Mismanagement of water resources aggravating effect of drought – NGO

“Mismanagement of the (little) water we have” encourages complete change in approach

NGO Portugal Nature Association (ANP/WWF) has lambasted what it calls “poor water management” in Portugal, calling for a complete change in approach.

In a factsheet entitled “The Mismanagement of the (little) water we have“, ANP/WWF briefly analyses management of the sector, making a series of recommendations to the government which it believes will reduce the impact of the current drought.

Anticipating National Water Day, which falls tomorrow, the NGO explains that climate change has increased “exposure and vulnerability to reduced water availability”, stressing the “solution should not be to build new infrastructure and dams, which risk remaining empty most of the time”, which will “stimulate increased consumption” with “serious environmental impacts”.

According to ANP/WWF executive director Ângela Morgado, Portugal must change its approach: “Yes, we can manage our water consumption and adapt to the fact that we have less and less water available. If we don’t adapt now, the risk will turn into a disaster – the disaster of running out of water, whether for human consumption, for our activities or for our ecosystems and habitats.”

“Contrary to what is officially recommended by the Water Framework Directive, the EU institutions and the Portuguese government, water demand management (reducing and limiting consumption and use) continues to be undervalued in the face of continued focus on strengthening supply, i.e. increasing water collection and retention infrastructures,” the organisation warns.

Its factsheet gives the example of the Algarve, a region that has structural water shortage problems, but whose “amounts invested in reducing losses in urban and agricultural supply networks and in the reuse of wastewater are significantly lower than the investments approved for the construction of the desalination plant in Albufeira and for the reinforcement of the Odeleite reservoir from the Guadiana catchment at Pomarão (the latter even being illegal under international law)”.

The “poor implementation of the main public water management instruments, which only aggravates the impacts of droughts and promotes the unsustainable use of this increasingly precious natural resource”.

Examples of these public instruments, according to the association, are the National Plan for the Efficient Use of Water, “delayed and almost abandoned, awaiting revision since 2015”; the flow regime between Portugal and Spain, “outdated and full of loopholes, in addition to the international violation of both countries”; the special reservoir programmes, “none of which have been reviewed and concluded in seven years” and the commission for the prevention and monitoring of the effects of drought, “an inter-ministerial commission with very little representation from civil society and water users and which meets on an ‘ad-hoc’ basis”.

In its list of recommendations to the government, ANP/WWF proposes, among various suggestions, “limiting demand in water supply systems subject to scarcity”, demanding “insurance for large agricultural users to deal with the risk of drought, avoiding the repeated and large compensatory payments, which end up being paid by all taxpayers” and “encouraging the diversification and complementarity of sources in supply systems, to strengthen their resilience”.

This latest ‘warning’ comes in the wake of other entreaties to powermakers to ‘think outside the box’.

Source material: Lusa

Portugal Resident