A new report from consumer association Deco claims that the country’s drinking water still falls short of the required standard. An in-depth analysis carried out on water from 41 springs, scattered all round the country, found 18 were unfit for human consumption. The association recommends, as it always has, that people avoid drinking tap water and drink bottled water instead.
Of all the springs tested, only two received the classification of ‘very good’ and both were outside the Algarve – one was in Guarda and the other was in Portalegre. Bacteria, lead and nitrates were just some of the substances found in the water supplies tested and, in some cases, the quantity of these substances detected was far above the level permitted by law. This is bad news for those people who still fill their water bottles from stand pipes connected to untreated springs.
Deco technicians tested three springs in the Algarve: at Fonte de Alte (where the water quality was found to be ‘mediocre’) at Caldas de Monchique (where it was found to be ‘average’). But what does ‘average’ mean for the drinker? A spokesman from Deco told us: “There is nothing wrong with it, but people should be careful because the water quality can change frequently.” The worst of the Algarve springs to be tested was at Quarteira Fonte Santa (where it was found to be ‘unfit for consumption’).
For those who prefer the consumption of water from stand pipes rather than taps, there is a serious warning from the association: “Drinking water from these sources could be dangerous to your health.”
Deco has made clear that local authorities must heed their findings and place warnings at certain water points. The organisation also accuses local authorities of being negligent in testing water quality in their jurisdictions. Drinking bacteria-infested water can result in fatigue, vomiting, fever and diarrhoea, as well as other long-term illnesses. Francisco Ferreira, spokesperson for the environmental association Quercus, says there could be as many as 200,000 people supplied with poor quality water in the north of the country. The organisation stresses that the best quality water is found in the big cities.
Boreholes could pose threat
Resident columnist Clive Goodacre, from the Almadena Garden Centre, is also concerned about another issue regarding water supply – the quality of water arising from boreholes in the ground. “We have been looking at borehole-supplied water because of plants that have been dying. In some of these boreholes there can be high levels of nitrate, salt and sulphate. People are digging deeper and deeper for water and using it to wash salads and clean their teeth.”
Clive warns that as more houses are being built so people are dredging up chemicals like sodium and magnesium in the process. “If there is a very high level of salt in the water then it can be revealed via a conductivity test. A plant such as a Cuphea dies as soon as there is a high level of salt in the water. If people drink this water, then there can be long term consequences in the form of heart trouble and glandular problems.”
People can use common sense when it comes to testing their water supplies. “People can smell the water,” says Clive.“If it tastes salty, then it’s no good. If you do drill a borehole, don’t just assume the water is pure – you must look carefully at the cisterna.” Despite these warnings, Clive does not wish to alarm people. “Just because you get a high reading of a particular substance doesn’t mean it’s dangerous, but you must be sensible.”