Study Tour to Alqueva Region, Portugal

[8-11 September, 2015] Within the framework of the EEA Grants programme bilateral/complementary fund, following the previous activities conducting study tour in Bergen, Norway, NVE (the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate) and DSB (the Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection) organized multilateral networking and study tour to learn about drought management in Alentejo region, Portugal. The tour was attended by representatives from adaptation programmes/projects under EEA Grants from Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, Norway, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia. The list of participants is available here.

The main aim of the tour was to learn  good practices on drought management in southern Portugal, where there is a severe shortage of precipitation in summer and agricultural activities are highly hampered by the increasing frequency and intensity of dry periods. At the same time the tour was to give the opportunity to program operators and project promoters from many countries to meet and exchange experiences.

During the program participants were informed about the multi-purpose Alqueva Project located in Alentejo, Portugal. The region is characterized by a Mediterranean climate with 17 C of annual average temperature and 3000 hours of sunshine. The average rainfall is 572 mm per year, unevenly distributed throughout the year. The soil in the region is very suitable for agricultural production, but the lack of available water during the growing season resulted in difficulties and great losses in yields. The multiple aims of Alqueva project –started in 1995- was to overcome the difficulties of irregularity of precipitation and ensure the required water for farmers,  produce clean energy, contribute to sustainability of the region, create new business opportunities and improve labor market. Alqueva, Europe’s largest irrigation project in progress with 1200 thousand hectares and 2000 km long water pipeline, is equipped with the latest technology. It includes a main dam, secondary dams, power stations, irrigation networks and farm consulting service, aimed at securing the access for irrigation, municipal water supply and recreation. At present 13 municipalities are supplied, one million inhabitants are served by drinking water. The biggest artificial lake in Europe was formed, offering new opportunities for tourism like water sports and boat trips.

The integration of all infrastructure components under joint management by EDIA company permits the optimization of the full technology, ensuring a quick response to all farmers’ requests and needs. The remote management system was developing taking into account the best and most effective relationship between farmers and the management team/ the system allows programming and optimizing irrigation periods following the profile requested by each costumer. The farmers need to pay only the maintenance cost and a low tax, but they did not have contribute to the investment.

Participants visited the main dam and information center, a pump station, a large farm utilizing the dam’s water, the secondary dam and the control center. Due to the detailed and devoted explanation by experts of EDIA participants could gain insight into different aspects of the project. The Alqueva project is definitely an excellent example of good practices how to mitigate loss and damages in agricultural production and contribute to developing local economy.

The program of the tour is available here.

The professional itinerary was accompanied by short sightseeing in  lovely historic small towns and villages and by experiencing the famous Portuguese cuisine and wine. The participants are extremely grateful for the organizers for their excellent work in putting together the great program and special thank for the Portuguese hosts for their warm hospitality.