Drought pushes Portugal to order hydroelectric dams to limit water use

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A low water level is seen in the reservoir of the Funcho dam in southern Portugal March 3, 2012. REUTERS/Jose Manuel Ribeiro

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LISBON, Feb 1 (Reuters) – Faced with a worrying winter drought, the Portuguese government on Tuesday ordered some of the country’s hydroelectric dams to temporarily limit water use for power generation and irrigation, in prioritizing human consumption.

The Portuguese Institute of Meteorology (IPMA) said the drought, which began in November 2021, has worsened, with 54% of the country currently in moderate drought, 34% in severe drought and 11% in extreme drought.

There are around 60 Portuguese hydroelectric dams, which produce 30% of the electricity consumed in the country each year, according to the Portuguese Renewable Energy Association.

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For now, only five dams in central Portugal are due to almost completely shut down their electricity production, and a dam in the southern Algarve region, one of the areas most affected by the drought, is due to cease production. use water for irrigation.

Environment Minister Joao Pedro Matos Fernandes told a news conference that other dams had enough water to compensate for the restrictions.

“The drought situation is worrying,” he said. “If the forecast becomes bleaker, we will have to go beyond these measures.”

The IPMA said the dry weather is expected to continue into February.

Matos Fernandes said rules had been imposed to ensure a supply of clean water for at least two years in case “not even a drop of rain falls” in Portugal. Farmers have already expressed concern, saying the drought could “severely” affect their crops and livestock.

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Reporting by Catarina Demony; Additional reporting by Sérgio Gonçalves; Editing by Paul Simao

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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