Of the 21 groundwater basins, 16, or 76 per cent, don’t contain enough water, nine contain nitrates and eleven are saline, according to a report by the audit office published on Friday.
The report addresses a number of issues related to water management in Cyprus, such as the assessment of the institutional framework, the determination of the water balance, the preparation and implementation of strategies for managing water resources, management of dams, water management for desalination plants, the evaluation and monitoring of groundwater basins, drilling, the quality of drinking water, water supply for irrigation, water use from wastewater treatment plants and pricing policies.
One of the main findings is that no integrated system exists for the monitoring of dam safety. Especially for Kouris dam, there is no prepared plan for flooding, though downstream of the reservoir communities, the Limassol to Paphos motorway and the Episkopi desalination plant are located.
Another finding is that the existing drought management plan is not taken into consideration for the allocation of resources, resulting in an annual depletion of water from reservoirs in periods of drought which greatly exceeds the amount specified in the plan and in a greater dependence on desalination plants to meet water needs, at a higher cost.
As well, the agreement for purchase of water from the desalination plant at Vassiliko doesn’t allow for decreased production, prompting the question what is done with surplus water. According to informed sources the water is sold to farmers in the Famagusta area at a reduced price, something the government denies. If true, this practice adds unnecessary costs.
Because the necessary network for water transportation has not yet been built most of the desalinated water has to be transported via the southern conveyor network at a considerable cost and either passes again from the Tersefanou water treatment plant, is used for irrigation or stored in dams.
Local authorities tend to get water from boreholes even when quantities are available in dams for cost saving purposes. This has a potential impact on the environment and public health.
Weaknesses have been observed in areas regarding the control of borehole drilling and water uptake from the wells. The quality of water from the wells by municipalities and communities is often poorly monitored though it is meant for drinking purposes, there is a limited exploitation of recycled water and irrigation is also poorly supervised.
Finally, weaknesses were identified in the pricing policy.
The report was published at a time when water levels in reservoirs are dangerously close to those experienced during the 2008 drought.