Barragem de Odeleite. Inset: AMAL boss António Pina. Photo: BRUNO FILIPE PIRES/OPEN MEDIA GROUP

Drought: Algarve needs new dam and desalination plant, warns AMAL

In a bid to finally move forward with concrete measures to pull the region out of its ongoing drought, the Algarve Municipalities Association (AMAL) is calling for a meeting with regional water authority Águas do Algarve (AdA) to discuss the launch of studies into the construction of a new dam and desalination plant in the Algarve.

The announcement came after an AMAL meeting on Friday (January 10).

AMAL boss António Pina says “it is time to stop talking and start acting” by implementing measures to fight the drought.

“We will be asking Águas do Algarve to give us an investment plan within three months,” Pina told Público newspaper.

Last month, he said that the rain that fell in some of the worst affected areas in December, such as the Odeleite and Odelouca dams, was still “insufficient” and “did not pull us out of an extreme drought”, adding that “it would have to rain four to five times more”.

Pina believes that an environmental impact study (EIA) into the possibility of building the long-promised Foupana dam between Castro Marim and Alcoutim should be launched as soon as “this week”.

Meantime, according to the region’s Intermunicipal Plan to Adapt to Climate Change (PIAAC), the construction of a desalination plant will be “inevitable” starting in 2080.

As Albufeira Mayor José Carlos Rolo points out, “a lot is said, studies are carried out, but what has been done so far?”

AMAL believes that these measures should be complemented by reusing treated wastewater, reducing the amount of water lost to leaks and carrying out awareness campaigns urging citizens to use water more wisely.

While the region’s Head of Agriculture and Fisheries Pedro Monteiro says that last month’s rainfall led to an increase in soil moisture, now ranging between 20% and 50%, the Portuguese Environmental Agency continues to classify the region’s state of drought as “severe and extreme”.

As readers may recall, stopping the drilling of new boreholes and promoting the use of treated wastewater in agriculture and tourism are the main measures suggested by the Portuguese government back in November to tackle the country’s state of drought.

AdA has tried to calm concerns over the last few months, stressing that the region’s dams have enough water for at least another year even if it doesn’t rain.

Meantime, AMAL has put forward the name of Alcoutim Mayor, Osvaldo Gonçalves, as a candidate to lead a new government working group specialising in water-related issues. It will bring together ministers, tourism officials, mayors and the Portuguese Environmental Agency (APA).