Water wars in Vale do Lobo

Householders in small developments around Vale do Lobo are fuming over price hikes that will see their water charges increasing this month. They say the plans are “disproportionate and unfair’ – and they are now considering legal action.
Property owners used to pay their water bills to Loulé Municipality but are now being forced to sign new contracts with Infralobo – the company in charge of infrastructures in Vale do Lobo – or face getting cut off.
Residents of Vale do Garrão, Quinta Jacintina and Vilas Alvas complain that Infralobo wrote to them about the changes being implemented and if householders didn’t sign new contracts, they faced being cut off from the water supply altogether.
A Vale do Garrão resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “About three weeks ago, property owners in Vale do Garrão, Quinta Jacintina and Vilas Alvas received a letter from the local council stating that they decided at a meeting in August last year that these developments should be incorporated under Infralobo.”
And if they refused to sign the new contracts by April 1, access to mains water would be cut.
Infralobo has apparently said the new charges are due to water-guzzling gardens in the area’s plushest developments – but some of the angry householders don’t even have gardens.
The resident continued: “We pay a higher IMI (property rates) because we have a luxury rating. Now we are expected to subsidise the massive green zone areas in Vale do Lobo even though we practically only have pavement here.”
“It is an act of total disrespect towards us,” said Alexandre Correia da Silva, a Portuguese lawyer with a house in Vale do Garrão.
“They are trying to impose these prices even though we practically have no gardens! Plus, our properties cannot be considered luxury when compared to Vale do Lobo.”
A report comparing water tariffs per council, carried in the Resident last year (May 23, 2013 edition), showed that water prices paid to Loulé Câmara averaged €22 while the bill doubled when charges came from Infralobo (based on a monthly 10 cubic metre consumption).
Now residents are banding together to discuss the next course of action.
Alexandre Correia da Silva said: “We will be analysing what we can do to contest the charges.”
Asked for a comment on the wrangle, Loulé Câmara has said it is a matter for Infralobo as the prices were all decided before the new council administration came into power.
Despite repeated attempts from the Resident, Infralobo has refused to comment on the hullaballoo. A statement released on the company’s website, signed by the Chairman of the Board, José Miguel, read: “Loulé City Council deliberated, at a meeting held on August 28 2013, the enlargement of Infralobo’s area of operation … to the resorts Vilas Alvas, Quinta Jacintina, Vale do Garrão and also the dispersed villas integrated in the area west to the road Estrada do Ancão.
“It is in the municipality’s best interest to improve the quality and efficiency of the management and maintenance of infrastructures, waste collection and cleaning of public spaces and bring it to the level currently existing in Vale do Lobo.
“We therefore request the owners of properties in the mentioned areas to sign the contract at our offices by March 31 2014, under penalty of water supply suspension.”
As we went to press on Wednesday (April 2), taps were still reported to be running for the residents who refused to sign the contract.
By MICHAEL BRUXO [email protected]