By Poly Pantelides
THE country’s reservoirs are down to almost 57 per cent capacity from about 70 per cent last year following low levels of rainfall, authorities have said.
The meteorological office said that rainfall between October 1 and November 26 this year was only 42 per cent of normal levels for the period. Dams are now at 56.9 per cent capacity, compared with 70.4 per cent in the same period last year, the water development department’s (WDD) data show.
Cyprus’ dams are now holding close to 166m cubic metres of water, compared with 205m last year.
Statistical data kept since the completion of the big dams in 1987 show nearly empty dams in the early nineties with levels remaining low up until 2002, and coming to near full capacity in mid-2002 before being depleted again by the end of 2008.
Authorities then decided on the obvious solution to make the island independent of rainwater and avoid recurrent drought situations by introducing desalination plants, for which the state pays a fee even when the units are not producing water.
The plants cost the state millions of euros every year whether or not they are needed and the water development department even paid out €23m in compensation this year to the contractors of a water desalination plant in Paphos left idle over the last three years, after rainfall in 2010 resulted in a substantial inflow into dams.
As much as 70 per cent of all water consumption on the island goes to agriculture, a significant pressure on the country’s water resources and the European Commission has previously suggested Cyprus had not paid enough attention to more efficient water use via reusing treated waste water and recycled water in existing irrigation systems.
A former head of the WDD’s planning department had told the Cyprus Mail last year that lack of cost-benefit analysis cost the state between €40m and €50m a year in unnecessary desalination and bad management of recycled water.
Spyros Stephanou had said at the time that the Limassol plant – inaugurated this August by President Nicos Anastasiades – would cost €15,000 per day when not running.
Good rainfall last year filled up the dams to near-full capacity. Rainfall between October 2011 and May 2012 reached 131 per cent and more water flowed into the country’s big dams than ever before.