Odeleite dam, one of the most affected by the drought

December rain not enough to end drought in Algarve

December’s heavy rain was not enough to end the Algarve’s drought, as regional leaders warn that it would have to rain “four to five times more” for water levels at the region’s dams to return to normal.

As Diário de Notícias points out, the heavy rain that fell during storms “Elsa” and “Fabien” was insufficient to replenish reservoirs but helped.

The newspaper also highlights that the amount of rain that fell in Portugal until December 22 was above average for that time of year, but final statistics will only be revealed in the monthly report from the Portuguese Sea and Atmosphere Institute (IPMA).

Experts contacted by the newspaper were wary about commenting as official numbers for the month of December have yet to be revealed but agreed that the rainfall was not enough to meet the needs of the Algarve and Lower Alentejo.

In fact, the president of the Algarve Municipalities Association (AMAL), António Pina, who is also the mayor of Olhão, said that people cannot be under the illusion that this month’s heavy rain has solved the region’s drought. The rain that fell in some of the worst affected areas, such as the Odeleite and Odelouca dams, was still “insufficient” and “did not pull us out of an extreme drought. It would have to rain four to five times more,” he told Diário de Notícias.

He believes that “short-term measures” are needed to start “mitigating the effects of climate change”, having expressed his opinion at a recent AMAL meeting, also attended by the vice-president of the Portuguese environmental agency (APA) and the head of regional water authority Águas de Portugal.

One of the goals established was to create a “working group” featuring of all 16 of the Algarve’s municipalities as well as the region’s “main water consumers” – including farmers (who account for 60% of water consumption in the region) and golf courses (6%) – in a bid to find solutions for the water crisis.

AMAL was also informed in November that the government is planning to create a “working group” to find solutions to the region’s drought concerns.

The vice president of APA, Pimenta Machado, said that “if we don’t have more rain, we can certainly expect a water shortage next year”.

To help deal with the issue, he said it was “fundamental to continue enforcing and strengthening some of the contingency measures, such as raising awareness among citizens, reusing treated wastewater and restricting the granting of new licences for boreholes”.

Machado also called on citizens to make small changes to their daily routines such as turning the tap off while brushing their teeth or taking shorter showers.

Also discussed was the need to build a new dam in the Algarve or expand some of the existing ones and the possibility of building a desalination station – a project António Pina says the country should look into, citing examples such as the Spanish tourist destinations of the Balearic and Canary Islands.

He also called on the government to look at the water crisis as a “national problem and not a problem of the Algarve.”

As he pointed out, “without water, there is no tourism”. And without the Algarve’s contribution to the national economy, Portugal’s economy will falter.