running tap

Algarve faces “worst ever” water shortage

Limits on consumption could be imposed in 2024
The Algarve’s ongoing water shortage has been described as the “worst ever” by the Portuguese Environmental Agency (APA), which is warning of possible limits on consumption if the situation fails to improve by 2024.
“This year, the Algarve is worse than last year, it’s in the worst situation ever. We’ve never been like this. It’s a new path we’re treading,” said APA vice-president José Pimenta Machado at the national meeting of water management organisations (ENEG), which kicked off on Monday and runs until Thursday in Gondomar.

The situation is of “particular concern” and could “eventually” lead APA to “take difficult measures” in January or February, he said, adding that the Algarve’s dams currently have 30 fewer cubic hectometres (hm3) than in 2022.

On the sidelines of the event, José Pimenta Machado explained that APA monitors the level of water in the reservoirs on a daily basis and that decisions are made on the basis of this analysis.

“Everything has to be assessed according to water reserves. We’re in the middle of winter and it’s in winter that the reservoirs recover water. We’re going to have to carry out rigorous and continuous monitoring of the evolution of the level of the reservoirs and then, eventually, in January, February, we’ll have to take measures so that, above all, there’s no shortage of water,” he told reporters.

The vice-president of APA named the rationing of water and the stepping up of groundwater monitoring as possible measures to mitigate water scarcity in the region.

He also said that the situation in the Mira river basin, in the Alentejo, is similar to the Algarve region, although in that case, “human consumption is more than safeguarded”.

According to the weekly reservoirs bulletin for November 20, the stored volume increased in three of the country’s water reservoirs and decreased in 12 compared to the previous week.

According to the same document, there are five reservoirs with a storage percentage of no more than 20%: Campilhas (6%), Monte da Rocha (8%), Vigia (16%), Arade (15%) and Bravura (8%), the last two in the Algarve.

José Pimenta Machado – who took part on Monday evening in a round table on adapting to the new European water directives – was nevertheless satisfied with the work carried out by the task force set up in June to mitigate the effects of the drought in the region.

At the time, the government decreed a 20% reduction in the water quota for agricultural use and golf courses at the Odeleite dam in Castro Marim, in the district of Faro.

If the golf courses have the capacity to reuse wastewater, the limit rises to 50%.

The measures came at a time when a third of the country was in severe and extreme drought, with the Algarve and Alentejo causing the most concern.

This was confirmed by the vice-president of the APA, who said that at some stations in the Cávado and Lima basins, rainfall amounts of around 1,000 litres were recorded: “in other words, it rained more in 15 days in that area than it rains in two years in the entire Algarve region,” he stressed, adding that these phenomena bring added challenges.

He also pointed out that investments are being made in the Algarve region to find alternative sources, such as the project to build a desalination plant in the municipality of Albufeira, which is under public consultation until December 19.

Public investment of around €342 million from the Recovery and Resilience Plan (the EU bazooka funds for post-pandemic recovery) and European funds is also planned to increase water resilience.

Source: LUSA