Lusa agency spoke to officials from the two largest groups with golf courses in the south of the country who underline that they have already taken measures to reduce consumption, but that they need to start receiving more water from the Wastewater Treatment Stations (WWTP).
The eastern Algarve is in a situation of severe drought, but the barlavento (west) is also suffering from the lack of rain and water scarcity, which has led the authorities to seek measures to minimise the effects of the drought, without harming the main sector of the region, Tourism.
“Invest as quickly as possible. We have been talking about investing for two years, but very few concrete steps have been taken on the ground”, said Grupo Pestana administrator for the Algarve, Pedro Lopes.
The official lamented the existence of a series of investments that have been planned for several years and that continue without leaving the drawing board, such as those foreseen in the construction of a desalination plant, in the water networks, in the sewers for the WWTP or in the leaks of the network, among others.
The administrator of the group that owns five of the approximately 40 courses in the Algarve ensures that, in recent years, the reduction in the water used in the irrigation of the five golf courses is of “one-third to 40%”, having taken a series of measures, such as using new grass varieties that require less water.
“Here you can see [the pitches]. [Some parts] are even a little brownish in some places, precisely because they receive less water and less fertilisers”, said Pedro Lopes, pointing to the Gramacho golf course, in Carvoeiro, municipality of Lagoa.
The director of the Pestana Group assured that they are using "a lot less water" than three years ago, insisting that now "it is essential" to connect the golf courses to the WWTP.
Pedro Lopes has no doubt that “the water [from the WWTP] that is wasted today, going into rivers and the sea, […] can be used on golf courses in the summer, which is when they need it” most.
The director of Grupo Pestana underlined that the 40 golf courses in the south of the country “are always on the lookout for new technologies and ways to save water. Not only because of its cost, but also because it is a very scarce resource”, he underlined.
“There are already three [courses] connected [to WWTP] in the Algarve, but many more have to do this”, underlined Pedro Lopes.
The Pestana Group will start next summer using WWTP water on two of its golf courses in the Algarve, at a time when there are more tourists in the region and the treatment plants are producing more.
For his part, Rui Grave, director of maintenance for the golf courses of the D. Pedro Group (Vilamoura), which also has five courses in the south of the country, underlined the effort made by his company in recent years to reduce the amount of water used for irrigation.
“We are, year after year, always using the minimum necessary and only what is necessary", said the person in charge of maintaining courses that, in the case of this group, uses groundwater.
Each hectare of golf course consumes an average of 8,000 cubic meters (m3) of water per year, with variations depending on the technology and irrigation systems installed, according to Rui Grave.
“Any intelligent use of water involves a set of measures. In this case, we are talking about grass adapted to the scarcity of water, talking about irrigation systems that water strictly the necessary and in the necessary quantity, that is, that are very versatile, pumping systems that manage to maintain an adequate flow and pressure”, he said.
As for the use of wastewater in the irrigation of these golf courses, Rui Grave revealed that the project “is in an almost final phase” and by 2025 he expects that “at least two or three courses will be irrigated in their entirety with wastewater”.
“There is a great effort on the part of Águas de Portugal, on the part of Águas do Algarve, on the part of the APA [Agência Portuguesa do Ambiente], on the part of the golf courses so that the water comes from the WWTP with sufficient quality to maintain our courses in good condition, without ever jeopardising public health”.
The official also defended that there is no reason for criticism in the sense that golf courses waste a lot of water, regretting that the creation of this idea is “difficult to dismantle” and defending that water in the golf sector is used with intelligence and efficiency.