Cyprus Mail

Fear of worst drought on record

By Constantinos Psillides

CYPRUS is facing its worst drought ever according to the local weather service, which has recorded 204 millimetres of rainfall for the 2013-14 season, despite the occasional downpour in recent days.

This is the worst year on record since the weather service started keeping track of annual rainfall in 1901.

Although the water season hasn’t ended (the weather service considers  October 1 of one year to September 30 of the next as a ‘water year’), this was worse than the 1972-73 period when the rainfall was 212 millimetres.

A weather service official told the Cyprus Mail that the figure for this year will probably be over 212mm. “Although that doesn’t mean much. It is still one of the worst years on record. It might still rain a bit but that doesn’t change the fact that we are going through one of the worst droughts ever,” the official said.

The all-time average recorded rainfall for the period in question, October to March, is 437mm. The 204mm recorded so far equals only 47 per cent of the expected rainfall. Last year, the recorded rainfall was 460mm, which was 5 per cent above the historic average.

Faidros Roussis of the Water Development Department (WDD) told the Cyprus Mail that besides being the worst year for rainfall, this is also the worst year for the flow into the dams.

“The Kourris Dam was built in 1987 and we have been recording water flow ever since. This is the worst year ever. Our second worst was in 1992 when only 12m cubic metres of water was collected in the dams. This year we are barely over 9m m³ and summer is just around the corner. It’s almost impossible to reach 12m,” he said.

According to WDD figures, 93m m³ of water flowed to the dams last year, which pales in comparison with two years ago, when water flow reached 192m m³.

While Roussis isn’t worried for now, he is fearful for the future. “Usually we have droughts going for two, three years. My department is prepared to tackle this year’s water supply problems but if the drought goes on, we will be faced with some tough decisions next year or two years from now,” he said, adding that despite the severe drought the dams are almost half full, at 48 per cent capacity. Dam capacity is still at a high level due to excellent rainfall over the previous two years.

Despite the drought, the government has stated that there will be no cuts to the domestic water supply. On February 21, agriculture minister Nicos Kouyialis assured the public that water rationing was out of the question.

Water supplied for irrigation is a different matter, as irrigation is estimated to be responsible for over two-thirds of water consumption. Higher consumption means higher susceptibility to rationing needs, but Kouyialis was again reassuring.

“With regard to water supplied for irrigation purposes, a problem may arise for those receiving water from the Southern Conveyor. We have decided to allocate the same quantities as the period from 2009 to 2012, which the WDD considers satisfactory for irrigation,” Kouyialis had said.

Cyprus had faced acute water shortages due to persistent droughts in 2008, as a result of which the government had to impose extended water cuts and import water from Greece to alleviate the problem.

Following public outcry, the government decided to resume its policy of desalinating water. Three desalination plants are now operational on the isalnd, with total daily output capacity of 160,000 cubic metres of water.

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