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Portugal Environmental Export Market Plan
Chapter 3-Water Quality

The Water Challenge: Overview

Water-related issues are of primary importance for national and district governments in Portugal. However, the water sector suffers many problems. Despite efforts to meet EU environmental directives, Portugal lags behind in its efforts to improve water quality. Information on the water and wastewater treatment system is inadequate. It is almost impossible to obtain accurate information about how many of the water and wastewater treatment plants are operating properly at any given time. Many industries continue to dump waste into rivers and other bodies of water. Enforcement of legislation to improve the aquatic environment is increasing; however, there is much room for improvement.
As of 1997, about 75 percent of the population of Portugal was served by municipal potable water systems, and only about 25 percent of the population was served by wastewater treatment plants. Portugal's primary goal for the water sector is to bring the country up to the average standards prevalent in the EU.

Water Statistics
The Instituto Nacional da Agua is responsible for the delivery of municipal drinking water to the population of Portugal. About 75 percent of the population of Portugal was served by municipal potable water systems as of 1997, compared with an EU average of 95 percent.

As of 1996, only about 25 percent of the population was served by wastewater treatment plants, compared with a European Union average of 75 percent.

The Portuguese Government and EPAL (Empresa Portuguesa das Aguas Livres SA) have been educating the population on the investment necessary to deliver clean, potable water in sufficient quantities to consumers. They have used the slogan “Water falls from heaven, but it does not reach your home as a result of a miracle.”
The EU funded clean water projects during 1996 as part of a program to bring Portugal up to EU standards. Approximately 28.1 percent of the funding approved was for clean water projects. The metropolitan areas of Lisbon and Oporto, as well as the Algarve region, received funding. A priority is the upgrading of old and damaged drinking water facilities and pipelines to prevent losses. The installation of flow meters throughout the country and the implementation of user fees are other key areas that will receive increasing attention in the next few years.
In the wastewater treatment area, Portugal received EU Cohesion Fund grants in 1996 for projects designed to meet the requirements of EU directive 91/271. Roughly 33 percent of the funding approved was for wastewater treatment projects. The Oporto metropolitan area received funding for several important wastewater treatment projects. Funding was also approved for similar projects in the Algarve region. Other projects funded were directed at the recovery of highly contaminated bodies of water where waterfowl from other areas of Europe migrate during winter.
EU and Portuguese plans include sewage treatment and water recovery projects, increased metering of water usage to promote water savings, increased control of dumping of industrial and agricultural wastes in bodies of water, and increased cooperation between the national government and the autonomous communities.

Municipal Sewage Treatment

The treatment of wastewater in Portugal is the responsibility of the 305 municipal governments. The existing infrastructure is for the most part old, and some of it could even be classified as ancient. These facilities need to be retrofitted, upgraded, or replaced. At the present time, there are 1,251 treatment plants, of which 296 provide primary treatment and 955 secondary treatment. This figure is not very reliable, but it is the only information available. For one reason or another, at any given time, a large number of these plants either are not working or are not working efficiently. Although there has been considerable progress in the past two decades in building new municipal sewage treatment plants, the installed capacity still needs to be expanded and modernized.
The percentage of households connected to a municipal sewage system and the percentage of municipal sewage systems that have installed advanced treatment plants differ widely from region to region in part because of differences in the ability to finance the systems (table 7). One of the suggested solutions by the OECD includes the implementation of polluter pays strategies to finance the construction of new sewage treatment facilities. EU Cohesion Fund grants have been used widely to help cover the cost of remedial action and to meet the goals of EU directive 91/271. In 1996, 20 new projects were approved for funding by the EU for municipal wastewater treatment facilities.
Between 1998 and 2000, public tenders will be issued by local and regional governments throughout Portugal for bids by private companies to build new infrastructure for wastewater treatment. The goals of these projects will be to address the need for remedial action in areas that suffer from water contamination, to build new treatment plants to reduce the discharge of untreated wastewater, and to introduce technology to improve water quality for bathing. The goal is to increase treatment of wastewater by 1999 to the standards prevailing in the rest of the EU.
Table 7: Clean Water and Sewage Access in Portugal
Region Percent of population w/municipal water delivery Percent of population w/connection to sewage lines
Minho Lima
Grande Porto
Entre Douro e Vouga
Alto Trás-os-Montes
Baixo Vouga
Baixo Mondego
Pinhal Litoral
Pinhal Interior Norte
Pinhal Interior Sul
Dão Lafóes
Serra da Estrela
Beira Interior Norte
Beira Interior Sul
Cova da Beira
Lisboa e Vale do Tajo
Grande Lisboa
A. de Setúbal
Médio Tejo
Leziria do Tejo
Região Alentejo
Alentejo Litoral
Alto Alentejo
Alentejo Central
Baixo Alentejo
Note: Although the installed capacity shown on this table may be factual, it does not reflect the level of treatment of water delivered to households or the treatment of waste water at the 441 treatment plants in Portugal. As many as half of the treatment plants may be out of order or not working properly at any given time. The government plans to improve the system by 1999, with support from the EU.
Source: Ministry of the Environment

