By Evie Andreou
Despite endless offers from the Turkish Cypriot side to share the piped water from Turkey that began flowing on Saturday, the 75 million cubic metres a year is barely enough to help meet their own needs, the government’s water authorities said yesterday.
The acting director of the Water Development Department Andreas Manolis said: “Even though the water that will come from Turkey is a significant volume, it is not enough to cover the annual water needs in the north which is around 100 million cubic metres [a year] let alone share with us.”
The government-controlled areas need around 220 million cubic metres per year, 75 million of which is produced by desalination plants.
Manolis said for the Turkish Cypriots to share water with the Greek Cypriots, a second pipeline would have to be laid, which would also be very costly. Turkey paid $500m for the pipeline that went into operation at the weekend.
Commenting on whether desalination plants were more cost effective , he said: “Infrastructure costs alone in order to produce 75 million cubic metres at our desalination plants cost around €200m,” he said. “To this amount we also need to add operational costs. Electricity bills for operating the desalination plants are very high,” Manolis added.
On the other hand, he said, water produced from a desalination plants is suitable for consumption immediately but the water arriving from Turkey would first have to be filtered before it is distributed.
As regards the project in north, he said, costs would depend on the electricity consumption and water pumping costs, but it could prove to be more cost efficient.
But overdependence on the pipeline has its weaknesses, Manolis said.
“An essential weakness of the project is that the north will be over-dependent in only one source of water. In the case of damage due to weather conditions or other factors, they could be left without water even for weeks until the damage is fixed,” he added.
He added that another concern was that various microorganisms not found on the island, might find their way to Cyprus through the pipeline from Turkey, thus affecting the local eco-system.
It would however reduce dependence in the north on using boreholes, which is also bad for the environment and which results in poorer quality of drinking water.
“In the north, according to data we posses, they rely heavily on boreholes. Around 95 per cent of their water comes from them,” Manolis said.
He said with the arrival of the water Turkish Cypriots hope to restrict significantly the use of boreholes as they had over-pumped water from aquifers and it had already become salty, he said.
Manolis said that over-pumping of borehole water was also something that concerned the south of the island as well, but that efforts were being made to restrict excessive borehole usage by using recycled water from wastewater treatment plants instead.