An archive image of a desalination plant in Spain constructed by energy company Iberdrola

Desalination plant for Algarve moves step closer to construction

Environmental Impact Study delivered; tender to go out following APA green-light

The Algarve’s much-discussed and anticipated desalination plant has moved a step closer to construction.

Águas do Algarve – the company managing the region’s water – has delivered the environmental impact study on the plant destined for Albufeira on the basis of “around €50 million” in funding from the EU’s RRP (recovery and resilience programme).

Says Lusa, all that is required now is the ‘green light’ from Portuguese environment agency APA, and the tender for construction can go out.

According to several sources (…) the new desalination plant should be built in the Rocha Baixinha area (…) of Albufeira which borders Loulé –  but this location may still undergo some adjustments, depending on the environmental impact study.

The desalination plant will produce 16 million cubic metres of fresh water, which means more than 20% of the Algarve’s public supply needs, estimated at 72 million cubic metres, says Águas do Algarve.

The government announced early last month that it would be proposing the construction of a desalination plant in Albufeira municipality, and that it intends to open the tender by the end of the year.

APA now has a maximum of five months to deliver its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and issue an Environmental Impact Statement (DIA) that will allow the tender to proceed, a source for Águas do Algarve has told Lusa.

The company’s statement stresses that the new unit will allow “the realisation of an alternative capable of guaranteeing the resilience of public supply to the population of the Algarve region, even in periods of prolonged drought, aiming to guarantee the availability of water for current and future consumption”.

The project will also increase “the resilience of the public water supply system for the entire Algarve taking into account seasonal behaviour of verified consumption and the fact that water from the desalination process will feed the distribution system managed by Águas do Algarve to serve the region”.

Months ago, when environment minister Duarte Cordeiro was on a visit to the Algarve to discuss desalination he talked about boosting production to 24 million cubic metres. Thus this latest announcement from Águas do Algarve appears to have ‘revised’ intentions downwards.

It needs to be stressed that desalination does not come without some quite considerable downsides, which have been stressed by environmental groups and hinted at by opposition politicians PSD. In California, for example, where issues with water are every bit as acute as the ones we have here, regulators threw out a $1.4 billion plan for a desalination plant on the basis that it would “devastate marine life and expose the plant to future risk of sea level rise while producing expensive water too costly for low-income consumers”.

Environmentalists who had opposed the project for years “burst into celebration after the vote”, stressing the plant “would soon be made obsolete by water recycling”, which is a process already underway in the Algarve (see main menu story uploaded earlier today).

Source material: Lusa/ Reuters