At a time when the government is implementing harsher measures to deal with the country’s worrying drought (click here), the Algarve’s regional director of agriculture has announced that around seven million cubic metres of water are wasted every year in irrigation canals in the Western Algarve.
“We have annual water losses of around five million cubic metres in the Silves, Lagoa and Portimão irrigation perimetre and around two million in Alvor, which is very significant for the period of drought that we are going through,” Pedro Valadas Monteiro told Lusa news agency.
To put the matter into perspective, more water is lost than the amount of water currently stored at the Algarve’s Bravura dam in Lagos – around 5 million cubic metres.
Said the agriculture boss, “a total of €35 million will be invested in insulation and pressurisation work” of the irrigation channels to prevent losses. Around €27 million is being invested in the Silves, Lagoa, and Portimão perimetre, and around €8 million in the Alvor perimetre.
Monteiro revealed that the works on the Silves block are finished, while the works in Lagoa and Falacho are still to be completed.
“In 2023, the start of the modernisation of the Bravura canal is planned in the Alvor irrigation perimeter, the one that is in the worst condition and where work is already underway to line the canal, with the application of insulating netting to cover the cracks over 10 kilometres, between Odiáxere and Vale da Lama,” he said.
There is belief that the works in this last section, which will involve converting the “gravity system to a pressurised one,” will lead to annual water savings of around two million cubic metres, and around five million in Silves.
“The interventions and pressurisation of the system will allow the impacts of drought to be minimised in years with rainfall values below expectations,” said Monteiro.
As Lusa reports, the Bravura dam was built in 1958 and is designed for agricultural irrigation, golf courses, gardens and public supply, covering around 1,800 hectares of farms in the so-called “Alvor hydro-agricultural perimeter.”
It adds that the dam is the reservoir with the smallest volume of water stored in the Western Algarve – around 14% of the 34 million cubic meters of its total capacity.
“The current volume is the lowest of the last 29 years, and can only be compared to the January months of 1983 and 1993 when it had three million cubic metres,” said António Marreiros, president of the Alvor Irrigators and Beneficiaries Association (ARBA) – the entity that manages the water in the Bravura basin.
He told Lusa that in the last agricultural year, which ended in October, around seven million cubic metres of water were taken from Bravura, “but only five million were billed, which represents a waste of around two million.”
“These are the losses that we have to avoid, especially in a year that is going to be dry and extremely difficult for this region, which means that if it doesn’t rain, we may not have water for the next agricultural season,” said Marreiros.
He added that only 2.5 million cubic metres of the water currently at the dam can be used, “as the rest is residual,” and said that the works to modernise the water channels from Bravura, which are 64 years old, “are essential to prevent losses along the 60 kilometres of pipes and to serve farms.”.
According to the Portuguese Institute of the Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA), the Western Algarve is one of the regions most affected by the drought that the country is experiencing.
Data from the National Information System of Water Resources (SNIRH) shows that the basins of the Western Algarve had a water availability of 14.3% at the end of December.