When thinking about living abroad, it is important to learn about the quality of the water in that country or how to install and benefit from this public service. Join us in the first article Guide from a brand new series about Utilities in Portugal and find out more about how our country operates this indispensable service in our daily lives.
WATER DISTRIBUTION & TREATMENT NETWORK
In Portugal, we have a well-developed drinking water distribution and sanitation network, in which quality checks are carried out regularly (by ERSAR), achieved in part thanks to past substantial EU funds. Nevertheless, sanitation in some isolated rural areas that are less populated remain relatively low with some people still in need to resort to their own private water sources.
Water services in Portugal are a shared responsibility between the 308 municipalities and the public holding company Águas de Portugal (AdP) and its subsidiaries. Because water supply is managed at a local level, you can’t choose your provider since they change depending on your area of residence.
CONNECTION TO THE PUBLIC WATER AND WASTE NETWORK
Properties, whether residential or industrial, must always (when possible) be connected to the public water and sanitation network. Should your new property not have a water connection, then you will need to sort this with your local provider.
FAQs on connection to the public network:
Am I obliged to connect to the public water supply and/or wastewater sanitation network?
Yes, if there is a public water supply or wastewater sanitation network available within 20 meters of the property boundary. In these situations, private water supply solutions for human consumption or wastewater drainage should be dismissed. Private solutions can only be licensed by the environmental authority in cases where public networks are not available to users. Licenses already issued can be reviewed or revoked from the moment public networks become available.
Can I demand the provision of water services if the public network is more than 20 meters from the boundary of my property?
No. The law only guarantees this service if the public network is at a distance equal to or less than 20 meters from the boundary of the property. However, if for technical or economic reasons it may not be possible to extend water and sanitation networks to certain areas in the country. In this case, the property owner must request additional information from the management local entity regarding the network expansion plan.
Can I use a borehole to supply my home?
It depends on the purpose and whether or not there is a public supply system close to your home. If you intend to use water for human consumption, you can only drill a hole if there is no public water supply network available (i.e. less than 20 meters from the property boundary), which you must check with the management entity responsible for the water supply services in the area where you live.
Can I use a septic tank to reject wastewater from my home?
It depends on whether or not there is a public wastewater sanitation system close to your home. As a rule, you can only do so if there is no public wastewater sanitation network available (i.e. less than 20 meters from the property boundary), which you must check with the management entity responsible for water services in the area where resides. In exceptional cases, when the connection to the public system proves to be difficult, simplified solutions may be accepted by the managing entity, provided that adequate conditions of public health and environmental protection are guaranteed.
Can I use a home composting system to dispose of organic waste from my home?
Yes. Installing composting systems is especially suitable for properties with garden space, where you can easily make the composting process and apply the produced compost. Promoting home composting is an important measure for reducing the amount of waste to be sent for treatment, which is recommended as an environmentally sustainable practice.
REQUESTING WATER SUPPLY AND SANITATION
Any person or company occupying a building, house or factory, for example, may request the supply of water. To simplify the process of setting up a contract, we explain the most common necessary steps below:
Find who the local provider is and contact them directly to set up your account.
You must gather the information required to set up the water supply contract. The contract can be done in person (best option), via Customer Service Line, by letter, fax and in some cases directly in the providers website. Usually you need to provide the following information / documents: - Identity Proof Identity Card, Citizen's Card, Passport, Driving License or Taxpayer Card; - Occupant Identity Proof (proof that you are allowed to occupy the property) Any of the following documents: Rental Agreement, Lease Deed, Freelease Agreement, Property Title Certificate, Deed of Sale and Purchase, Contract Commitment of Sale and Purchase or Conveyance of Business Lease, in which case, it is necessary to indicate the Land Registry Article and the fraction or Owner Identification (Name and Tax Number); - NIF Number (Personal Tax Number in Portugal) - Portuguese Bank Account - Customer's Signature (by the customer or his legal representative)
If you prefer to use the website or send a letter or fax, you will be contacted afterwards by to confirm the data you have supplied and arrange for the technicians to visit the address (if necessary). After the technicians’ visit to the address you will receive the water supply contract at the address you gave. Return the signed contract version to the provider without delay, together with a copy of proof of identity of the occupant.
Following signature of the supply contract, the provider installs the meter. If a meter is already installed, it is necessary to read it.
Keep in mind: The water services contract must be must be registered with the property occupant's name, unless by mutual agreement a third party intends to assume the expenses (for example, in a rental situation where the landlord includes all utility monthly costs in the rent payments).
FAQs on water and sanitation services contracts:
Am I obliged to pay any debts when concluding a previous contract for water and waste services?
No! Anyone who isn't the contract holder is not obliged to pay any debts arising from it. Debts from water supply contracts are exclusively the contract owner responsibility and not on the buildings or occupants.
The management entity cannot refuse to set up a new contract with another user due to the existence of previous debts of a different user for the same property, unless it is confirmed that the change in the contract holder only intends to keep avoiding the debt payment.
Do I have to provide a deposit to set up a water supply contract?
Generally no. If the contract is requested by a domestic user, that is, someone who uses water services for non-professional purposes, no deposit can be demanded prior to the conclusion of the contract. If the contract is requested by a non-domestic user, a deposit may be required as a condition for contracting the service.
When should I consider water and waste services contracted?
