It has only taken 45 years, but finally Algarve MP João Vasconcelos – the tireless warrior against regional abominations – has visited the spot on the Algarve/ Alentejo border where thousands of litres of perfectly usable freshwater are jettisoned into the sea every single day.
“Unbelievable” was his knee-jerk reaction.
The wastage from the Mira irrigation system – fed by the Santa Clara dam over 40 kms away – is notorious.
In 2008, Público claimed two million litres every hour are being lost.
Earlier this summer, landowners painfully aware of the country’s critical water shortage tried raising the issue once again (click here).
The bid seems to have worked.
The champion of the Algarve’s anti-tolls movement, of Ria Formosa islanders, of beleaguered hospital staff, hobby fishermen and threatened wetlands, Vasconcelos travelled to the westernmost tip of his constituency to see the lunacy of inaction with his own eyes – and try and understand why it has taken so many years for no-one to come up with any viable solutions.
To be fair, Manuel Amaro president of the irrigation system’s association of users told him that the issue is “complicated”.
There has to be investment to stop the wastage.
One of the “least expensive options” would be to construct two reservoirs to allow the water to be collected and then siphoned off for agriculture.
The “most expensive solution”, reports Correio da Manhã, would be to automate the entire system so that it worked under pressure, and water ‘circulated’, without being lost.
As Vasconcelos learnt, there is also a major issue of pipe leakages throughout the meandering kms of piping first constructed in the 1960s.
Answering queries over Facebook, he added that the figures he has been given for wastage point to 22 million cubic metres per year.
“Who told me this was the president of the association of irrigators (Manuel Amaro).
“He says that the Santa Clara dam releases 55 million cubic metres yet only 33 million are used – and he knows what he is talking about”, the MP added.
The positive news in this story is that the issue is finally on its way to parliament. If Vasconcelos has it in his brief, he won’t be letting it slip. He is one of the MPs best known for sticking to the causes that he champions.
“Water is a scarce commodity”, he says simply. “We need to preserve it”.