In a statement, PAS, which groups together environmental and heritage protection associations, showed its “disagreement with information that the transfer of water from Pomarão and the construction of one (or more) desalination plants are solutions to the Algarve’s water problem”.
The capture of water from the Guadiana river at Pomarão, in the municipality of Mértola, district of Beja, and the construction of desalination plants are included in the Resilience and Recovery Plan (RRP) presented by the Government, but the platform considers that these projects will only serve to feed irrigated agriculture and increase the cost of water for the population.
The platform called on the population to contest these solutions during the public consultation of the RRP, which is underway until the end of February, and considered that although the lack of water in the region is “structural”, there are alternatives that allow to ensure its necessary supply “until the end of the century”.
In the same note, the platform acknowledged that the Algarve is witnessing a “decrease in general rainfall and consequently in its water reserves” and criticised the increase in irrigated agriculture, like avocados, which are already second in the region after citrus fruits.
The RRP allocates a sum of €200 million for the implementation of the Algarve Regional Water Efficiency Plan, providing for plans to reduce water losses in the urban sector, increase efficiency in the agricultural sector and the available capacity of reservoirs, promote the use of treated wastewater and the desalination of seawater.
PAS recalled that the Intermunicipal Climate Change Adaptation Plan (PIAAC) of the Algarve Intermunicipal Community (AMAL) already establishes “several scenarios and proposes the monitoring of water resources and the adoption of solutions according to the evolution of the situation”.
Among these measures, he exemplified, are the improvement of infrastructures, the fight against network losses and the reduction of water needs in urban green spaces, but also the investment in “water retention techniques”, such as artificial lakes, dams, retention basins or reservoirs, or the reuse of wastewater.
“If the climate scenario turns out to be the least serious, these measures will be sufficient to maintain current water availability until the end of the century,” said the platform.
PAS also criticised the Government for advancing with two solutions that “ignored” civil society and the PIAAC, arguing that water capture in Pomarão would be a project “funded by public money” and “intended for private agricultural use”, ending up being “marketed cheaper than that obtained through desalination”.
“As for desalination, to be implemented by private companies, it will make the cubic metre of water available for domestic consumption for a higher price, despite the fact that water is a good indispensable to life and therefore a right guaranteed by the State to its citizens,” it criticised.
Therefore, PAS called on civil society to contest the two projects that are included in the PRR, the planning instrument that the Government will take to Brussels to obtain funding from the European Union for economic recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic.
The platform is made up of the associations and movements A Rocha, Água é Vida, Almargem, Associação Faro 1540, Civis, Glocal Faro, Quercus Algarve and Regenerar-te.
Portugal’s Recovery and Resilience Plan, to access post-crisis EU Covid-19 funds, provides for 36 reforms and 77 investments in the social, climate and digitalisation areas, totalling €13.9 billion in grants.
After a draft presented to the European Commission last October, and a process of talks with Brussels, the Portuguese government last week placed the preliminary and summarised version of the Recovery and Resilience Plan in public consultation.