Lack of water in Sado river threatens Alentejo rice production
Pego do Altar Dam

Drought: five municipalities have already raised water tariffs

Algarve comes under increasing pressure to act in face of crippling drought

In spite of patent reluctance by municipalities to ‘grasp the nettle’ when it comes to water consumption, five Portuguese councils have decided that one of the most effective ways of reducing it is in raising water tariffs.

It is an option that local authorities in the Algarve particularly have previously balked at.

But resistance is being worn down by circumstance. Media reports stress the fact that the Algarve particularly ‘only has a year’s worth of reserves’ left. This doesn’t mean households on borehole water will necessarily have such luck. Every day that it doesn’t rain, the situation gets just a little bit more precarious.

António Pina, president of AMAL, the intermunicipal community of the Algarve, has admitted that if rain doesn’t appear “difficult decisions” will have to be taken. 

For the time being, the municipalities of Mogadouro, São Pedro do Sul, Tabuaço, Vila Nova de Foz Côa and Mêda have started taking them.

According to ECO online another 19 councils are ‘considering’ increasing their charges for water.

There is no ‘fixed’ charge given in these changes. Each municipality appears to have devised their own particular scales, referring to different type of consumption (domestic, business, agriculture, etc.)

Water regulator ERSAR has stressed that “considering the situation of drought affecting mainland Portugal” it is becoming more and more urgent that tariffs for water supply and wastewater sanitation be reviewed.

The government has already highlighted 43 boroughs where the ‘situation’ is most critical, recommending they introduce restrictions on the use of water like the ‘temporary suspension of street cleaning and use of swimming pools, as well as a sanctions regime to penalise the misuse of water’, adds ECO.

On that list the majority of boroughs are in the north. But three are in the Algarve. They are Lagos, Aljezur and Vila do Bispo – and this far all three have flatly refused to charge consumers any extra for water; they have not introduced any kind of restrictions – and in at least one of these boroughs, council workers have still been seen watering green spaces.