João Pedro Matos Fernandes made the estimate at a parliamentary hearing on the management of water resources in the Algarve, requested by the Left Bloc (BE), which, along with the PSD and PCP, criticised the option of passing on to consumers the cost of planned investments in the sector.

At stake is a 200 million euro investment to improve water availability in the Algarve, a region increasingly affected by drought and lack of rainfall, namely through the capture of water from the Guadiana River from Pomarão (Mértola, Beja district) to the Odeleite dam (Castro Marim, Faro district) and the construction of a seawater desalination plant.

The governor recalled that "who will promote these two projects is Águas do Algarve", the company that manages the intermunicipal water supply system in the region, and stressed that the investments are "100 percent funded" by the RRP that the Government presented to the European Union.

However, "a company, any service, has to balance its accounts between revenues and expenses", justified the Minister of Environment and Climate Action during the hearing at the Environment, Energy and Spatial Planning Commission.

"Having these and any other units of the urban water cycle costs - energy costs, for example - it is clear that these costs have to be paid by someone", he said, clarifying that "it should not be the urban consumers, those who turn on the tap in the Algarve, who should assume these costs", and that the cost of water was "estimated" at an additional "one cent per cubic metre, from 2026".

Matos Fernandes stressed that as this is "water insurance for all the Algarve's activities", the cost should "be shared out fairly, in a formula to be discussed, by all water users" in the region - a view shared by PS deputy Luís Graça, who said it was "premature" to talk about costs now, when investments were still being planned.

BE Algarvian MP João Vasconcelos criticised, in his opening statement as the hearing's requester, the passing on of costs to the region's water consumers due to planned investments in water collection from the Guadiana and desalination, warning that these solutions have "environmental costs".

Social Democrat deputy Rui Cristina and João Dias, from the PCP, also positioned themselves against the costs that will be charged to consumers from 2026 on, and warned about the difficulties that the Pomarão solution may bring to relations with Spain and to the management of Iberian water resources, since, from that area of the municipality of Mértola to the mouth of the river, the Guadiana marks the border between the two countries.

João Pedro Matos Fernandes acknowledged that the Government has to take into account the agreements with Spain, but defended that the capture of water "has less environmental impact" than other solutions, such as the creation of a dam on the Foupana stream, south of Pomarão and north of the Odeleite dam.

CDS MP Pedro Morais Soares said he understood "that someone has to pay" for the investments made, but questioned the minister on whether other alternatives to capturing water from the river to Odeleite, such as the creation of a weir at Foupana, had been studied, and wanted to know if this was the "best solution" or "if an alternative had been assessed".

PEV MP Mariana Silva also criticised the lack of adoption of measures already provided for in the national water plan to ensure resilience and sustainability in water supply, but which "remain in a drawer".