Minister of the Environment and Climate Action, Duarte Cordeiro
The Minister of the Environment and Climate Action, Duarte Cordeiro, during a visit to the ongoing works of the Odeleite dam within the scope of the Algarve Regional Water Efficiency Plan. Image LUÍS FORRA/LUSA

Minister says Algarve desalination plant will have greater capacity than expected

Albufeira and Lagos are the two potential locations for the new desalination plant.

The project to install a desalination plant in the Algarve, financed by the Recovery and Resilience Program (PRR), has been altered to produce up to 24 cubic hectometres. A greater capacity than initially planned, revealed the Minister for the Environment yesterday.

Duarte Cordeiro disclosed the information during a visit to the Odeleite dam in Castro Marim, district of Faro, where the first water efficiency project in the region financed by the PRR will soon be completed. The Odeleite project will allow capturing over 15 cubic hectometres of the dead volume of water without affecting its quality.

“This is the first implementation of the PRR, dedicated to water efficiency in the Algarve. The project is a month and a half away from being completed. It saw an investment of 2.4 million euros, allowing an additional 15 cubic hectometres to be captured. This would roughly correspond to 7% of water consumption in the Algarve, or 20% of human consumption,” said the Minister for the Environment and Climate Action.

The government official highlighted that the PRR “is very ambitious, has several projects” and many entities involved, but stressed that “it is ongoing” and “firm steps” are being taken to advance with them. The “most famous” one is the desalination plant planned to increase water availability in the Algarve region, which is most affected by the lack of rain and drought.

“The decision to increase its capacity was taken by Águas de Portugal and Águas do Algarve. The desalination plant we had could handle eight cubic hectometres and potentially use up to 16. Now, the decision was made to increase its size to reach 24 cubic hectometres”, said the minister to journalists.

Following a visit to the Odeleite dam project, which will also improve the connection to the Beliche dam in the eastern Algarve, Duarte Cordeiro explained that the decision to increase the desalination plant’s production capacity was taken because it was understood to be “the right time, before investing”.

Odeleite dam.
Image Luís Forra/LUSA

“And the Environmental Impact Study will be delivered, in the next few weeks, to study two possible locations, Albufeira and Lagos”, added the official.

Questioned by Lusa news agency about whether the increase in capacity of the desalination plant will imply an increase in costs, Duarte Cordeiro replied, “yes”. The minister clarified that the budget would increase from “40 million [euros] to around 50 million” and that, should the difference not be guaranteed through the PRR, other forms of financing would be assured.

“That is, if we do not have financing conditions through the PRR, we will find other sources of financing. This did not inhibit decision-making. The decision has been made. The desalination plant will be larger than expected”, he assured.

Duarte Cordeiro recognised that the Algarve is currently “one of the most worrying areas of the country” in terms of water. He noted that the region is at “two levels”. In the Sotavento (east), where there is “more or less capacity to about 60% of storage”, and in the Barlavento (west), which causes concern, having benefited less from the latest rains and having “dams with a lower supply level”.

“It is a matter that we are following very carefully. Even today, we will have a meeting with the Association of Municipalities. We are also going to have a meeting with the CCDR [Commission for Coordination and Regional Development] to hear everyone regarding the current status, understand the level of recovery we have, and assess the situation,” said the minister yesterday.