For the most part, all newer industrial parks and major shopping centers have installed functioning sewage treatment systems. Upgrading older industrial parks and industrial zones is a challenging and costly proposition. Government pressure on heavy industrial polluters-for example, leather tanners, textile plants, paper production plants, chemical and petrochemical industries, and paint manufacturers-to comply with EU environmental legislation will be increasing in the near future. These industrial heavy polluters will be forced to invest in treatment plants for their wastewater.
The Portuguese Government is expected to invest an estimated $2.5 billion by the year 2000 in infrastructure to improve water treatment facilities throughout the country. French and Spanish companies are actively pursuing business opportunities in the water sector in Portugal.
The French Compagnie Général des Eaux (CGE) is frequently quoted in government technical presentations and enjoys considerable reputation. The mix of French, Spanish, and local Portuguese companies in the Portuguese market make it a formidable task for an American company to break into the market for services. However, these European companies frequently purchase American equipment and technology. In Portugal they are potential strong clients for American companies.

Use of Methane from Sewage Treatment Plants for Cogeneration of Electricity

Sewage treatment plants, and more specifically the anaerobic digestion of slush, generate methane and other combustible gases. These gases, which can often have a higher caloric value than gas produced at landfill sites, can be used for generation of electric power. Portugal has a good potential for the use of this technology. However, the majority of the sewage treatment plants are only providing primary treatment to sewage water. Particularly when heavy rains fall, untreated sewage flows into the ocean, contaminating beach resort areas.
There is a dire need to build more advanced infrastructure to provide secondary and tertiary treatment. One way of helping to defray the cost of investment in these advanced treatments would be the installation of cogeneration facilities to use the gas generated by anaerobic digestion to produce electricity. American companies with this type of technology should contact Portuguese municipal sewage treatment plants directly or through a Portuguese agent/distributor to explore business opportunities.

Recovery of Contaminated Coastal Waters

Portugal received 22.87 million tourists in 1995 and 22.98 million tourists in 1996. The tourism industry represents a very significant portion of the GNP, generating in 1996 an estimated $4.69 billion. Foreign and domestic tourists visit many world-class tourist resorts along Portuguese coastal waters. To protect the tourism industry, several projects have been presented to the EU Cohesion Fund seeking grants to recover areas of coastal waters that have been affected by lack of proper sewage treatment plants and industrial discharges into rivers that eventually deliver pollutants to the sea. Portuguese beaches are considered to be of very high ecological value and will continue to receive due attention.

Main Players in the Water Business in Portugal

About 70 percent of the market is controlled by the public sector. The competition that American companies face in Portugal is primarily from domestic, French, Spanish, and British firms. The French companies General des Eaux (CGE) and Lyonnaise des Eaux have been particularly successful in obtaining contracts in Portugal.
Among the leading companies in the water sector are:

AMBIAVE—Sistemas de Tratamento de Aguas, Lda.
AMPROTEC—Tecnica Protecçao do Ambiente, Lda.
Babcok Wilcox—Portugal, Lda.
Costa, Nunes & Costa, Lda.
Général des Eaux / HLC
HIDROJACTO—Tratamento de Aguas, Lda.
HIDROMOREIRA—Tratamentos de Aguas e Esgotos, Lda.
Luságua/AGS (Administraçâo e Gestâo de Sistemas de Salubridade)—Aguas de Barcelona and Lyonnaise des Eaux
J. Querubim S. Fernandes
PERMION—Tecnica e Fabrico de Equipamentos, Lda.
EPAL (Empresa Portuguesa das Aguas Livres, SA.

Many large Portuguese construction companies have expanded their operations to include environmental services, including water treatment. Among these construction companies are Engil, Soares da Costa, Somague, Teixeira Duarte, Mota & Companhia, and Edifer.
None of the 10 largest American companies in water supply and treatment have offices in Portugal, but they cover the market from other European capitals or through agents, distributors, and representatives. The companies are U.S. Filter Corp., Foster Wheeler, CH2M Hill Cos., Metcalf & Eddy/AWT, Montgomery Watson Inc., Black & Veatch, ICF Kaiser International, Inc., Western Summit Construction, Inc., Earth Tech, and Camp Dresser & McKee, Inc.

Best Sales Prospects

The best sales prospects in the water sector for American companies are pumps, filters, reverse osmosis equipment, membranes, dissolved oxygen, and ph meters. The principal competitors are suppliers from Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Spain. American companies with technology for water treatment should monitor EU procurement notices in the Supplement to the Official Journal of the European Communities and in Tenders Electronic Daily. (See chapter 6 for information on how this information can be obtained from the U.S. Mission to the EU.)
Among the American companies currently selling equipment for the water sector in Portugal are:

Celite Corp.
Eagle Spring Filtration
Hankinson International

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