Half of Algarve golf courses to be irrigated with treated wastewater by 2025
Finding more sustainable ways to water golf courses in a region chronically affected by drought is a major goal being pursued by several Algarve leaders. If the president of the Algarve water authority’s predictions are correct, around half of the region’s 40 golf courses could be irrigated with treated wastewater by 2025.
It’s undeniable the huge impact that golf has in the Algarve’s tourism sector. Pre-pandemic studies have found that the golf industry can generate around €500 million in the Algarve in one year.
This is why making sure the sector becomes as sustainable as possible is a goal that is being taken very seriously in the region, which continues to scramble for solutions to its new drought-centred reality.
On Monday, the executive commission of the Algarve Tourism Region (RTA) headed by president André Gomes visited the Salgados golf course in Albufeira to see, first-hand, the investments that have been made to link the golf course to the nearby wastewater treatment plant, enabling the irrigation of the course with treated wastewater.
“These visits are strategic in the sense that they allow us to showcase all the investments that are being carried out in the Algarve to make golf more sustainable,” Gomes told the Resident.
“I was also pleased to see that the golf course was completely full,” he said, highlighting the importance of the sport in the fight against seasonality.
The visit was preceded by predictions made by the president of regional water authority Águas do Algarve (AdA), who believes that half of the nearly 40 golf courses in the region could be irrigated with treated wastewater by 2025.
Speaking to Lusa news agency, António Eusébio said that the estimate is based on a €23 million investment to be implemented by 2025 as part of the Water Efficiency Plan to produce treated wastewater for irrigation.
“With this investment, we estimate an increase of 1.4 cubic hectometres to 8 cubic hectometres per year, with 71% going to golf courses,” the AdA boss said.
According to Eusébio, golf courses currently consume about 15 cubic hectometres of water per year. The goal of Águas do Algarve is to reach the end of 2025 with eight cubic hectometres used mainly for golf course irrigation.
The president of the water authority also said that reused water from Wastewater Treatment Plants (ETAR) can be used not only for golf course irrigation but also for agricultural irrigation, street cleaning, and public green spaces.
António Eusébio was one of the speakers at a seminar on wastewater management in golf courses organised by the Portuguese Golf Federation, which took place in Lagos on Tuesday, October 10.
“This is an extremely important meeting,” said Eusébio, addressing the entrepreneurs in attendance. “It is fundamental that we work together to obtain new water sources, new reserves and ways of reusing water.”
While using treated wastewater may not necessarily be a “new source”, he said it “allows us to keep water in dams and boreholes”. Thus, by using treated wastewater to irrigate golf courses, the remaining water left in the region’s reservoirs can be used “essentially” for public supply, Eusébio added.
For António Eusébio, effective water management is a “global challenge”, but it holds significant importance in the Algarve, “a region currently facing one of the most critical water scarcity moments in decades”.
He also announced that Águas do Algarve is working on five projects with funds from the Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP) to improve water efficiency in Vila Real de Santo António, Vilamoura and Quinta do Lago (Loulé), Albufeira, and Boavista (Lagos).
The largest projects are in Vilamoura and Quinta do Lago, which represent a €14.7 million investment. In Vilamoura, approximately 12 kilometres of piping will be completed by 2025 to connect to the beach resort’s ETAR for the irrigation of five golf courses and green spaces. In Quinta do Lago, similar works will be completed to bring treated wastewater to three more golf courses and additional green spaces by 2025.
Works are also being carried out in Albufeira to link local infrastructures to the Albufeira Poente wastewater treatment plant, and in Lagos to provide treated wastewater for the Boavista golf course.
“All these measures and investments are crucial to ensure a better balance between water demand and availability. Everyone must strive to do more and better to face the challenges of climate change,” said Eusébio.
André Gomes has weighed in, saying he is confident that the goal set by AdA can be achieved and said that tourism authorities in the Algarve are doing what they can to make it come true.
Golf sector “unfairly criticised”
The president of RTA also defended the Algarve’s golf sector from its detractors, saying it is often unjustly targeted for consuming too much water.
“The golf sector, which is so often unfairly criticised when it comes to water consumption, consumes 6% of the water made available in the Algarve. There are other sectors, such as agriculture, which consume much more water,” he said.
“It’s not tourism or golf that are responsible for the huge losses registered in municipal water supply networks,” Gomes stressed, pointing out that the golf sector is nonetheless carrying out “multiple investments worth millions of euros in wastewater treatment plants, in monitoring systems which use cutting-edge technology to measure the humidity of golf courses to know when they need to be watered, and in planting different trees that do not require as much water.
PSD demands “concrete results” in fight against drought
The Algarve – much like most of mainland Portugal – is still experiencing a “severe” level of drought, according to the latest data for September from the Portuguese Sea and Atmosphere Institute (IPMA).
With the dire situation set to continue unless unexpected levels of rain fall in the coming months, the MPs elected by PSD for the Algarve have questioned the government about its guarantees that “there will be no shortage of water in taps” in the Algarve, demanding to know what progress has been made regarding the many projects announced to tackle the region’s drought – mainly the desalination plant announced for Albufeira.
Said MP Rui Cristina, “propaganda is not enough, nor is the creation of yet another committee, or the announcement that a government proposal to amend the Water Law is in the final stages.
“Throughout these years, the government has not taken concrete measures to alleviate the severity of the drought problem. There has been a lack of the necessary political commitment and determination to implement alternatives for the careful management of this essential resource for life,” he added.