Manuela Moreira da Silva, researcher at the Centre for Marine and Environmental Research (CIMA) at the University of Algarve, agrees with the solution of obtaining water through desalination as suggested by the Minister of the Environment, but stressed that this should not be the only solution to combat the drought in the region.
“I believe that [desalination] is an option, but it will not solve all problems, there has to be an integrated solution”, the professor told Lusa news agency.
The Minister of Environment and Climate Action, João Pedro Matos Fernandes, defended that the lack of water in the Algarve cannot be solved with the construction of new dams - a solution advocated by the municipalities, and also highlighted desalination as a possible solution for the future.
Manuela Moreira da Silva considered that the Algarve is experiencing a “moment when the keywords are efficiency and behaviour change”, since the current scenario is marked by a “decrease in average precipitation” and “underground or superficial natural resources” available in dams or groundwater.
However, she warned, “a big investment” is necessary for the region to adapt to a new reality, as well as looking for water sources taking into account the “geographical situation”, since the situation of “São Brás de Alportel is not similar to Tavira, Faro or Lagos”, she justified.
“It is necessary to understand in which situations it will make sense to invest in desalination, aware that desalination, due to the systems that are currently used the most - reverse osmosis - implies large energy consumption”, she said.
The same source also warned that “another of the difficulties of desalination” is the use of waste created by the chemical process that removes salt from sea water.
“Seawater desalination has a profitability between 45 and 55 percent and a large amount of concentrate is produced - a hypersaline solution - which, in addition to having a lot of salt, still has a set of chemicals that must be considered to have a great environmental impact”, she warned.
The researcher pointed to the example of the island of Culatra - the housing nucleus of the barrier islands of the Ria Formosa belonging to the municipality of Faro - as a place where “desalination is already being considered” within the scope of a project that aims to make it a “self-sustainable” island, and acknowledged that this process “can be a very interesting complementary solution”.
“[The dam] should have been built 20 years ago. With the data from 20 years ago, it was necessary to proceed with construction, but today I have many doubts about this, because the reality has completely changed”, he argued.
Instead of new dams, the researcher points out another possible solution for cities, which are faced, due to “the effect of climate change”, with “increasingly frequent extreme phenomena of precipitation” and can “adapt to, in these peaks of precipitation, they manage to retain water in reservoirs located close to the places where it will be needed”.
All solutions must be studied to “save energy, water and contribute to carbon neutrality”, said the UAlg researcher, considering that this is a “great challenge”, and that it goes through “much more than building dams”.