The deadline for the obligatory registration and licensing of use of water resources, which includes boreholes and septic tanks, will end on the 31st May 2009.
This deadline was established by Decree Law 226-A/2007 which makes it obligatory to register and license the above, specifying in the case of existing situations which have not been registered, that the request for registration and licence should be made within two years from the date of the Decree Law, that being the 1st June 2007
As stated, the licensing is regulated by Decree Law 226-A/2007 and by the so called Water Law (58/2005) which requires licensing for:
Search of and capture of water (ARTICLE 40º);
Electric energy production (ARTICLE 47º);
Disposal of waste waters (ARTICLE 48º).
Under the terms of article 11 of the Law it is possible to request advance information in order to be sure of the possible use of water resources before actually requesting that a license be issued.
Waste water disposal may be by public or private means. Septic tanks are included in the last category.
Septic tanks are subject to very specific regulations in accordance with diverse legislation as mentioned in Article 52 of the Law 226-A/2007.
Boreholes, wells of any type, water mines, ponds, dams, and septic tanks must be registered with the competent authority which is, in the case of the Algarve, the Administração da Região Hidrográfica do Algarve, I.P. (ARH).
It should be noted that septic tanks subject to licensing are only those tanks which drain into the surrounding environment, being not water tight.
Septic tanks that are water tight will be emptied by the managing authority (normally the council). Emptying septic tank contents directly into the environment is a very serious offence and is punishable by a fine under the terms of article 81, number 3, f) of Law Decree 226-A/2007.
The use of the water resources without the respective title is also considered a very serious environmental offense and is punishable under the terms of article 81 number 3, a) of the above law with fines between 25.000 and 37.500 Euros in the case of individuals, and between 60.000 and 2,5 million Euros in the case of companies.
Licensing of boreholes (underground water capture), of septic tanks with residual water discharge has as ultimate aim the mapping of the above in order to manage in the best possible way the Country’s water resources, and also to control the residual water discharges into the environment avoiding therefore underground water supply (aquifer) contamination.
There has been a movement since at least 2006 to reduce the number of septic tanks that discharge, preferring always the use closed septic tank, in order to reduce the risk of contamination of the underground water supply. The Institute for the Regulation of Water and Residues (Instituto Regulador de Águas e Resíduos) has made a recommendation (Recommendation IRAR 1/2007) advising that septic tanks should be deactivated in cases where there is a public main sewage system available. Only in cases where deactivation is impossible for technical or economic reasons, recognised by the local managing authority responsible for such waste (normally councils), should such septic tanks remain. If not, the septic tanks must be deactivated, filled with earth and connection made to the main public sewage system, which is obligatory by law (number 2 and 4 of the article 2 of the Law-Decree 379/93 of the 5th November).