Northeast Algarve farmers desperate for water
Farmers in the northeastern Algarve municipalities of Alcoutim and Castro Marim are calling for the construction of a dam as the recent years of drought seem to be becoming the norm and each year this affects crops and animals.
A new dam also would enable a more balanced agriculture as water could be relied on when planting irrigation-dependent crops.
“We are in a situation of severe drought, there’s no water for crops and no pasture for animals, hence the need to build a dam connected to Odeleite dam which, in addition to storing water for public consumption, would give farmers a source of water for irrigation,” said the vice president of the Association of Producers of the Northeast Algarve.
In Alcoutim and Castro Marim rural areas, the effects of drought are visible in crops and in pastures which are brown and barren, hence, “The construction of a dam is the best solution. The streams and small ponds that normally are used, now are dry and farmers do not have food or water for their animals – even the crops that rely only on rainwater are at risk,” said the association’s Valter Luz.
To combat the drought impact, the Government has included the two municipalities in its emergency legislation which pays for shipping water by tanker into badly affected areas, but the farmers say that this does not solve the problem, “it only eases a situation that has been going on for several years.”
Valter Luz says the northeastern Algarve has been forgotten over the years and it takes “political will to look at the farmers’ problems and change things, otherwise the area will become a desert.”
“This year, the problem has reached its worst point but this is a problem that has been getting worse since 2013,” said Luz, adding that “policymakers have to look at the future of the area and give farmers a guarantee that they can rely on a water supply for farming.”
One of the tributaries of the Guadiana that used to supply a reliable flow of water for cattle, the Vascão, had been dry for months and Alcoutim mayor, Osvaldo Gonçalves, agrees that the construction of a dam is the best solution to solve the water shortage and that this year’s drought has highlighted the area’s water dependency, with “several economic sectors of the region affected.”
Gonçalves added that his region generally has good water supplies that could fill a dam, with the Vascão and Foupana tributaries able to help solve the problem of drought in the interior and to enable some irrigation.
Currently, notes the mayor, “the northeast is a contributor to the water that is used in the Algarve and uses zero for irrigation.”
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