Douro shortage threatens Iberian relations

PORTUGAL COULD be entitled to receive substantial compensation from Spain because the Douro’s streams are below levels agreed in a 1998 Convention.

The shortage obliges Spain to pay a fine equivalent to the value of electricity that the water could have produced in Portugal. In this case, the Spanish may have to pay out 300 cubic hectometres of water, valued at six million euros, in order to compensate for low water levels in the Crestuma dam.

The Spanish government is understood to be considering announcing an official drought in order to escape indemnities. But Environment Minister, Nunes Correia, said discussions were still continuing between the two Iberian neighbours. “The subject is being addressed and the relationship with Spain is extremely constructive,” he insisted. The Albufeira Convention (1998) stipulated the minimum water content of Iberian rivers. The agreement fixed water levels of three dams: 3,500 cubic hectometres in Miranda do Douro, 3,800 in Saucelle-Águeda and 5,000 in Crestuma. But in Crestuma, between October 1 and June 1 of this year, only 4,700 cubic hectometres were recorded.

The Convention only allows for exceptions when rainfall in the basins is 35 per cent lower than the average figure for the last decade. On May 31, rainfall levels were established to have been just three millimetres from the level required to grant an exception.

The Spanish Environment Ministry has now indicated that the indemnity payment is the most likely solution to the crisis, but says that a ministerial meeting will be fixed in July to debate the issue.