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Our project partner EVEL – Estonian Water Works Association is always looking for interesting solutions in the water sector broadening horizons in the applied technologies, national regulations and water management structure. Last month, this constant creative search led them to Portugal to gain knowledge and practices transferable to Estonia.

Portugal vs. Estonia

As a background for comparison, EVEL specialists pointed out that

  • the cost of living in Portugal is comparable with Estonia, while the electricity prices there are among the highest in Europe, since most of electricity is imported.
  • The country experiences very small amount of precipitation, which caused extremely vast wildfires lately – something that concerned Estonia as well.
  • Majority of population lives in the coastal region of Portugal.

Learning in the field

The study tour arranged by EVEL included several target visits. One of them was to the local water operator EPAL supplying drinking water to customers in Lisbon and surrounding regions. The operator faces different challenges: not only it distributes water to almost 2 mln residents, it also operates the largest water treatment plant in Europe, and works in the Lisbon region located among mountains, which creates 13 different pressure zones to operate in.

Other visits included the Portuguese Association of Water Distributors, Lisbon Oceanarium, Portuguese Water Management Company, Alcântara, Freixo and Maia/Prada wastewater treatment plants.

Each WWTP provided different side to the Portuegese wastewater treatment practices. In the specific mountain location, positioning plants on hills takes away the need to install pumping stations in the operating area: the wastewater runs by the gravity to the WWT plant located in the lowest point of the landscape. Various tariffs emphasized tough competition among water operators in Portugal. Diverse approaches to the sludge treatment were showcased on all WWTPs: for example, the Maia/Prada WWTP is the only plant in Portugal that produces certified compost.

Sharing knowledge and looking for new solutions is an excellent way to improve the performance. The inspiring example of EVEL study trip reminds not to limit ourselves only with neighbours when looking for good practices. Indeed, the geographical location is an important factor in the transferability of solutions, but searching wider broadens the horizons and boosts the experience exchange. We are sure that Portuguese operators learned much from their Estonian colleagues as well!