FEARS ARE that current extreme drought conditions could mean that supplies in the home may be interrupted throughout the Algarve.
In a recent warning issued by Águas do Algarve, the regional authority for water supply, stated that if more saving measures are not taken, homes may be left without water in the taps during the hours of peak usage, which are from 6pm to 9pm.
The shortages are anticipated not through cuts, but rather through heavy usage during peak periods, leading to an overall failure of the water supply system, i.e. there will simply not be enough water to go round. Urgent appeals are now being made to reduce water consumption. At the same time, the failure of the system is still not certain and people are being urged not to hoard water in basins and buckets “just in case”, as this presently constitutes a further unnecessary use of water and puts even more demand on the already dwindling supplies.
Further, according to a statement issued by Águas do Algarve and the Regional Commission for Coordination and Development, the lack of rain and the intense heat have brought levels in reservoirs to new lows. Currently, the worst affected is the Funcho reservoir, which stands at only 9.2 per cent of its capacity. Meanwhile, the reservoirs of Arade and Beliche are also giving cause for concern with levels at 31.1 per cent and 25.6 per cent of their full capacity. Subterranean water supplies are also reaching worrying lows.
In response to the warning, the Junta Metropolitana do Algarve have now issued instructions to all municipalities in the region to close down public indoor swimming pools, fountains and beach showers, and to refrain from the watering of public gardens and to suspend the hosing down of streets. The case for relaxation of restrictions and the reopening of swimming pools will be addressed at the end of the summer and will obviously depend on prevailing hydrological circumstances at that time.
However, the water authorities are keen to emphasise that there is, of course, no guarantee that there will be rain even in the autumn. As an additional measure, the public are urged to avoid taking baths and showers during the peak usage period (6pm-9pm) and to avoid washing cars and watering their gardens.
In spite of all the various campaigns to urge water saving, in the first part of this year, water consumption went up by as much as 20 per cent compared with last year. The most seriously affected county at the moment is Alcoutim in north eastern Algarve. There, the Câmara has already taken the drastic step of cutting domestic supplies between the hours of 10pm and 6am in 105 villages in the area. Câmara President, Francisco Amaral, has also announced that in at least three localities where bore holes have completely dried up, populations are now having to be supplied by lorries carrying tanks filled with water from the public network.
According to the latest figures published by the water authorities, 80 per cent of the country is now classified as in a situation of “extreme drought” with the other 20 per cent in a state of “severe drought”.