Algarve drought written on cartoon with dry soil and mountains and sky background

Suspension of car washing and watering of “green” spaces, and reduction of water pressure in the public network are some of the measures implemented in the Algarve. Support amounts to around 27 million euros.

The government has made 26.67 million euros available to the public, tourism and agricultural sectors in the Algarve to mitigate the impacts of the extraordinary measures adopted to combat the drought in the region. The decision comes after a meeting of the Council of Ministers in which the Executive approved “the allocation of support for extraordinary measures”, the statement said.

The largest share of the 27 million euros will be allocated to the public water supply, which translates into 12.4 million euros, followed by tourist developments which will receive compensation valued at 10 million euros.

On January 18, after the meeting of the Council of Ministers, the Minister for the Environment and Climate Action said that no support was planned for the tourism sector, considering that the measures do not reflect any “restriction on the development of the activity”, only a “conditioning in relation to water efficiency and water saving”.

For their part, the entities responsible for managing, monitoring and supervising water resources will receive 2.9 million euros.

Of the total amount of support, the smallest portion is earmarked for farmers: around 35 thousand euros. This comes after the Council of Ministers also approved a resolution with 320 million euros of support for the sector, aimed at mitigating the impact of the drought and inflation on production costs.

This includes 200 million euros to support the drought in the Algarve and the rest of the country and 120 million to reinforce the two pillars of the Common Agricultural Policy Strategic Plan (PEPAC). In addition, the government has set aside a further 2.2 million euros to support the managing bodies of hydro-agricultural schemes in the Algarve region.

Algarvians banned from washing cars and watering “green” spaces with public water

In addition to the support, the Council of Ministers formally recognized the “alert situation in the Algarve region” due to the worsening meteorological and hydrological drought, and thus approved “a framework of immediate, temporary response measures to reduce consumption and rationalize the use of water resources in the Algarve region”.

On January 17, the government announced a package of 46 measures to achieve two goals: cuts of 15% and 25% in the supply of water to the tourism and agriculture sectors, respectively.

According to a statement issued on Thursday by the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, these targets will be achieved by reducing water pressure in the public supply network and suspending the supply of water from the public network through meters for water uses that do not generate wastewater.

In addition, the use of public or drinking water for watering green spaces, public and private gardens, ornamental fountains, artificial lakes, washing sidewalks, yards and vehicles and for compacting roads is to be suspended. In these cases, the note details, the use of water for reuse will be promoted.

The ministries leave the door open to an “evaluation” of the measures and, “if necessary”, the implementation of extraordinary complementary solutions for the transportation and availability of water for public supply.

Government approves tariff increases

The government also defined a review of low water supply tariffs, for domestic and non-domestic users, as well as for uses that do not generate wastewater, and does so “in accordance with the guidelines of the Water and Waste Services Regulatory Authority (ERSAR)”, reads the statement.

Last Friday, Expresso reported that the Intermunicipal Community of the Algarve (AMAL) had already announced its intention to increase tariffs in the region, also based on the regulator’s proposal.

The AMAL meeting resulted in the decision that in the second consumption bracket there will be price increases of 15% in the region, in the third bracket the increase will be 30% and in the fourth bracket it will reach 50%.

The brackets are not the same in all the municipalities but, in general, the first bracket (exempt from increases) goes up to 5 m3 of monthly consumption, the second is between 5 and 15 m3, where the majority of consumers fall, and the third bracket is between 15 and 25 m3, explains the association of municipalities. The fourth and final bracket is reserved for those who consume more than 25 cubic meters per month.

In order to achieve the planned targets for reducing water consumption, the ministries also stipulate that each municipal user will be limited to the amount corresponding to 85% of the volume recorded in the same period in 2023. Those who exceed this limit will be charged a specific tariff.

In addition to consumption, the government has determined that it will reduce the volume transferred from the Funcho reservoir to the Arade reservoir by 40% compared to the previous year and cut the volume of water consumed in the eastern Algarve irrigation perimeter by 50% compared to 2023.

At the Bravura dam, the stored water will only be used for public supply, and the use of this resource for other purposes will be suspended.

As for underground abstractions for survival irrigation, the government has set a limit of 2.5 cubic hectometers per year (hm3/year) in the eastern Algarve, with the possibility of an increase to 4.5 hm3/year. In Alvor, the maximum limit will be 0.5 hm3/year and, in the western sector, up to a maximum of 0.5 hm3/year.

According to the statement issued by the Council of Ministers, these measures are aimed at “overcoming the essential needs of the summer season and ending 2024 with reserves for 2025”.

“In addition to the structural measures that are underway, the implementation of immediate response measures that minimize the effects of the drought situation is essential given the prolonged drought in the Algarve region, which has been aggravating the region’s water shortage situation,” reads the Council of Ministers resolution.

Government already has timetable for low-voltage network tenders

The Council of Ministers has also approved a timetable for the concession tenders for the low-voltage network, i.e. the one that reaches domestic customers. This network is in the hands of E-Redes, formerly EDP Distribuição, throughout most of the country.

Most of these concession contracts have been expiring and, according to Expresso, by the end of 2023 only nine would still be in force. In November last year, the government had already published the general rules for the tender, in which the Spanish companies Iberdrola and Endesa have already shown interest, but one of the key pieces missing was precisely the dates of the procedures.

Related article: Algarve residents willing to make the water-saving effort

Read More: Continental Portugal is susceptible to droughts, usually associated to the blocking effects of the North Atlantic subtropical high pressure fronts, which impede polar fronts from reaching the Iberian Peninsula. Droughts are common in continental Portugal.

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