The Project‎ > ‎Case studies‎ > ‎


Quarteira is a recent city, born less than 50 years ago from a small fishermen village in the middle of a long sandy beach on the eastern side of the Algarve coast. This coast facing south, offers the most Mediterranean feature of the Portuguese coast. This coastal stretch has been a destination marked by tourist activities, especially after the Second World War.

West of the city is the marina and huge tourist development of Vilamoura, built in the early 70's on the grounds of the old Quinta de Quarteira. To the east of Quarteira lies the luxury tourist resort of Vale do Lobo.


Quarteira is today a city with a permanent population of 16,129 inhabitants, a number that triples between the months of July and September. According to data from the National Institute of Statistics, between 1950 and 2001, the population increased 376% and the lodging soared 1237% between 1970 and 2001 (INE, 2001). Built on the beach presently very small, Quarteira has buildings less 100 meters from the surf. The sea front is aligned along a promenade defended by large seawall from which 5 groynes extend, which have helped stabilize the sand and secure the urban front.

Erosion and coastal defence works

In terms of coastal erosion, the expansion of Vilamoura has affected the beach of Quarteira, endangering many buildings. Indeed, the construction of the marina of Vilamoura, with its works of regularization of the mouth of the Quarteira riverbank and the construction of the marina jetties, not only created a strong tension with the fishermen that had long been asking for a fishing port, but also with other local businesses. This was especially the case of the real estate, given that the works of the marina had interrupted the normal sand flow from west to east, which made the retreat of the beach in front of buildings quite threatening.

In 70’s a groyne field was built that stabilized the beach, but caused severe erosion to the east in front of the luxury 'resort' of Vale do Lobo, now considered the most critical stretch and where some houses had to be demolished and others will be relocated. In 1999 the fishing port of Quarteira was inaugurated, also referred as a possible cause for aggravating erosion to the east. To contain the retreat of the coast in this stretch, three artificial sand nourishments have been made since 1998, the last of which in the summer of 2010, along 5 km. It is expected that the last sand refill lasts for about a decade, depending on weather events and the dynamics of this coastal stretch in the coming years.