The Government has restricted the use of several dams for electricity production and agricultural irrigation due to the drought in mainland Portugal with more restrictive measures possible in the future.

The Minister for the Environment and Climate Action, João Pedro Matos Fernandes, in a joint press conference with the Minister of Agriculture, said that, according to the forecasts of the Portuguese Institute of the Sea and the Atmosphere (IPMA), there is an “80 percent probability” of 2022 being a dry year.

For February there is no expectation that there will be enough rain to reverse the meteorological drought situation, but March or April could bring some change, although it is not possible to predict the weather so far in advance.

The Minister of Agriculture, Maria do Céu Antunes, said that the Government had already contacted the European Commission for “reinforcement and simplification of advances” for support to farmers to face the situation.

Winter crops and pastures have been planted, but the lack of rain has disrupted them, requiring farmers to “add costs” to keep them viable, she said.

Minimum service

For now, there are four dams whose water will only be used to produce electricity for about two hours a week, guaranteeing "minimum values ​​for system maintenance: Alto Lindoso and Touvedo, in the district of Viana do Castelo, Cabril (Castelo Branco) and Castelo of Bode (Santarém).

The water from the Bravura dam, in the western Algarve, can no longer be used for irrigation.

For these five, a minimum quota was adopted to guarantee the supply of water for human consumption for two years.

Matos Fernandes indicated that there are watersheds with above-average levels, such as Douro and Guadiana, which could be used, like the water stored in the Alqueva, Alto Sabor and Tua dams, to compensate for what is lacking in other dams with less water.

This "management capacity" allows for the supply of needs, but João Pedro Matos Fernandes did not rule out that at the beginning of March more, or more extensive, measures to restrict the use of water will be taken.

Everything will depend on what happens during this month, in which the evolution of the situation will be "monitored day by day".

Maria do Céu Antunes stated that there are still no situations in which the supply of water for agricultural purposes is compromised, but that the regional directorates of agriculture are ready to ensure that there is transport and availability of cisterns with water to meet needs.

The drought monitoring commission will meet again in early March.