued, said Pimenta Machado.

“The priority use is human use and agriculture will have a greater cut,” he added.

“We are designing a plan” of “continuous evaluation” and “listening to the sectors – agriculture, urban sector, tourism – and working with them to define” the actions to be taken, seeking to “define water cuts, whether for the urban sector, whether for tourism or agriculture", said the official who did not want to anticipate the values ​​in question, although he admits that the biggest impact will be on agricultural production.

«The plan will be presented very soon» and is «for days».

Next week, an inter-ministerial drought commission will be held and then the document will be closed to be presented in the region, always with the “central objective that the population does not lack water”.

The six reservoirs in the Algarve are at 25% of their capacity, 20 percentage points less than in the same period last year, with a total of 90 cubic hectometers less water.

Portugal has two water realities. In the north, the reservoirs have an average water level of 75%, while south of the Tagus, namely in the southwest of Alentejo and in the Algarve, the “situation is critical” because the “rains did not allow the problems to be repaired”.

Of the ten driest years ever, six were after 2000 and the last 20 years have seen a 25% reduction in precipitation, he added.

In the past, the historic drought of 2005 in the Algarve led to the construction of the Odelouca dam and “it was thought that the problem of water reserves had been solved for the region”.

«The truth is that, ten years later, we are all worried here», because «there has been less precipitation continuously», which has worsened the situation of the groundwater.

More than fetching water from other areas of the country, Pimenta Machado argues that «management must be by river basin basin», in order to increase the natural resilience of the territory.

The official also appealed to citizens to save water, particularly in the Algarve region, with “small acts” that allow for “more parsimonious” management of that scarce resource.

Pimenta Machado highlighted that this contingency plan aims to respond to the current water stress, but a series of projects are underway, to be financed by the Recovery and Resilience Plan (PRR), which will include more permanent measures.

Among these measures, he highlighted “portable desalination plants” or the increased use of water from Wastewater Treatment Plants, particularly for golf courses.

«We want to reach the end of the PRR and reuse eight million cubic meters» of water, four times more than is already used today and serving a total of “16 to 17 fields”.

In addition, other major measures are “making sea water drinkable”, through the first large desalination plant for the Albufeira area, with a capacity of 16 million cubic meters, and the transfer in Sotavento, with a connection between Pomarão and the Guadiana.