Sunday, 10 January 2016 18:41

Will there be enough water?

likely to be scarce likely to be scarce

Water, or rather its possible shortage, has been in the news with the current dry spell in Cyprus.

Climate change has been in the global news with the recent Climate Change Conference in Paris. Both topics are closely linked and neither bodes too well. Addressing the water issue, Limassol Municipality recently hosted a conference entitled ‘Water Resources Management in the Age of Climate Change – Suggestions supporting the Environment and the Economy’ as part of a nationwide campaign.

Recognising the seriousness of the problem and the need for immediate action, the Office of the Environment Commissioner, together with the European University of Cyprus, the Water Development Department and the Association of Scientists and Environmental Engineering organised an awareness campaign and dialogue in December with an event in each province.

Multifaceted water problems

The Environment Commissioner Office’s says Cyprus’ water problem is complex, as it is due to both low rainfall and the booming demand for water. The office says the causes lie in the economic development model over recent decades being mainly characterised by high-water consumption agricultural crops and increased water demand in tourism development. Given that Cyprus’ water problem is not just a water problem, but a problem of its economic development model, it requires a holistic approach and comprehensive management.

The Limassol event in mid-December was opened by the Environment Commissioner Ioanna Panayiotou and the Limassol Mayor Andreas Christou. The event featured three presentations.

Prominent speakers

Dr Yannis Mylopoulos, Engineering Professor at Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University and visiting professor at European University Cyprus talked about ‘The Water policy in the age of climate change’.

He explained how focusing on the wrong things – like creating golf courses instead of working with things we already have – like beautiful beaches, and having reduced the cultivation of products that are appropriate for the island’s soil, has put tremendous strain on the island’s water resources.

Another topic was ‘The impact of climate change on the water resources of Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean’ by Dr Anthony Zorbas, President of the Association of Scientists and Environmental Engineering Professor at the Open University of Cyprus.

Costas Aristeidou from the Hydrology Water Development Department spoke about water resource management in Cyprus, the current situation and necessary adaptations to the climate change which include adjustments of the laws currently regulating water usage.

Worrisome figures

The data presented included worrisome facts: the population of the earth has doubled in the last 60 years, water consumption has increased six-fold and much of the drinking water supplies are exhausted. The Mediterranean area is projected to be affected with particular severity by climate change, with rainfall diminishing each year.

Cyprus’s dams were designed to provide water for periods of drought lasting up to two years, but climate change is altering this pattern and drought periods can now last three to five years, meaning that even after a rainy year, water supplies in the dams are insufficient to meet the needs for the next drought.

The number of legal and illegal boreholes in agricultural areas has led to over-pumping and subsequently to seawater penetrating groundwater. Restoring water qualities in such cases is extremely difficult and time-consuming.

The protection zones of dams and rivers which feed into underground water are frequently violated, gradually poisoning the island’s drinking water. Desalination units can provide drinking water, but the process is energy-intensive and costly.

Planned actions

Coming activities include presentations at schools to educate the children on the severity of the water crisis and a video clip competition for teenagers. Seeing that the water problem is one of the most pressing problems facing Cyprus and which is expected to become even worse, immediate attention is needed.

Attendance at the conference was very low: only one of the mayors – the host, no members of parliament, no chairpersons of the municipalities’ Environmental Committees – a concern voiced by one of the few conference participants, Yiannis Kakoullis, a mechanical engineer who shared his notes on social media. It can only be hoped that the current generation, those in power, and other active citizens understand and act on the seriousness of the situation.

Article as published in the Cyprus Weekly of January 1 2016 

Mary Anglberger

I’ve been travelling the world for over 20 years teaching English and am now taking time to follow my passion for photography and writing. I want to share all the things, events and people that have inspired and inspire me and spread those positive vibes all around.

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