Portugal vows quick anti-drought investment in Algarve tourism hub

By Thomson Reuters Jun 6, 2024 | 10:49 AM

By Sergio Goncalves

LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal’s government vowed on Thursday to speed investments worth 366 million euros ($397.7 million) to combat a “systemic drought” in the tourism-dependent southern region of Algarve and quickly provide water equivalent to a year’s urban usage there.

Environment Minister Maria da Graca Carvalho said the investments will include a desalination plant, repairing 125 km of pipes to reduce water losses, interconnecting some reservoirs, and the use of treated wastewater at golf courses.

She told a parliamentary committee the new government, which was sworn in in April, “will not discuss the projects any further and wants to execute them as quickly as possible”, mainly with the use of the EU pandemic recovery funds.

Algarve is the region with the most water shortage problems, and drought there “has now become permanent, systemic”, Carvalho said.

A 2022 study showed that climate change had already left the Iberian peninsula at its driest in 1,200 years.

According to data from the environmental agency APA, 36 out of the 60 reservoirs it monitors across the country were more than 80% full in May, but in the Algarve water levels were at between 22% and 43%.

The government last month eased some restrictions imposed in February on water consumption in the region, after rains partly refilled the dams.

Agricultural irrigation in the region will have to drop by an average of 13% from 2023’s levels, compared to the previous 25% cut.

($1 = 0.9202 euros)

(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves and Patricia Vicente Rua; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Jan Harvey)