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Government to suspend new water holes in Alentejo and Algarve amidst drought

Suspend new water boreholes in the south of the country and intensify the promotion of reducing urban and agricultural water consumption. These are measures that the Government announced today, Wednesday the 20th, to combat the drought situation that the country is facing, with the most problematic regions being the Alentejo and the Algarve.

“Objectively drought is a structural problem” in Portugal said Pedro Matos Fernandes, Minister of Environment and Energy Transition, at the end of a Interministerial Drought Commission meeting. “It seems clear to all who attended the meeting that in consensus and in dialogue with all sectors we really have to change the consumption profile in Portugal,” added Mr. Fernandes.

And to make this change in water consumption habits, the Government say they have “three main targets”: “the municipalities, agriculture and, in the case of the Algarve, tourism, because of the irrigation of golf courses”.

In a press conference with Maria do Céu Albuquerque, head of the agriculture portfolio, the Environment Minister said that this year, “there is a very obvious difference” in the water reserves above and below the Tejo River, the south of the country being the most troubled region.

The two officials will begin from November 30th onwards to meet with representatives of the sectors that the government deems to be at the root of excessive water consumption: municipalities, agriculture, and the Algarve’s tourism sector of the Algarve.

To minimize the effects of drought, especially in the Alentejo and Algarve, Mr. Fernandes announced the suspension of “new groundwater boreholes around some bodies of water in the south of the country”, adding that he wants to “intensify the promotion of the reuse of water consumption at urban and irrigation level.”

The Environment Minister claims that the Government is “keeping up to date with the most critical situations,” referring to “a set of reservoirs that are concentrated almost exclusively in the south of the country.” It is worth pointing out that he chose not to name any of these reservoirs he referred to.

He is adamant that there must be a change in the water consumption habits of all Portuguese people, saying that “by consumer we mean not only the individual consumer but also that of economic activity.” According to Mr. Fernandes, since 2015 only 30% of months have seen more rain than expected. “In the last year, hydrologically speaking, this only happened in three months and one of them is August, where obviously even though it rained more than usual, it was something marginal.” Why officials choose to use the percentage of months with more rain than expected as a measure of precipitation, despite it having obviously flawed accuracy, seems very strange.

“And if the territory has less water, I means we have to use it less,” he argued. This change not only affects the lives of individuals, but affects the region on a much larger scale, as the minister identified by pushing for changes to the ways “municipalities wash the streets, water their gardens, how golf courses are to be watered