photo of the sea

Algarve desalination plant plans under public consultation until December 19

The project to build a desalination plant in the municipality of Albufeira is under public consultation until December 19, Algarve water company Águas do Algarve has announced.

“As is widely known, the Algarve region has been experiencing prolonged drought cycles over the past years, linked to a water scarcity situation that is considered structural. This has led to a decrease in water volumes stored,” Águas do Algarve said in a statement to the press.

“In order to mitigate this situation, several studies suggest resorting to seawater desalination as one of the possible structural measures to enhance water production capacity,” it adds.

The non-technical summary of the project’s Environmental Impact Statement doubles down on this explanation, saying that its main goal is to “create an alternative capable of ensuring the resilience of the public water supply to the population of the region, even during prolonged periods of drought.”

The desalination plant will be built near the Alfamar complex, the Açoteias track, the Pinhal do Concelho ETAR (wastewater treatment plant), as well as near the Falésia and Rocha Baixinha beaches, where it is expected that the plant’s pipelines will enter the sea.

Several infrastructures will be built, including a sea water capture and lifting circuit, a lifting station (EE), the seawater desalination station, a treated water conveyance circuit, a brine discharge circuit and a self-consumption electricity production unit (UPAC).

While the possible positive consequences of the desalination plant have been proudly touted, the document does also list the project’s “significant negative impact”, such as the discharge of brine (the salt removed from seawater at the station) at sea.

The project’s construction phase will also have “significant negative consequences” on the area’s “geology, geomorphology, and landscape,” as well as the area’s “socio-economic” situation. It will also cause considerable noise pollution whilst being built, the document highlights.

Thus, a list of goals has been set in an attempt to “mitigate the negative impact and enhance the positive,” such as developing an acoustic study for the plant, based on the noise associated with its operation; creating a Plan for the Management and Control of Invasive Exotic Species (PGCEEI); minimising the amount of marine life that is caught up in the capture of seawater; developing a  study of current and future instability indicators of the cliff in the area where the brine discharge pipeline will be built; ensuring  the monitoring of the construction process; implementing a Waste Management Plan for generated construction waste, and more.

The full document can be consulted online.

This is the realisation of an alternative solution capable of ensuring the resilience of the public water supply to the population of the Algarve, even during prolonged periods of drought, aiming to guarantee the availability of water for current and future consumption,” says AdA.

“The measures planned to enhance the resilience of the Algarve water supply system, including desalination, water production for reuse, and the reinforcement of storage system regulation capacity, alongside contingency measures limiting increased demand and controlling groundwater withdrawals, will ensure an increase in average annual water availability of 17 million cubic meters as early as 2023, totalling an accumulated annual increase of around 69 million cubic meters by 2026 across the entire Algarve region,” AdA adds.