No drought this year

new water management system planned

PORTUGAL WILL not face a drought this year, this is the guarantee being made by the Instituto da Água (INAG), the national water institute.

“This year was relatively good in terms of the distribution of rain and temperature levels,” said Adérito Mendes, head of the planning and services department of INAG. “Rainfall was spaced out which has led to the good development of crops and vegetation, without the need for supplementary irrigation.” This has meant that the water reserves are assured for the summer and that the reservoirs, which are still not completely full, will only now need to be drawn upon.

Despite this relatively positive situation, INAG is not sitting back, as everyone is aware that another drought situation could arise in the near future. INAG, in conjunction with several other entities, intends to develop a unique new system for forecasting and managing droughts, to rationalise and evaluate water use.

Adérito Mendes explained why the system is so desperately needed: “We currently don’t know the quantity of water consumed, the uses or the costs.” In order to manage a drought situation effectively, this kind of information is clearly imperative. “We need to know if we are dealing with a golf course or a field of corn” as it is important, in a drought situation, to know in which areas the water resources should be invested.

Through such a system, it would be possible to evaluate, at regional level, “if there is sufficient water for sports, such as swimming, to be practised”. It would also be possible to understand what type of situation, at a supply level, will be faced by industrial activities. The system would also make it possible to ascertain what the likely risks are for people and businesses.

This drought prediction and management system will encompass the collection, insertion and analysis of data with regard to water consumption on the part of all users, from farmers and industrial factories to local councils, in order to understand the quantity of resources used by each activity. “With this system in place, we will know exactly where we need to take action,” says Mendes.

The database for this new prediction scheme will only be up and running in a year’s time, and will need to be constantly updated. Another function of the new system will be to issue alert indicators every week. This will allow the government and local councils to take the necessary precautionary measures (banning the watering of gardens for example) in order to avoid an interruption to the public water supply.


Of the 57 reservoirs monitored in March, only six were in a worse situation, in terms of their water storage level, than in the same period last year. In March, 18 per cent of Portugal was registered as being in a moderate drought situation, but there are water reserves available in these zones that can, and have, been drawn upon, meaning that there is no immediate problem. The drought report published in March will be the last monthly document produced, which also points to the fact that the situation is now returning to normal.