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print article043-E Water


                                                                                                   043-E WATER

 Mains water supply is the responsibility of the local Council (Câmara). In the past each individual Council produced their own water, treated it, and distributed it to the consumers. Many of the smaller Councils did not have enough consumers to employ full-time specialists to run the supply and the quality of the service offered therefore varied considerably from one Council to another. 
Now many Councils are joining together with Aguas de Portugal (a state owned Corporation) to establish larger water supply companies to provide better quality treated water. These companies will provide potable water to the local Councils who retain responsibility for its distribution and billing of the final consumers. The Lisbon Water Company, EPAL, already works in this way supplying water to many of the Councils around Lisbon. Such companies are being established in the north, around Setúbal, and the west and east of the Algarve. 
With the adherence to the EU, Portugal has invested heavily in improving water supplies to meet the EU-wide regulations. The Ministry of Environment monitors the quality of water supply and has begun publishing annual reports. The Ministry of Health provides an independent control on the quality of the water supplied. 
Obtaining a mains water connection  As each Council (Câmara) is responsible for water supply the details of the administration procedures vary from town to town. In the smaller towns the water supply may be run from the general offices of the Town Council (Câmara Municipal). In larger towns, most Council’s have established a Water Department (Serviço Municipal de Água). In a few cases the Council has established a semi-autonomous company (Serviço Municipalizado de Água). In the telephone directory look under "Câmara Municipal - Serviços Municipalizados/Serviço de Água /Piquete de Água". In the future these services may be contracted out by councils. The contact details will be shown on your monthly bill. 
To request a connection you will generally need to present proof of identification, your tax number (Cartão de Contribuinte), and proof of legal occupancy of the house such as land-tax registration (Caderneta Predial), rental agreement, or purchase contract (Escritura de Compra). 
In Portugal mains water is metered. The Council may present bills monthly, but there is a trend to extend this period to quarterly or even annually. Not all the bills will be based on meter readings. Often they will be estimates, and corrections made later. If you have access to the meter, then you can check the reading against your bill. However, some Council’s protect the meters behind locked covers. 
Arrangements for payment vary from town to town. Payments in cash or cheque may be payable at the Council (Câmara) offices, at the Parish Council (Junta de Freguesia) or directly to the meter reader. Some Council’s include Multibanco payment instructions on their bills. Most will accept payment by direct debit. 
The amounts you pay also vary greatly from town to town. Some Councils heavily subsidise their water supply, others see it as a means of local taxation. 
Water consumption and saving water  Monthly water consumption is normally about 3 cubic metres per person. This can be easily double or triple if you use mains water for irrigation or for topping up a swimming pool. How to save water?  The best way to conserve water in the garden is to design it well. Do not plant a lawn. Select trees, shrubs and local plants that require little watering. There are many local species that give a good display. Southern African and South Australian species are often suited to the climate. If you must use irrigation, choose a system that uses the minimum amount of water. Use drips or micro-sprays, water at night, and only water when the plants need it, not every day. If you have a bore-hole or well, you could consider using that in preference to the expensively treated mains water supply. 
In the swimming pool there are two main losses of water. One is evaporation, but the largest is likely to be for filter back-washing. The former can be reduced by fitting a cover to the pool. The latter depends on the quality of treatment, especially avoiding the build-up of algae and other solids. 
Plumbing  The plumbing in older buildings is often galvanised piping embedded in concrete walls. On the Algarve coast these corrode readily due to salt contamination and the hard waters. Now the preferred plumbing systems use polypropylene flexible pipes in conduits. These can be replaced more easily.  Similarly on the Algarve coast the hard water leads to furring of hot water systems. In the past this has been controlled by softening systems or phosphate dosing. More recently, some suppliers have promoted a form of magnetic treatment. The introduction of the new softer water supplies in the Algarve should eliminate most of these problems except for those dependent on their own bore-holes.   Bore-holes and shallow wells  The over use of aquifers, especially those on the Algarve coastal plain, has led to more concern about planning the use of this limited communal resource. Now all boreholes and wells should be registered with the Regional Directorate for the Environment and Natural Resources (Direcção Regional do Ambiente e Recursos Naturais). 
If you intend to open a new borehole or shallow well, you should check with your local Council (Câmara Municipal) to find out whether you need specific planning permission. In built-up areas there may well be restrictions on the installation of new wells to protect existing water supplies.  When sitting boreholes and wells for drinking water make sure that the ground-water is not contaminated by near-by septic tanks or other sources of pollution. Some Câmaras have rules about minimum distances. The local Health Officer, to be found through your local Health Centre (Centro de Saúde), is able to arrange for the water to be analysed by the District Health Laboratory. 
Traditional water rights  Properties in rural areas near springs, streams or rivers may have traditional water rights. These rights have often developed over many years and water sources may be shared by various properties. The shortage of water for irrigation in the summer months makes water rights a very sensitive subject in rural areas. 
The previous owner of the property should inform you of these rights. Then it's advisable to check the information with the neighbours. In principle, the River Bailiff (Guarda do Rio) will confirm these rights and adjudicate in case of disagreement. In many areas Council (Câmara) officers now carry out the function of the Bailiff.


Date Inserted: 23 June 2007
Last Updated: 15 November 2017
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