Taken in July, this photograph shows parts of the west Algarve's Bravura dam that haven't had water for the last two years... photo uploaded onto Facebook group 'Barragem de Bravura, Odiaxere' by Nuno Gaspar
Taken in July, this photograph shows parts of the west Algarve's Bravura dam that haven't had water for the last two years... photo uploaded onto Facebook group 'Barragem de Bravura, Odiaxere' by Nuno Gaspar

Rain is on the way!

IPMA meteorologists predict probability of 40% to 50% of “above normal” precipitation levels this autumn

Rain is one the way (or is it, see below): IPMA, the country’s meteorological institute has forecast a probability of 40% to 50% of “above normal” precipitation levels this autumn, suggesting rain will be arriving within the next few weeks.

It’s the kind of news almost everyone in the country has been hoping for. But according to the minister for Agriculture, whatever level of rainfall Portugal will be getting, it is unlikely to free the country from a situation of drought.

Drought has many levels – and as 48% of national territory is in either extreme or severe drought, we would need consistent deluges (more than the 40%-50% probability outlined) to see the problem disappear, or even reduce dramatically.

But, as the minister stressed, “obviously” any kind of rainfall will help the country.

Maria de Céu Antunes was speaking at a press conference which otherwise painted what many will believe was a relatively whitewashed picture of the national situation.

According to the official mantra, the country as a whole is in a much better condition than it was this time last year: dams on average are holding more water (average capacity standing at 72%), and the situation of extreme/ severe drought is 49% BETTER than it was a year ago (when 97% of the country was in severe/ extreme drought).

But looking at the Algarve/ Alentejo areas, the situation “maintains identical to where it was last year” – which locals will tell you is not true: it is much worse, as there have been another 12 months of severe drought in which water that existed in aquifers has been steadily drained, supporting use by consumers.

The dams in the Algarve/ Alentejo are also nowhere near 72% capacity: almost all of them are at under 30% (and that’s an average), some, like Bravura in the west Algarve, are barely in double figure capacity.

“In view of the low volumes of water stored in the reservoirs in the Algarve, the Government will reinforce the Odelouca dam, in the Algarve, by 25 cubic hectometers, given the discrepancy between the existing capacity and the available water. The work, valued at five million euros, will be financed by the Environmental Fund”, the recent meeting of the permanent commission on drought prevention, monitorisation and accompaniment heard..

According to environment minister Duarte Cordeiro, this is a “structural measure” that should only start to produce “practical effects in two years” time. 

“Furthermore, and as already advanced at the (commission’s) previous meeting, monitoring of water withdrawals and the improper use of boreholes will be reinforced.

“With regard to restrictions on water consumption in the agricultural sector in the Algarve region, the minister noted that measures will not be aggravated, as they are having effects”, writes Lusa. 

“[In June], a 20% reduction in water use was determined. At the moment we have a 14% reduction”, he said, adding that recycled water has been extended to two more golf courses in the region.

As for urban water consumption, Duarte Cordeiro considers it is “in line” with last year, and therefore it is necessary to continue “developing work” – namely strengthening awareness campaigns and adopting measures that produce greater levels of effectiveness. 

“A reduction in water consumption in the hospitality services sector is desirable,” he added, without giving any idea how this will be achieved.

Reporters present also failed to query the continued functioning of car washes throughout the Algarve that are keeping people’s cars clean when cleanliness for modes of transport could never be considered a necessity.

Meantime, the joy of a forecast of above normal rainfall has already started to pall.

Within days of the agriculture minister’s assertions, climatologist Mário Marques was giving a very different point of view.

He told SIC Notícias today that he would like to believe the European weather forecasting model that IPMA follows, but “the truth is not so optimistic”, in his professional opinion.

Autumn weather starts next Friday, September 1st. I am expecting a September that is drier than normal, not much, but slightly below average in terms of precipitation, and then it will no longer be good news”, he warned.

“In a general context” he does not expect “a rainy autumn”, which will undermine the fight against the state of drought that affects practically the entire national territory, says SIC.

“There may be peaks of greater intensity of precipitation, but I am not as optimistic in my forecasts as the European model, which IPMA follows”, he reiterated.

Rain and thunder arrives for the weekend

There is a depression that could bring rain and “one or two thunderstorms” next weekend, but it all depends “on your location”, says Mário Marques.

“If the depression dips with its center over Portugal, this precipitation and instability will be more marginal. If you move its center a little further west, towards the Atlantic, we will already have a favorable situation for the occurrence of showers and thunderstorms on Saturday or Sunday, or even on Friday, depending on the location”, he said.

Even so, it is “an ephemeral situation” that the climatologist believes will not last “for more than 24 hours, 48 ​​hours at the most”.

Source: LUSA/ SIC Notícias