Throughout its long history Cyprus has always been confronted with the problem of water shortage. Having no rivers with perennial flow and with a highly variable precipitation, the country experiences frequent droughts. The average annual precipitation, including snowfall, amounts to approximately 500mm, whereas during the past years this amount fell to 461mm.
Up until 1970, groundwater was the main source of water for both domestic supply and irrigation. As a result, almost all aquifers were seriously depleted because of over-pumping, and seawater intrusion was observed in most of the coastal aquifers. At the time, large quantities of surface water were lost through run-offs.
The Government authorities recognised the increasing water problem on the island and with the support of international organisations, established a long-term programme to address the problem effectively.
After independence, attention was turned to the systematic study and construction of water development works, both for storage and recharge purposes, followed by the implementation of a long-term plan for the construction of major development projects, which involved the building of a large number of dams.
The total storage capacity of the dams is approximately 332 million cubic metres (MCM) of water, compared to 6 MCM in 1960, which is really impressive when compared to other countries of the same size and development level.
Despite the remarkable progress in the sector, quantities of water available for human consumption and irrigation purposes were not adequate. This was due to an increased demand for water, declining precipitation, global climate change and the greenhouse effect.
To remedy the situation, desalination units were constructed in order to achieve water security and independence of the domestic water supply from climatic behavior. Today, the total maximum capacity of the desalination plants can satisfy the drinking water needs of the large urban, suburban and tourist areas of Cyprus, allowing more quantities of dam water to be available for irrigation needs, for environmental flows and for recharge of the heavily over-pumped aquifers.
The government water policy is not limited to desalination, but also focuses on the exploitation of other non-conventional sources of water, such as recycled water. Tertiary treated recycled water of strict quality standards is used for irrigation of agricultural crops and aquifer recharge, thus releasing equal quantities of good quality water for domestic supply.
Within the framework of harmonisation with the European Directive 91/271/EEC, a relevant programme (National Implementation Programme – NIP) aimed at the installation of central sewerage systems for the collection and treatment of sewage in all residential areas with a population of over 2.000 persons has been prepared. The NIP includes the four large urban areas of Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaka and Pafos, the two tourist areas of Agia Napa and Paralimni and 50 rural communities. At the same time the installation of sewerage treatment systems has been extended to smaller rural communities, which do not fall within the obligations for harmonization (with a population less than 2.000 persons), but which face problems with sewage disposal.
The construction of additional water works, as provided for in the Strategic Water Development Plan for the period up to 2015, is also being developed.
In addition, the implementation of the Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC constitutes an integral part of the government water policy. The Water Framework Directive establishes a legal framework to protect and restore all waters across Europe and sets ambitious objectives to ensure that all waters meet good status by 2015. Cyprus is currently implementing its River Basing Management Plan which is the key tool for the implementation of the Water Framework Directive. Due to the severe water scarcity and drought problems in Cyprus, a Drought Management Plan has also been established.
For more information:
Water Development Department website: http://www.moa.gov.cy/wdd