Water expert Nuno Loureiro says satellite imagery can show homeowners using excessive amounts of water

Algarve water usage needs stricter control – researcher

Nuno Loureiro advocates “Big Brother inspections through technology to identify patterns of excessive use”

The conservation and efficient use of water should be done with strict inspection measures through technological tools that can identify patterns of excessive use, a researcher from the University of the Algarve (UAlg) has said today.

Speaking to Lusa, Nuno Loureiro – author of several studies on water resources and a lecturer at the University of the Algarve – insists the government’s ‘restrictive measures’ aiming to reduce water consumption by 15%, “should be accompanied by rigorous monitoring using readily available tools”.

The problem of water scarcity in the Algarve “is nothing new at all”. It has been a problem for more than a decade, but “nobody wanted to talk” about it “because it ‘was a threat to the tourism industry’.

“For a long time, there has been a problem of decreasing water levels, both surface and underground, (tackling the problem) has always been pushed forwards, having now reached the end of the line,” he said.

Today, in order to manage efficient use of what has become an “increasingly scarce” resource, Loureiro believes authorities should be using technology to “supervise and implement strict rules for water usage”.

“There are extremely rigorous technological tools in Europe today to monitor who uses water”, he explains.

“By satellite, I know the swimming pools in the Algarve that fill up and empty. This is an example of a small volume of water”.

The government and water management bodies “should increase inspections” in residential, commercial and industrial areas to check the proper use of water, repeats Loureiro, stressing that it is infinitely possible to know “if someone who has a swimming pool, or an orange grove in an area where it is forbidden (to use water), has filled up the pool or watered the orange trees.

“Until we adopt measures like these, we’re playing with the present and with the future because what is at stake is not resolving a one-off situation, but imposing new rules for the use of water”, he explained.

In Loureiro’s opinion, the reduction of underground water resources (aquifers) and the scarcity of water in the Algarve is a process associated with climate change, which forces society to look “at this new normal and adapt to new usage patterns”.

In addition to monitoring, it is essential to invest in structures that can guarantee supply, such as the construction of desalination plants.

“There is talk of building one for the Algarve, but more than one is needed: at least two structures (are required) for this region”, he said.

In addition, treatment systems and reuse programmes are needed, as well as awareness-raising and education.

At the beginning of June, the government announced restrictive measures for water consumption in the eastern Algarve with the aim of reducing borehole consumptionby 15%.

The announcement was made by the Minister for the Environment and Climate Action, Duarte Cordeiro, after a meeting of the commission for monitoring the effects of drought, when a third of the country, especially in the Alentejo and Algarve, is in severe and extreme drought.

Source: LUSA