The APA argues that, if contamination is already reaching groundwater, a key resource for human consumption in times of drought, it is because pesticides are being used in very high concentrations.
These findings emerge at a time when the Ministry of the Environment has raised concerns about recurring drought situations that increasingly hamper the refilling of aquifers, as well as increasing demand for these waters and the degradation of their quality, namely due to contamination from agricultural sources.
In comments to radio station TSF, the director of the APA’s Department of Water Resources sad that, since the start of the hydrological year in October, more than four thousand new wells have been created as a result of drought.
Felisbina Quadrado explained that great care is needed in the way the increasingly scarce resource is used, stressing it should only be used for the public supply of water and namely during periods of drought.
Conceding the issue is a “complicated matter”, Ms. Quadrado explained “we have detected, in some places, pesticide contamination that concerns us, and some [of those] substances are no longer authorised in Portugal, so we need to pay more attention to the impacts that the intensification of agricultural activity can have on the quality of water”.
She added that these areas will now be subject to measures to remedy the problem, but more important “is to avoid agricultural practices that lead to excesses in other areas”.
Without specifying the regions in which the banned contaminants were detected, Felisbina Quadrado explains that they are, naturally, “areas where agricultural activity is more intense”.
Regarding the presence of banned substances in the analysis carried out, the APA stresses that today, “anyone can buy what they want over the internet”, and it is possible that some might have been brought to Portugal by Spanish farmers.
Above all, says Felisbina Quadrado, it is important “to draw attention to the fact that if these substances are already reaching our groundwater, they are being used in very high concentrations, in excess, which leads to them seeping out when it rains” into aquifers.
Eduardo Oliveira e Sousa, president of the Confederation of Farmers, argued that nature takes time to “clear up mistakes of the past”.
His view is that “the excesses that may have been committed a few years ago could still be producing results in some analyses”, and added that the use of pesticides and herbicides in modern agriculture is inevitable.
Felipe Duarte Santos, a climate change expert, reiterated his belief that intensive agriculture “is not sustainable in the medium and long term”.
The expert considers that it is fundamental to apply “measures to mitigate the impacts of this type of agriculture, and a better control over the authorisation of drilling holes for groundwater abstraction, controlling the use of pesticides, and tighter supervision”.
Mr. Santos stresses, however, that for this to happen it is “necessary to have the staff available”.
“It is very positive that the APA warns of this issue, but it is important to say where it has occurred for people to be informed; the truth is always very productive and healthy”, he concluded.