By INÊS LOPES [email protected]
Odelouca dam began supplying water to the western Algarve on June 1, announced Águas do Algarve, the company responsible for managing the infrastructure.
The Algarve water supply entity said the day marked a milestone for the region as the infrastructure had been a “dream” for more than 40 years and will now “finally” assure water supply to residents in the Barlavento area.
The dam is set to become the main water supplier for the western Algarve, namely for the areas of Albufeira, Aljezur, Lagoa, Lagos, Monchique, Portimão, Silves, Vila do Bispo and parts of Loulé (via two reversible pumping stations), with a capacity for storing 134 million cubic metres of water.
Work on the dam, which started in 2001 following approval by the then Environment Minister José Sócrates, was met by strong opposition from the nature protection league in Portugal (LPN), which filed a complaint with the European Commission claiming the project was being built in an area protected by the Natura 2000 network and was “seriously violating environmental laws”.
Work was then suspended between 2003 and 2006 and EU funds were cut.
At the end of 2006, Águas do Algarve took over the project and construction work resumed in February 2007, solely funded by the State, after the EC dropped the case against Portugal following assurances from the government that it would create a series of compensatory measures to minimise the impact the dam would have on the environment.
A spokesman from Águas do Algarve told the Algarve Resident: “Compensatory measures to minimise the impact the dam would have on the environment have been carried out and fully comply with the Odelouca Environment Programme, which has been implemented with great success and is monitored by various entities.”
The creation of an Iberian Lynx reproduction centre in Silves, which was inaugurated in May 2009, as well as habitats for the Bonelli’s Eagle and river species were some of the environmentally friendly measures imposed on the government to make up for the impact caused by the dam.
Now, with the connection of the dam to the water treatment station (ETA) in Alcantarilha, water supply has become a reality since last Friday.
Águas do Algarve said: “With this infrastructure and the water treatment stations in both Alcantarilha and Tavira, Águas do Algarve can assure quality water supply to consumers across the Algarve.”