Severe and extreme drought affects 80% of country: “looming water shortages” a certainty

With at least 80% of the country already classified as in a state of severe or extreme drought, water shortages during this summer are a certainty.

Papers today are suggesting inland communities of the Alentejo and northern Beira Interior, could run out of water by August, as dams are already well below capacity.

Secretary of state for the environment Carlos Martins has confirmed the government will be implementing “contingency measures” in a bid to avoid the “most serious consequences” of a country drying up in the heat of the summer.

“We need to adopt measures to contain consumption”, he said yesterday (Thursday) – suggesting these will include “rules” as well as awareness campaigns of the “very serious situation in which we are all living”.

Observador suggests the government is hoping that borough councils “reactivate” old boreholes to “reinforce or substitute” current sources of supply.

Martins has also appealed to councils to reduce the irrigation of green spaces.

“No one will understand if we continue watering roundabouts at a time when populations and cattle face restrictions”, he explained – adding that “roundabouts will become less beautiful, but they are not a priority”.

As Observador reports, the “scenario is not optimistic”.

“Of the country’s 60 mainland dams, 18 are already well below the halfway mark” at a moment when the country is only just beginning to fill up for the height of touristic popularity.

“On a general level there is no cause for concern”, says Martins – but pockets of the country are in a parlous state – the Sado river basin being one of the most worst affected.

Público reveals that the 10 dams in the Sado basin are already down to below 40% capacity – with some down to as little as 20%.

Next week, meetings will be going ahead with farmers and livestock breeders in the boroughs most affected to discuss contingency plans.

Data from the meteorological institute IPMA shows that Spring this year was one of the three hottest since 1931 (the other two being the springs of 1977 and 2011).

Bizarrely however, the week has seen heavy downpours of rain with hailstones the size of cherries in the north and centre of the country – inundating areas that only three weeks ago were being ravaged by wildfires, and destroying up to 90% of crops.

In the Douro region wine and olive producer Ilda Oliveira has told Diário de Notícias that she has “lost everything”.

The vines and olive groves were devastated by a similar ‘freak summer storm’ two years ago, and still haven’t fully recovered from the effects of that.

“A phenomenon like this is frightening”, she told the paper. “We still don’t know how we are going to move forwards, how we are going to live. It is very difficult”.

Elsewhere eight districts remain under yellow alert over the storms, with agriculture and fisheries department personnel “on the ground” assessing damages likely to exceed €15 million and concentrated in the Douro orchards.

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