Drought prompts talks of cutting water supply at night as “last resort”

Portugal is facing one of its longest and most serious droughts ever. The situation is dire and government officials are weighing a number of measures to help control the country’s water levels such as cutting water supplies at night-time.
Authorities say 94% of Portugal is facing “extreme drought” while the remainder is classified as severe.

At the end of October, the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA) revealed that most dams in the country were filled at less than 40% of their capacity.

In Viseu, where the drought is said to be at its worst, tanker trucks have been used to transport water to dried-up dams and badly-affected communities.

The method is being used so often that volunteer firefighters, who are responsible for transporting the water, have urged the state to compensate them for the money they are spending.

Meantime, cattle farmers have admitted they are “praying for rain” and there are few crops that haven’t been affected in one way or another by the lack of water.

But according to Environment Minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes, rationing water at night is only a “theoretical possibility” for now. In other words, it would only happen as a last resort.

“We are doing everything we can alongside local councils to make sure that there are no water shortages. What is important is that people save water,” he told journalists in Évora.

His statement came on the same day that the Secretary of State for the Environment Carlos Martins was featured on the cover of i newspaper admitting that the government was considering rationing water supplies at night if the drought worsened. Reducing water pressure in the distribution system is another option.

But as Fernandes reiterated, this possibility is still a long way down the line and the decision would never be made by the government, but by each town hall.

He added he was “almost sure it won’t be necessary”.

The government’s main goal right now is to ensure that the population is committed to saving water, especially the bigger water consumers like companies and public institutions as well as local councils which “almost always are responsible for managing water supplies”.

In the Algarve, the situation appears to be less worrying with water supply company Águas do Algarve saying that the population has no reason to be concerned yet as “water will continue to run through the taps and irrigating fields”.

Teresa Fernandes from Águas do Algarve said: “Fortunately, the Algarve’s water reserves are enough to supply the population for another year.”

Rain is expected
As the Resident went to press on Wednesday, much-needed rain was expected to start falling in the north of Portugal.

Rain is expected to fall between Wednesday, November 22 and Monday, November 27, says the Portuguese institute for the sea and atmosphere IPMA. Saturday should see rain falling across the country.

But specialists warn it won’t be enough to help the country overcome the extreme drought it is facing.

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Photo: Fagilde dam in Mangualde (Viseu district), which dropped to its lowest water level in recorded history, is being filled up with water carried in tanker trucks belonging to firefighter brigades from across Portugal