If there is no autonomous contracting of each of the water and waste services and they are made available simultaneously, they are all considered to be contracted from the date on which the water supply starts, which must occur within five working days from the date of date of receipt of the contracting request made by the user, except in cases of force majeure. The managing entities of each of the services must make available to users, in writing, the contractual conditions for the provision of the service, including clear and precise information about the main rights and obligations of users and the managing entity, namely, regarding measurement, billing, collection, service suspension conditions, tariffs, complaints and conflict resolution. The contractual conditions must be delivered when the water supply contract is signed or, in the case of a service provided by management entities other than the one responsible for the water supply, within 30 days from the date on which the respective management entity has knowledge of contracting the water service. For this purpose, the management entity of the water supply services is obliged to send the list of new users to the management entities of the other services on a monthly basis.
Legislation to consult:
- Artigo 63.º do Decreto-Lei n.º 194/2009, de 20 de agosto.
How can I terminate the contract for water and waste services?
Users may at any time terminate the water supply contract, due to vacating the place of consumption, provided that they communicate this in writing to the management entity and, in the case of water supply, provide the latter with the access to the meter, within 15 working days. The contract ceases to take effect from the date on which the last meter reading is performed. If the reading is not carried out within the period mentioned above for reasons attributable to the user, the user remains responsible for the costs incurred in the meantime.
Legislation to consult:
- Artigo 64.º do Decreto-Lei n.º 194/2009, de 20 de agosto
PAYMENT AND BILLING
Water bills in Portugal are typically issued every two months. Usually, Portuguese pay a fixed estimated metered amount for the water consumption, but the price may differ if water usage is greater or less than usual. You can pay in many ways and platforms including direct debit, Homebanking and Multibanco ATMs. Bills are adjusted when a meter reading is provided, so is important to take your own readings.
The meter readings are used to calculate the volumes of water consumed.
Readings made by the provider:
Technicians must get access to the meter every six months by the costumer. The scheduled date of the next meter reading is usually stated on the previous Water Bill.
Readings made by the Costumer:
In between readings made by the provider, the customer may report the meter reading before the due date stated on the Water Bill. This can be done via the providers website site, myAQUA® App or the providers Meter Readings contact Line.
You must give your provider at least 3 days’ notice of your intention to terminate the contract. You can terminate the contract in person or via website, letter or fax, stating:
Latest Meter reading;
Property address and date for which you want to terminate the contract and have the water cut off;
Customer’s name and Customer Account number;
Address to which the final Water Bill should be sent;
If you move home and fail to inform your provider, you will continue to be responsible for the bills at the old address.
IMPORTANT: The customer must be present at the address on the termination date. If the water cannot be cut off because we are unable to gain access to the address, the termination will not be valid and the customer will continue to be responsible for the bills at that address.
COMPLAINING ABOUT WATER SERVICES
You can complain about water and sanitation services by using:
the physical complaints book of the entity providing the service
(or) do the online complaints book
If you wish to question the billed amount, you must attach a copy of the bill concerned to the complaint.
DRINKING WATER QUALITY
Portugal has maintained a very positive evolution with regard to the quality of drinking water and in the number of mandatory analyzes carried out for control purposes. Let’s Talk numbers: in Portugal 93% of households have access to drinking water at home (97% in urban areas, but only 50% in rural areas) and 76% of families have access to sewage connections.
So to answer the question, CAN YOU DRINK TAP WATER IN PORTUGAL?
Yes! The tap water quality is excellent in Portugal, making it a reference at European level.
Click on the image to check the Geographic distribution of the percentage of safe water by municipality according to the 99% target
WATER CHARACTERISTICS Savvy insight Be aware of smell, taste, color and turbidity
Almost every tap water is considered drinkable. However, in certain cases you can detect smell, taste, color or even turbidity in the water, which can create a false perception that is not safe for consumption. These characteristics can have several causes:
Natural Minerals in water;
Treatment processes used to make water drinkable;
Maintenance work on the public network;
Degradation of the plumbing of our house or property;
Some of the most common situations are described below :
White or cloudy color
White looking color in tap water occurs because of the existente air dissolved in the water, that forms small bubbles. It is mainly caused by pressure fluctuations in pipes or reservoirs that turn the water, momentarily, somewhat white. This appearance is only temporary and does not affect the quality of the water. If you let the water rest for a few moments in a transparent glass, you will see how clear the water becomes again.
Brown or reddish color
Any brown or reddish color in tap water is due to the presence of minerals such as iron and/or manganese. Changes in temperature or pressure and water velocity may cause brown turbidity, caused by the formation and dragging of iron deposits in metallic pipes. You can minimize the situation if you let the water run for a while until it comes out clear again. Avoid washing clothes with water under these conditions.
Chlorine smell or taste
Chlorine smell or taste in tap water results from the water disinfection process. Chlorine is added to water in order to eliminate bacteria and other microorganisms that can contaminate public water. For that reason, a residual amount of chlorine is kept in the network up to our tap. Therefore, you may notice a slight chlorine smell or taste when drinking tap water. However, these small amounts of chlorine in the water ensure its disinfection and do not pose any health hazard. To eliminate the chlorine smell and taste, just let the water rest for at least half an hour or store the water in the fridge, properly conditioned.
Water is considered hard when there are significant amounts of dissolved salts, mainly calcium or magnesium and soft when it contains small amounts.
Hard water may not dissolve soap, detergents or shampoos well, presenting greater difficulty in foaming, and may more easily cause limescale deposits on equipment (easily removed with a white vinegar solution). For washing machines, there are anti-limescale tablets on the market that are added to the detergent and prevent the formation of these deposits. Click on the map and see the classification of the hardness of public supply water by Municipality in Portugal.
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