So low you can see the submerged village: Albufeira da barragem do Cabril, Vilar da Amoreira, taken five days ago by Paulo Lopes

Farmers in three Alentejan municipalities hear they won’t be getting any water this summer

The effects of the winter’s drought have seen farmers in three Alentejan municipalities told they won’t be receiving any water for their land this spring/ summer.

The ‘association of irrigators and beneficiaries of Campilhas and São Domingos’ habitually supplies water to 6,000 hectares of agricultural land, tabloid Correio da Manhã explains today. But this has had to be reduced by a third because the Campilhas dam is running at just 4.1% capacity.

This means farmland in Santiago de Cacém, Odemira and Ourique will be without their normal supplies for the coming seasons.

Even if rain does finally arrive, the paper infers it won’t be enough to allow ‘normal irrigation’ to resume.

Campilhas isn’t the only dam running critically low this winter.

CM carries an alarming picture of levels in Castelo de Bode, while the Facebook page “Barragens e Albufeiras de Portugal” is full of images showing the situation is getting progressively worse all over the country.

The level for instance in the Barragem de Alto Lindoso, near Spain, is so low “you can see the village that was submerged” to make way for its construction. 

The same goes for the Albufeira da barragem do Cabril in Vilar da Amoreira (see image above).

Comments online show some of these dams and reservoirs are not used just to supply water for irrigation purposes, but for hydroelectricity. 

People taking part in the conversation threads are rightly outraged. Says one: “This whole subject of dams has to be properly scrutinised. The country in hydric terms must be rethought. If there are other forms of energy, the question of water is fundamental to life: for people, animals, plants, the forests. The management of these dams/ reservoirs has to be very efficient and professional. The interests of the Portuguese people to life should be a priority”.

“Something is wrong”, another commentator answers. “This madness will only stop when there is no longer any water”.

And there we have it, on the so-called ‘day of reflection’ before legislative elections tomorrow – a cruel choice of words when one considers that the reflection from many of these dams today is confused by the ghosts of sunken villages sacrificed in the name of progress.

Comments on the Barragens e Albufeiras de Portugal Facebook page certainly reflect people’s frustrations.

Another comment leaping out says: “Don’t you get it, EDP belongs to the Chinese, and they are working hard to collect water. Keep voting PS and PSD”…

Back to the Alentejo, Ilídio Martins of the association forced to reduce water supplies to farmland admits the situation is “very bad” in environmental terms. A possible solution is to link the Campilhas dam to Alqueva, but it’s a long-term vision, still in the early stages of study.

In nearby Ourique, the Monte de Rocha reservoir is at 15.4% capacity, while the general directorate of agriculture and rural development is said to be “actioning contingency plans for the most affected areas: Odemira and the Algarve”.

In all the fandango of the political campaigning and television debates this ominous developing drama appears to have been completely overlooked.

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