Dams and reservoirs in Western Algarve have enough water for human consumption for two years, said António Pina, president of the Algarve Municipalities Association (AMAL), this week. At the same time, the use of water for irrigation of green spaces, golf and agriculture will be limited.
Pina, who is also mayor of Olhão, made the announcement after the first of five meetings led by the Portuguese Environmental Agency (APA) was held on Wednesday.
The meetings will be held in every region to decide measures to deal with the country’s drought.
“We have a serious problem,” Pina told Lusa news agency after the meeting.
Citing forecasts from the Portuguese Institute of Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA), he said the situation could become worse and explained that this drought is different from the one two years ago, as the situation is “more serious” in the west than in the east.
Pina guaranteed “measures will be taken immediately to ensure that, in the western region, there is enough water for human supply in the event that it doesn’t rain for two years”.
He also revealed that the three western Algarve reservoirs have a total of 92.5 hectometres of water available – 80 of which will now be reserved for human consumption with only around 12.5 hectometres available for “agriculture, golf and other purposes”.
In other words, the latter amount of water will ensure “irrigation needs” in the western Algarve for one season.
Other measures, such as reducing irrigation in green spaces and replacing thirsty plants for drought-tolerant ones, are also being considered.
The government announced on Wednesday that around €5 million is being made available to implement these water conservation measures and to carry out “awareness-raising campaigns”.
There are also plans for “water reuse projects for golf courses”, which will allow “eight hectometres” of treated water to be used for irrigation, said Pina.
The AMAL chief added that studies for the Algarve’s proposed desalination plant, as well as projects to collect water from Pomarão in the Eastern Algarve have already been awarded.
Pina also said that boroughs in the Algarve have already submitted applications to Portugal’s Recovery and Resilience Plan to the tune of €14 million to fight water losses.
“This situation forces us to seriously look at the issue of water and how we use it. It is clear that climate change influences this resource and, despite the investments we are making in the Algarve, we cannot assume that we will have more water in the next 20 years, because these investments only ensure that we have the same water,” he warned.
António Pina stated that it is necessary to “think about how water is used” and urged the government to follow Spain’s example and “make water a public resource”. This would prevent the “private” management of underground water.