Speaking to Lusa, Teresa Fernandes said that the increase in the level of water in dams in the Algarve this winter was "quite significant", estimating that the reserves will serve for "two years", in a region that has "an average consumption of 73 million cubic hectometres [of water] per year".
According to the company spokeswoman, although the rainfall recorded has not yet been "ideal", it has brought "a significant increase in reserves for public supply", with the rise in the level of the Odelouca dams, in the western Algarve, and Odeleite and Beliche, in the eastern Algarve.
In February, the Odelouca dam was "with a useful volume, which is at 63 percent", while "in the same period last year it was at 40 percent", exemplified the spokeswoman for the company responsible for the region's inter-municipal water supply system.
"Then we have [the dam of] Odeleite, which at the moment is with a useful volume of 60 percent and in the past, in the same period, it was at 27 percent," she illustrated, adding that, "in Beliche, the dam that is downstream of Odeleite, last year was at 24 percent and this year it is already at 52 percent."
Teresa Fernandes alerted, however, to the need "not to abuse water consumption", warning that "periods of drought are cyclical and increasingly longer" and water should be used "with resilience, efficiency and intelligence" because "you can't save when it doesn't exist".
"It is not in periods of drought that we will say 'don't waste water', because by then there is none. It is important that in this phase, when we have water, there is awareness that it is a scarce resource, and not to abuse consumption or misuse it. This will make this water last longer, and instead of lasting two years, it may last three", she argued.
Teresa Fernandes also said that it is necessary to continue with the measures set out in the Algarve Water Efficiency Plan, such as combating losses in the networks, or the reuse of water from Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTPs) for irrigation or agriculture, she said.
Lusa news agency also asked the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA) about the situation of water reserves in the Algarve and the agency under the Ministry for the Environment and Energy Transition replied that, "in most of the country, storage levels allow us to face this year without problems.”
In the same response, APA also warned that planning should "be seen at least two years ahead, always considering the conservative scenario".
"It is necessary to continue to be more efficient (reduce losses), invest in alternative sources for non-potable uses (particularly in the use of treated wastewater) and in the sustainability of uses," said the same source.
According to APA, "when there is more availability, interventions should be carried out that allow us to have more resilience in drier years.
On 2 March, Environment Minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes announced that it is likely that water prices in the Algarve will rise in the future due to the need to maintain the operation of two projects that will be "an insurance policy" to ensure that there will be no less water in the region in the coming decades.
The connection of a water capture from the Guadiana river at Pomarão to the Odeleite dam, budgeted at €55 million, and the desalination of sea water, costing €65 million, are two projects integrated in the Water Efficiency Plan for the region, whose completion is scheduled for 2026.