No drought for now.jpg

No drought for now

By: Caroline Cunha

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TWO YEARS ago, Portugal faced a serious drought situation: cattle were dying, forest fires were raging and the public water supply was threatened in the Algarve.

Today, approaching summer 2007, the situation is far more positive with sufficient water available in the Algarve region for this year and next year. However, despite the news that there is not a drought on the horizon, water entities and environmental groups are concerned about the lack of awareness concerning responsible usage of the resource.

The Resident contacted Águas do Algarve to ascertain the exact situation in terms of the current water levels of the region’s reservoirs and the management plans for the future.

“We had a good amount of rainfall in 2006 and, for this reason, the water supply is assured for 2007 and 2008. There will not be a drought in the near future, the reservoirs are currently almost full,” said Teresa Fernandes, communication and marketing manager for Águas do Algarve.

According to figures supplied to The Resident by the Instituto da Água (INAG), the Arade Barragem is currently holding 23.5 million cubic litres of water, corresponding to 82.7 per cent of its capacity, the Bravura Barragem contains 28.3 million cubic litres and is 81.3 per cent full, while Beliche is currently holding 34 million cubic litres and is at 70.8 per cent its total capacity. Funcho is also holding 34 million cubic litres and is 71.3 per cent full and Odeleite currently contains 124.5 million cubic litres, corresponding to 95.8 per cent its total capacity.

Despite this good news, Fernandes was keen to point out that Águas do Algarve is not complacent and has just joined forces with environmental protection group Almargem to launch a joint awareness campaign about responsible water consumption.

Águas do Algarve points out in its latest press communication that, albeit wrongly, “the idea still exists among the general public that hydro resources are infinite and that the planet has plenty of water.”

The agreement the water company has signed with Almargem is entitled Water in the Algarve – Raising awareness for efficient usage in the urban sector. It is a working plan targeting municipal companies, councils, tourism promoters and hotel owners, landscape architects, gardening firms, domestic consumers and the public in general. The plan has five key aims:

1. To identify water usage in the Algarve in terms of management and maintenance of public and private green areas.

2. Identify water saving opportunities.

3. Identify areas of water usage where there is the most potential for implementing increased efficiency measures.

4. To contribute to raising awareness among the Algarve’s population, particularly across the target groups already mentioned, about the importance of efficient use of water.

5. To make various information available on this topic, namely on the internet and via a publication entitled Guide to Good Water Usage in the Algarve.

Quercus, a national environmental protection group, has also been working towards raising awareness among the community concerning responsible use of water. It has developed a programme of awareness sessions at schools across the country.

Managing drought

In terms of managing water usage and forecasting supply and demand, it was reported in May 2006 that INAG, in conjunction with several other entities, intended to develop a unique system for forecasting and managing droughts. The Resident contacted INAG to find out what progress has been made on the project.

“It is not ready yet, we are still working to create this. We hope that it will be ready in spring of 2008,” said Adérito Mendes, head of planning and services. “I hoped it would be ready sooner but our manpower was redirected and priorities were altered due to Portugal’s forthcoming presidency of the EU. There are three environmental issues of focus under the Presidency and these are biodiversity and business, climatic change and drought,” he said.

Finally, after a dispute with the EU, among other problems, work is now starting again on constructing the Odelouca reservoir which is billed as being capable of making the Algarve “drought proof”. Nuno Grade, president of the Algarve branch of Quercus, dismissed this claim, telling The Resident: “This is highly unlikely because we use more and more water every year.”

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