A tender competition is to be announced in the summer for the construction of a new desalination plant in Paphos, acting head of the Water Development Department (WDD) Andreas Manoli said on Thursday.
The Cabinet gave the go-ahead on Wednesday for the construction of a desalination unit with a daily capacity of 15,000 cubic metres. The unit is to be built in Kouklia, in the same location where a mobile desalination unit had been installed in 2010, which is now being dismantled.
According to the cabinet, the decision was taken as part of the government policy to secure alternative access to fresh water resources and to move away from over overreliance on rain water.
“All areas of Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca and Famagusta are being served by the existing desalination units whose total daily capacity is 220,000 cubic metres, and which is more than enough to meet maximum demand during the summer season,” an announcement said.
It added that as regards Paphos, the WDD, based on its own studies, “has come to the safe conclusion that if drought is repeated the next two years, there is increased risk of water cuts in the summer of 2018, following far more serious cutbacks in irrigation”.
As climate changes with regards to rainfall deteriorate while Paphos’ water needs increase, the WDD said that after exploring a number of alternative solutions, it reached the conclusion that the construction of a desalination unit was necessary.
But the news was not well received by Paphos farmers who staged a protest on Wednesday demanding that the existing unit be revived instead of a new one being built.
This, they said, would mean that it would take at least three more years for the new unit to be up and running during which time farmers would risk water cuts as they would be the first to suffer in the case of a prolonged draught.
The mobile desalination unit, which was installed following the extended drought experienced in 2008, was almost never used as Paphos’ water needs were met by supply from the Asprokremmos dam. The contract signed with the private company which owned the unit, provided that the government would buy water at €1.21 per cubic metre and that the company would be compensated for the time the unit was inactive. The unit operated only for a short period of time when maintenance work was carried out at the Asprokremmos dam, meaning that it remained mostly inactive since.
The unit cost the government some €20m. According to the latest report of the audit office on the management of the water resources, in 2013 alone the state paid €7m plus VAT to the unit operator to keep it on stand-by.
After the lease contract expired in 2013, Manolis said that there had been thoughts to buy the unit, but that the state legal services had deemed that that would be irregular, thus the decision to have one built.
“In the summer a tender competition will be announced,” Manoli told the Cyprus Mail. He added that at the moment there was no estimate as to when the new unit would be up and running, as there are many uncertainties involved.
The contract for the new desalination unit, he said, will provide for the build–own–operate–transfer (BOOT) method, thus the government will not bear any construction costs. “The government will be buying the water the desalination unit will be producing,” he said.
According to media reports, the cost of dismantling the existing desalination unit will be around €5m. Manolis said that any cost for this will burden the owner of the unit and that there is no added cost to the government.