Tender is due to be launched by the end of 2023
The Portuguese government has chosen Albufeira as the location for the planned desalination plant in the Algarve, with the goal being to launch a tender for its construction by the end of the year.
“According to the studies carried out by Águas de Portugal (water authority) and which will be delivered for the environmental impact assessment, the location which we are going to propose is the borough of Albufeira,” said Minister of Environment and Climate Action, Duarte Cordeiro, in Parliament this Wednesday.
Desalination plants are viewed by the current government as one of the best options to combat drought. The construction of a desalination plant is expected to cost around €50 million after the government decided to increase its capacity from eight hectometres to 24.
However, not everyone is so sure that turning saltwater into freshwater is the answer.
Just two weeks ago, Portugal’s sustainable water platform (PAS) defended greater use of treated river and wastewater, speaking out against desalination plants, water capture in the Guadiana River and the construction of new dams/ reservoirs.
According to PAS, building a desalination plant represents a high cost and does not solve the problem of water shortage.
With agriculture being the largest consumer of water in the country and in the Algarve, the associations questioned ‘how many desalination plants would have to be built to supply agriculture?’
Desalination “is coupled with social discrimination: authorities have systematically reaffirmed that water from reservoirs, financed by public money, is for private agricultural use, and will be sold at a lower price than water obtained through desalination, destined for public consumption, but coming from a private company or a public-private partnership”, PAS added.
Another issue that worries environmentalists is brine, the highly concentrated saline water that results from the desalination process. It is usually disposed of in the sea, where it can pose a threat to marine life.
What everyone seems to agree on is that measures are needed desperately to tackle the country’s worsening drought.
With around 36% of Portugal facing severe or extreme drought, the government has already moved forward with water restrictions in the Algarve in an attempt to save what little water is left in dams.