Praia da Rocha (Inês Lopes/Open Media)

“Algarve economy at risk” due to possible water rationing next summer

Warning comes from Castro Marim mayor Francisco Amaral

The mayor of Eastern Algarve municipality Castro Marim has added his voice to the chorus of concerns over the region’s extreme drought.

Speaking to Lusa news agency, Francisco Amaral said the Algarve’s economy will be at risk if it does not rain enough this winter, and water rationing is implemented next summer.

“I believe we have water for another year. Now if it doesn’t rain this winter, I believe there will be substantial water cuts next summer and the Algarve’s economy is at risk,” said Amaral.

As the mayor pointed out, the water level at the Odeleite dam is “worrying” and the only way it will improve is if it rains “a lot” this winter – which has rarely been the case in recent years.

Amaral knows action is needed as quickly as possible and has criticised the “delay” with which authorities have responded to the “emergency situation” that the country’s drought is creating.

“The discussion to find a location for a desalination plant has been ongoing for a year. We started with five or six possibilities, now we are down to two, and we still have not found one,” said Amaral.

Last week the president of the Algarve Municipalities Association (AMAL), António Pina, said the possible locations have been narrowed down to two – one in Albufeira, “near the border with Loulé”, and another in Odiáxere, Lagos.

However, the time it has taken to simply narrow the options down may prove costly, Amaral stressed.

“This is all very, very slow – there’s the project, the preliminary draft, and then the Environmental Impact Study – and I do not see the desalination plant being completed in the next three to four years,” the mayor lamented.

He also gave the example of the Pomarão water pipe to Odeleite dam, which the mayor also believes will take “years” before it is working.

Another solution which has been pitched to help the Algarve deal with droughts is another dam, an idea that was thoroughly opposed by the previous Environment Minister (João Pedro Matos Fernandes).

“I still do not understand why, I think there has been a bit of environmental fundamentalism in the middle of all this,” said Amaral, who has remained a firm defender of the construction of the Foupana dam between Alcoutim and Castro Marim which has been in the pipeline since the 1970s.

“The water flow at Foupana stream is identical to Odeleite. If there was another dam, the problem would be more or less solved,” he said.

Alcoutim Mayor Osvalde Gonçalves is also a supporter of the dam project.

“I was perhaps one of the first to speak of this solution and I have affirmed that the dam would be fundamental to widen the availability of water to the northeast Algarve territory,” he told Lusa.

The new dam would reach “parishes that are not included in the irrigation perimetre of Odeleite, but more importantly, it would act as a channel to transport water from Foupana to Odeleite,” said the mayor.

While he acknowledges that some environmentalists are opposed to the idea, Gonçalves stresses that “if we do not take advantage of the little rain we have,” the amount of water available for consumption will continue to decrease.

By Michael Bruxo