“It is not with more dams” that the Algarve’s water issues are resolved, says Environment Minister
“Nothing is out of the question”- said João Matos Fernandes, Minister for the Environment and Climate Action today in Loulé, to participate in a seminar on adaptation to climate change. However, the parliamentarian wants to stress that “the problem of the lack of water in the Algarve is not going to be solved with more dams”, also hinting that desalination could be an efficient way to move past the issue.
The sixth Meeting of the Local Council for Monitoring the Municipal Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change in Loulé opened this morning, with the presence of the minister at the Cineteatro Louletano. Drought was the main topic on the agenda, and Mr. Matos Fernandes did not escape talking about the lack of water plaguing the Algarve in recent months. The minister guaranteed that by March, “we will have the information for a Water Efficiency Plan for the Algarve”.
“We should not have the perspective that the weather will help us. In other words: in the long run, the Algarve will have no more water than it has today. We must ensure that, at least, there will be no less”, he expressed to journalists.
And how is this achieved? For the minister, what is necessary is both “a more efficient use of water in agriculture, on golf courses, and in the use by municipalities and citizens”, as well as, “most likely”, the construction of infrastructures that “can increase water availability”.
This is where the debate comes in. AMAL – the Algarve Intermunicipal Community- has defended both the construction of a dam in Foupana (Alcoutim) and the advancement of desalination facilities in the region. The Algfuturo association, in turn, went public with the use of the Guadiana River as a solution. In this regard, Mr. Matos Fernandes said that “we have, on the table, two projects for two dams – one in Monchique, another in Foupana – and desalination plants”. Despite not wanting to commit (yet) to any solution, the minister insisted on explaining how today “we can look at desalination with completely different eyes”.
“This was a very energy-consuming activity and, as such, water was expensive. Now the Government launched an auction for solar power that allowed us to have an average price of electricity in the order of 20 euros per megawatt / hour. With this new value of electricity, we can look at desalination as a much cheaper solution than when we looked at it one, two years ago”, he considered.
So, in the government’s opinion, and in the minister’s worders, “if we can have the water produced from salt water, at a market price, we should really concentrate on that.”
The first study looking in to the viability of desalination plants, overseen by Águas do Algarve, has already started, and Mr. Matos Fernandes stated that any certainty as to the result of the study would be coming at “the end of February”. “Then we will have news, in which the calendars and the values can be on the table”, he added.
And the dam? Is it out of the question? “There is nothing out of the question,” the minister replied immediately, arguing that “it is not with more dams that the problem will be solved. The leeward already has two dams: they have little water. I don’t want to exchange two empty dams for three empty dams.”
In the opinion of Mr. Matos Fernandes, the two new wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) that the Algarve has – in Companheira (Portimão) and in Faro – can also play an important role. These are infrastructures “exceptionally capable and, with that, we also have here a capacity to be able to use treated water for a number of uses, such as irrigating golf courses or cleaning streets”, he concluded.