66% of Portugal in situation of ‘extreme drought’
The Portuguese government it will be launching campaigns in July to promote the efficient use of water – targeting all types of consumers, with monthly meetings to monitor the situation until the end of September.
The measures were announced yesterday by minister for environment and climate action, Duarte Cordeiro, at a joint press conference with the minister of agriculture and food, Maria do Céu Antunes, following the 9th meeting of the permanent commission for prevention, monitoring and follow-up of drought effects, which took stock of the meteorological, hydrological, hydro-agricultural, crop and animal watering situation, and the assessment of critical situations.
The ministers stressed that, according to official forecasts, 34% of mainland Portugal is in severe drought and 66% in extreme drought. Rain forecasted will not reverse the situation.
Data from IPMA Sea and Atmosphere Institute indicates this year is the driest since records began (in 1931) and that only 2005 came close to the current picture. In other words, the meteorological and agrometeorological drought “requires action”.
The permanent commission met in early February, announcing measures “that will now be complemented by others” to ensure there is sufficient water fit for human consumption for the next two years, said Duarte Cordeiro.
The February meeting saw 50 measures adopted; Tuesday’s meeting will see another 28 added, from water-use restrictions to ‘solutions to make water available in the most affected areas’.
“We have to get used to living with less water,” he said. “Although the country is going through a serious situation, we have the tools and knowledge to overcome this drought.”
The Environmental Fund has five million euros for immediate measures – either for awareness campaigns or for others, like reactivating public collection points and fighting water losses, he said.
On the more structural measures coming into place, Mr Cordeiro stressed a water efficiency plan for the Alentejo will be ready by the end of the month – and an intervention plan for the Tejo and Western regions is also being concluded.
Ministers from Portugal and Spain are due to meet in Lisbon that at the end of the month to assess the drought situation once again, as it is also affecting Portugal’s direct neighbour.
Maria do Céu Antunes explained that of 44 reservoirs monitored 37 have storage levels that ensure the irrigation programme for this year – albeit there are seven reservoirs in the north, Alentejo and Algarve with limitations.
Two critically low dams in the Algarve – Barragem de Bravura, and Santa Clara – will see ‘only public supply’ allowed in the former (where volume is described as ‘dead’) and similar restrictions in the latter, with “work to be carried out to improve water efficiency”.
Dams at Campilhas and Fonte de Cerne, Santiago do Cacém, are no longer available for irrigation, while Monte da Rocha, Ourique, linked to Alqueva will see an investment of 50 million euros, allowing the partial use for agriculture, said the minister.
In the north there will also be restrictions on two hydro-agricultural uses.
Said Ms Antunes: “With the efficient use of water and with the measures taken the irrigation programme for 2022 is guaranteed.”
She nonetheless emphasised the need to introduce more technology and knowledge in irrigation – not only for larger producers, who already use it, but for small and medium-sized enterprises. There is support for this purpose, she said.