The Portuguese Environment Agency (APA) is expected to propose rules to reduce water consumption in the Algarve by 70% for the agricultural sector and 15% for urban consumers, the president of the Intermunicipal Community told Lusa.

“The situation is very worrying. We are close to a catastrophic situation and we have to start saving water seriously”, the president of the Algarve Intermunicipal Community (AMAL), António Miguel Pina, told Lusa agency.

The person responsible for the 16 Algarve municipalities indicated that in the meetings that the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA) has held in recent weeks with local authorities, the agriculture and tourism sectors, it was decided that water scarcity requires a reduction from February of 70% for water consumption in the agricultural sector and 15% for the urban circuit, which includes tourism.

“If this year it rains the same as in the worst of recent years, we currently only have water until the end of August”, warns António Miguel Pina.

According to the mayor, the planned reductions in consumption would allow the region to have water until the end of this year.

“It's the possible balance and we all have to make an effort”, said the AMAL leader, who is also president of the Chamber of Olhão, adding that the proposal leads to the “minimum possible” for the survival of the agricultural sector.

According to António Miguel Pina, if the defined objectives are not achieved, “it may be possible to increase water tariffs for certain consumption levels”.

“We also have to define reasonable consumption and, above all, penalise unconscious consumers by paying fines,” said the mayor.

APA hopes to present a contingency plan with new water consumption rules in the Algarve this month, which is going through the worst drought on record.

Speaking to Lusa today, APA vice-president José Pimenta Machado admitted that the contingency plan will penalise agriculture more, but the quotas have not yet been defined and will be coordinated with local actors.

“This year, in the Algarve, we are going through the worst drought ever, we have never been in this situation, with the lowest levels of reservoir reserves ever and the same thing in groundwater”, a “consequence of ten years of drought” continued, said Pimenta Machado.

“The priority use is human use and agriculture will have a greater cut”, added Pimenta Machado.

The six reservoirs in the Algarve are at 25% of their capacity, 20 percentage points less than in the same period last year, with a total of 90 cubic hectometres less water.