DESPITE WIDESPREAD reports that the Algarve is no longer in a drought situation, data from the Algarve University reveals that the rainfall in recent months was not sufficient to stop the region from finding itself in a moderate drought situation at the beginning of this year.
“The seriousness of the situation has decreased, but continues to be worrying,” states Nuno de Santos Loureiro of the Algarve University. The reason for his concerns is that two of the three periods of heavy rainfall were associated with tropical storms experienced in the south of the country. “These were unusual situations. If they had not occurred, we would have had very different water levels,” he said. In other words, the troposphere has still not recovered and is not demonstrating standard behaviour, meaning that there is a very high chance that the level of rainfall will be low again, causing another drought this summer.
Worryingly, the university’s research has been made public at the same time as local councils and Águas do Algarve (AdA) have concluded their campaign to raise awareness of the need to save water. The water company’s management has also stated that reservoirs already hold enough water to guarantee the region’s supply until 2007.
According to AdA figures, the rainfall has made it possible for the reservoirs in the Barlavento to be filled with around 20 million cubic metres of water. The Barragem da Bravura holds 6.5 million cubic litres, representing around 50 per cent of its total capacity, while the Barragem do Funcho currently stands at 22 per cent of its total capacity, with 14 million cubic litres. The Barragem do Arade, which holds water for agricultural purposes, is currently full after the Instituto da Água (Inag) ordered water to be drained off from the Funcho reservoir.
Meanwhile, in the Sotavento area, the Odeleite and Beliche reservoirs were replenished with 63 million cubic litres of water, meaning that they currently stand at 46 per cent of their total capacity.
“To summarise, the water currently being stored surpasses the 70 million cubic metres that are necessary for the region’s supply for a full year,” states a source from AdA.
For Nuno Loureiro, these amounts reveal that the capacity to respond to requirements is “not too bad”, but he points out that, “technically, we have to face the fact that we must manage the resources in case of a second year of drought”. His concern is not for the big town centres, but for the people living in the countryside, who greatly suffered with the water shortage, some experiencing emergency situations.
Teresa Fernandes of the AdA states, however, that the objective is not to forget about saving water. A new national awareness campaign will apparently be launched in March. With regard to such measures as the closure of swimming pools and functioning of public fountains, to date, the councils have not given any signals as to whether or not these restrictions will be put in place again this summer.
Last municipal bore holes
to be closed
In a separate report, AdA announced that it decided to seal municipal boreholes, which were re-opened in the Algarve last summer to supply around half the total amount of water required for domestic use in the region, since they are no longer required due to the rainfall of recent months. The company requested the region’s Câmaras to deactivate the boreholes, the last to be closed were those located in Faro (one borehole) and Tavira (two boreholes). According to AdA, the water supply is already guaranteed for this year since the recent rain allowed the region’s reservoirs to be sufficiently replenished.