“The water quotas have already been put in place, imagine how many meters the reservoir has already dropped.” Carlos Madeira points at the water level and does the math. He lives near the Odeleite dam and watches the water levels drop every day.
This is one of the two main dams in the Algarve that supplies the region with water. It is at 27% of its maximum capacity, but the Odelouca dam, the other reservoir that supplies the region, is in an even worse state, with only 22% of its maximum volume.
Odeleite is a reservoir that serves the population for both personal and agricultural uses, and the president of the Odeleite Agricultural and Irrigation Cooperative revealed that he has never seen conditions like this. “I’m 67 years old and I have never seen it so empty.”
And as there is no water, the trees are drying up. So says Antonio Dias, who lives on his farm near Alta Mora. “This is a state of misery,” laments the resident, claiming that his olive trees no longer produce sufficiently good olives.
This year, he fears that for his farm there will be no production of olive oil, which is the source of many people’s livelihood. Carlos Madeira points out that the trees simply cannot stand such dry drought conditions. “They are already under water stress because it has not been raining properly for two years,” he explains.
“The olives are just skin and then stone”, and the situation is worsening. To remedy these dire conditions in this specific area of the Algarve, there is an irrigation project in the works that is awaiting approval by the Court of Auditors. It will connect the dam to a system that will allow then water about 140 hectares of farmland.
For human consumption the situation is no better either. Even there continue to be a lack of precipitation, the company Águas do Algarve guarantees that there will be water to supply the population of the Algarve until the end of the year. From that point onwards, it is unknown.
In the hills around the dam in the municipality of Castro Marim, where the wells have already dried up and where the dam’s water has been restricted for the public, a city council truck with a large water tank is already traveling around the region supplying the more isolated residents with water.
Moreover, human desertification in the area is increasing. The younger ones go away to procure better jobs and living conditions and the older ones are hard-pressed to resist adversity. “Where I live all people are just from 70 years old and up,” says Abílio Horta, who is 82. He lives in Corte Pequena, where there were once over 300 people. Now there are now no more than 50.