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Challenges to water management in the Azores


The local plan for climate change
in Azores, includes 76 initiatives, with proposals for
different sectors. The major concern
for agriculture is the management
of water resources, in a region where rainfall patterns
are expected to change. Rui Coutinho, professor
at Azores University, a volcanology and
hydrogeology expert, says the region’s
water resources are of good quality. The groundwater is of good quality, apart from certain situations in which
this quality is brought into question, because of saline intrusion phenomena. Here boreholes become contaminated
by the intrusion of seawater, which causes a
high chloride content that must be counteracted by mixing this water
with water from other sources. Even though only 5%
of the region’s fresh water is directed to consumption, it is difficult to access
much of these water resources. This 5% is indeed a reality. However, the resources that are
considered to be available are not always easy to capture. These are islands with
considerable seismic activity and the excavation of caverns
is not very easy or to be recommended, because it would require
expensive construction techniques and complex procedures. And he offers some advice… Since we have aquifers at altitude
whose recharge process is more or less dependent
on periods of rainfall, I think we should take
advantage of all these aquifers, because this is water that
is renewed annually, and use boreholes only for
the most pressing situations, such as last year, when there
was a more severe drought and so there was a need to
resort to more extraction of water from boreholes. When changing seasonal
rainfall regimes and an increase in extreme
weather phenomena are expected to affect
freshwater availability and the capacity of
aquifers to recharge, effective water management
also entails a change in the consumption paradigm. We should change the paradigm, so as not to increase
consumption further, but to rationalise it and take all appropriate
measures available so that people try their best
to manage their consumption. At AltiPrado, a farm with 500
head of cattle for milk production, located in Achada das
Furnas (São Miguel island), water is collected
at altitude, avoiding waste. I think what we do wrong
is let the water run into the sea and then bring it back up
where it’s needed. We try to keep that to a minimum. We get it here on the property,
through an aquifer at altitude, so that we are not wasting
other resources, because water is essential. At a time when everyone is
discussing the environmental impact of livestock and agriculture, this engineer ensures
that Azorean farms are aware of these issues. Well, if there’s anyone
doing things well, it’s us, here in the Azores,
with no false modesty, because of the way
we manage livestock and the way we interact
with the rest of the environment, with the island itself, because we are the ones
who will suffer most from any problems that arise, because we live here and
we want to continue living here.

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