Photo: Lisa Fotios (Pexels)

Funds for increasing Algarve desalination capacity need to be clarified rapidly – watchdog

Project already ‘at risk’ due to non-compliance with targets and milestones

The national monitoring committee (CNA) of Portugal’s PRR (the EU ‘bazooka’ of post pandemic recovery) has said the time has come to rapidly define how the government intends to finance the ‘increased capacity of the desalination plant planned for the Algarve’.

With very little explained about this project (will the greater capacity mean a larger plant in Albufeira, which appears to be the location chosen, or will it mean two plants, one in Albufeira, another near Lagos?), there has also been no discussion on the very relevant negative effects of desalination.

Yet it is one of the main projects foreseen in the Algarve’s Water Efficiency Plan, for which the PRR allocated €200 million all told.

As it is, Lusa explains, the Algarve’s Water Efficiency Plan is the “second on a list of four projects at risk due to their state of non-compliance with targets and milestones.

The report describes the desalination plan as the most significant investment with PRR funding in the Algarve – aimed at mitigating the problem of scarcity of water for human  consumption.

An initial investment of €40 million has been factored in, but the ‘increase in capacity’ announced by environment minister Duarte Cordeiro on a recent visit to the Algarve, will bring that amount up to at least €50 million – hence CNA’s queries

To be fair, when Mr Cordeiro made his announcement, the message was “we’ll find the money somewhere…”

With regard to other projects within the Algarve Water Efficiency Plan, the commission’s report refers to an investment “practically concluded” in the Odeleite dam to improve interconnection with the Beliche dam and make the water capture at a greater depth, but stresses that “at the agricultural level, the adhesion of farmers was reduced” and it is necessary to promote “greater proximity” to them to “identify their needs and promote communication of the planned measures”.

“It is also recommended a change to the minimum threshold of the notice for water efficiency in the agricultural sector, to accommodate small investments, which are below the €50,000 defined,” the commission adds

Regarding “investment related to water losses in the urban sector,” the report indicates that “26 applications were submitted, with 10 obtaining a favourable opinion, for a total investment of €9.9 million.

In addition, “in the investment related to the Pomarão water intake, the Environmental Impact Study is expected to be delivered in March”.

Meantime, public participation is still open on the whole issue of desalination in the Algarve, which is dividing opinions across the board. Environmentalists/ specialists in water usage, even opposition politicians pose numerous questions which, to date, have not been answered.

As PSD Algarve has stressed: “We are in favour of a pilot project for a desalination plant, but the environmental aspects have to be known and all information transparent. None of this is happening in this process”.

[email protected]