Portugal’s environment minister says building more dams won’t solve the Algarve’s water issues and that the solution lies in more efficient water management as well as the construction of a desalination plant.
João Pedro Matos Fernandes was speaking to reporters following a climate change meeting in Loulé on Monday (February 3).
“We cannot expect the weather to help us. The Algarve, in the long run, won’t have more water than it has today. So, more dams won’t solve the problem,” he said.
As the minister points out, the drought-afflicted Algarve has two dams in the east that have “little water”, thus going from “two empty dams to three empty dams” is not the solution.
“What we have to do is reduce water consumption,” he said, insisting that the region has to start using treated wastewater for agriculture, golf courses and to clean streets.
However, he doesn’t completely rule out the possibility of building more dams: “Nothing is out of the question.”
In fact, the government is looking into two projects for the construction of dams in Foupana and Monchique, although he insists “desalination is the more realistic solution” at the moment as the “historically low” prices of solar energy production would allow authorities to reduce the costs of producing drinkable water.
He added that turning seawater into drinkable water would have been harder a few years ago not because of any technical difficulties but because it was “more expensive”.
Matos Fernandes also said that the government is still in the early stages of “identifying solutions to combat water shortages”, be it in terms of conserving it, storing it or producing drinkable water. He added that the government will be presenting its view on the subject in March and then discussing it with local councils.
The minister was also challenged by Loulé Mayor Vítor Aleixo to create an Environmental Emergency Fund for local councils, an idea that he described as “very positive”.
He added that if most councils “voluntarily wanted to create this fund”, the Portuguese law would not be an impediment.
Águas do Algarve invests €100 million in maintenance
Meantime, regional water authority Águas do Algarve has signed two contracts worth around €100 million to hire the maintenance services of two companies.
The first contract, totaling over €41 million, was signed with Acciona Água S.A. which will be in charge of the maintenance of the “sanitation subsystems of wastewater” at the Almargem and Faro-Noroeste ETAR wastewater treatment plants.
The second, totaling over €58 million, was celebrated with Be Water S.A. and will see the company taking over the same responsibilities at the Lagos and Albufeira Ponte ETAR plants.
Both contracts are valid for seven years.