Unbilled water in mainland Portugal costs the country’s water operators €167 million annually – corresponding to 300 million m3, or 35%, of the 850 million m3 of water that is abstracted, treated and distributed – the national water regulator ERSAR has estimated.
Of this about 24% are the “real losses” due to leakage and overflows, while the remaining 11% are the “apparent losses” due to inaccuracies in measurement and the theft or misuse of water as well as water that is used for street cleaning, watering of public green spaces and fountains, etc.
However, there are also wide regional disparities, ranging from the worst cases of 70% in rural and semi-urban areas in the north, to below 10% in the urban areas of the Center and Lisbon and the Tagus Valley.
Describing this situation as “clearly unsatisfactory,” the regulator noted that it has been encouraging and supporting the sector to reduce the level of losses through implementation of an asset management policy that includes the rehabilitation and renewal of the water infrastructure.
ERSAR has also recommended that there should be a review of the policy on water that is supplied on a non-billed basis – such as for municipal use – and that effort should be devoted to reducing theft by strengthening inspections of building networks.