ODEMIRA - Faced with poor water management, locals in Portugal, Greece and Romania struggle to keep their farmlands and financially survive, and often resort to extreme solutions to find usable water. Meanwhile local authorities allow big companies to use water irrigation methods that can pose a threat to the nearby communities, the natural habitat and the presence of water in the area as such.

On 24 February 2023, Angela, a resident of Monte Novo da Fataca, a village in the municipality of Odemira, Portugal, spoke at the municipal assembly as a representative of the people who live there. She brought forward a petition that was signed by 105 people to draw attention to the lack of water for the community. "We are not supplied with drinking water. We use our own wells, but the increase in agricultural businesses and the boreholes they built to collect water have accelerated the drought process."

The plight of this community is not different to that of many others across Europe. National Programmes to Combat Desertification were established more than 20 years ago, making it clear that the imminent threat of water scarcity was visible to most European governments.

However, as the journalists working on this investigation were able to uncover, authorities steered clear of any consistent way to address the problem, leaving citizens in areas like Alentejo in Portugal, Thessaly in Greece or Oltenia in Romania to fend for themselves as the pace of desertification kept increasing.Facing poor water management, locals in these places struggle to keep their farmlands and financially survive, and are forced to resort to extreme olutions to find usable water.

On the other hand, as the investigation shows, large business interests in all three countries — think owners of large farms or agricultural companies, and large corporations handling luxurious hotels and golf courses — often strike powerful deals with local authorities and choose harmful methods of water irrigation and consumption. This situation is a threat to the surrounding communities, the natural habitat, as well as the existence of water in the areas.

Can it still be turned around?

Team members

Sara Pinho

Sara Pinho is a Portuguese freelance journalist

Sara Pinho

Janine Louloudi

Janine is a Greek journalist and producer.

Janine Louloudi

Petrut Calinescu

Petrut Calinescu is a documentary photographer and videographer based in Bucharest, Romania.

Petrut Calinescu

Myrto Boutsi

Myrto Boutsi is a reporter and an international news editor based in Athens.

Myrto Boutsi Journalist

Konstantinos Kontokostas

Konstantinos Kontokostas is a reporter based in Larissa, Greece. .

Konstantinos Kontokostas

Micael Pereira

Micael Pereira (Portugal) is a senior reporter and investigative journalist at Expresso.

Micael Pereira

Carla Tomás

Carla Tomás is a journalist who has been covering environmental issues for more than 20 years. 

José Fernandes

José Fernandes (Coimbra) has a passion for documentary photography and photojournalism.

José Fernandes
€27.600,00 on 09/02/2023

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