Thursday, February 8, 2024

Desperate water shortage in Algarve

Everyone in the Algarve must greatly reduce their consumption of water in any way they possibly can to help in what is being described as the worst drought situation ever in the region.

The caretaker government is demanding cuts to farmland irrigation and urban environments including tourism-dependent hotels.  Ordinary householders, especially those with a swimming pool or a garden irrigation system, must also significantly reduce consumption. If they don’t, the authorities have no choice but to impose tighter restrictions and higher prices

Thursday's rain was most welcome, but it is not going to change the severe shortage that has worsened over the years because of climate change.  The reservoirs and groundwater supplies are extremely low and may not get any higher before the rainless summer sets in. On average the Algarve’s six reservoirs are currently only 25% full. Some have far less.

Without immediate cuts in consumption “we would reach the end of 2024 without water for public supply,” says Portugal Environment Minister, Duarte Cordeiro. Agricultural irrigation will have to drop by an average of 25% on last year - and the cuts could rise to 50% in areas around the emptiest reservoirs.  Urban areas, including hotels and golf courses, face cuts of 15%. 

Local municipalities are being forced to reduce overall consumption by 15% and if they don’t do so quickly, less water will be available to them, meaning that householders will face higher prices and less water in their taps.

There is no such thing as “natural” weather anymore. It has all been complicated by man-made global greenhouse gas emissions. Portugal has long been regarded climatically as the California of Europe, but at the moment it could hardly be more different. So far this month California has been devastated by floods and landslides. No doubt things will be back to “normal” in the summer with similar heat waves and wildfires.

The European Copernicus Climate Change Service announced this Thursday that for the first time on record, global warming in Europe over a 12-month period has breached the critical 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) above pre-industrial levels. The world’s oceans have set a new record as the heat intensifies.

Scientists say there is still time to keep global warming below the crucial 2.o degree C threshold, but it will mean far greater and more immediate action to limit the emission of greenhouse gasses, especially by the most powerful countries such as the United States, China, Russia, India, and the United Kingdom. 

We are all fed up with “crises” in the world, but here is yet another, albeit a much more regional one.

As wonderful as it is to live in peaceful Portugal and the western Mediterranean, this is well known as one of the most vulnerable places in Europe to the most serious impacts of climate change.

Portugal is at the forefront of countries in the world addressing climate change by reducing fossil fuels, but it is a small country and it understands with the deepest concern how nations such as The United States, The United Kingdom,  China and  Russia remained more focused on the likes of war, financial, immigration and other domestic worries.

It’s not doomsday talk: coping successfully with global warming must be the world’s number one priority for human survival.




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