Drought prompts Portugal to limit water use

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LISBON, Feb 1 (Reuters) – Facing a worrying winter drought, Portugal’s government ordered some of the country’s hydropower dams to temporarily limit water use for electricity production and irrigation, prioritising human consumption instead.

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

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

For now, just five dams in central Portugal must halt their electricity production almost completely, and one dam in the southern Algarve region, one of the areas most affected by drought, must stop using water for irrigation.

Environment Minister Joao Pedro Matos Fernandes told a news conference other dams have enough water to make up for the restrictions.

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

IPMA said dry weather conditions were likely to continue in February. Matos Fernandes said rules were imposed to ensure a supply of drinking water for at least two years in case “not even a rain drop falls” in Portugal.

Farmers have already voiced concerns, saying the drought could “severely” affect their crops and cattle.

A file photo of the Cabril Dam between Serta and Oliveira do Hospital, Portugal. EPA-EFE/NUNO VEIGA

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