The Portugal Nature Association (ANP), a Portuguese non-governmental organisation working in association with the international World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), made the warning during the commemoration of National Water Day, also releasing a report on “Vulnerability from Portugal to Drought and Scarcity”.

In the document, the ANP / WWF points out that healthy aquatic ecosystems are the best allies to cope with rising temperatures and less rainfall, so preserving them should be “a priority”.

The ANP / WWF draws attention to the growing “structural scarcity situations” of water, especially in the south of the country, and says the scenario may get worse.

The country cannot manage water shortages with emergency responses to droughts but has to focus on reducing water consumption and increasing water efficiency, says the ANP / WWF, stressing that “conserving and rehabilitating healthy aquatic ecosystems is the first weapon of defence against the impacts of climate change”.

In the report on Portugal’s vulnerability to drought, the association proposes that entrepreneurs integrate water management into the company’s value chain and diversify supplies, including wastewater reuse.

Policy makers suggest that they also diversify sources of supply, foster irrigation efficiency and make agricultural subsidies conditional on good water use. And to citizens who reduce their consumption permanently and choose to consume low water footprint products.

The ANP / WWF, together with the WWF of Spain, also made a joint statement on 1 October in which they stress that the governments of the Iberian Peninsula should adopt “preventive drought management”, to the detriment of the current “reactive management based on urgent and exceptional exemptions”.

Both organisations stress the need to support a culture of water saving and efficient use that extends to all users.

Regarding drought, the ANP / WWF warns that in the Alentejo and the Algarve there are already “significant impacts on the loss of yields in autumn / winter crops and pastures, and difficulty in feeding cattle”.

Afonso do Ó, ANP’s water expert, also quoted in the statement, that “water authorities should stop funding new irrigation in scarcity zones, and globally whenever they do not guarantee efficient and frugal water use systems, as well as continue to improve water monitoring to enable better prevention of drought impacts based on informed decision making.”