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Our View: Minister right to warn of drought in times of plenty

Kouris reservoir overflowing on Wednesday

It was encouraging to hear the minister of agriculture Costas Kadis say that despite the overflowing of the dams the government had no intention of slowing down or suspending its planning for facing drought. Ironically, he was talking about facing drought during a visit to the overflowing Kouris dam, Cyprus’ largest reservoir, on Wednesday.

The island’s reservoirs, are almost completely full – 97 per cent – and it is only the beginning of January. Such levels are usually seen in spring, but the heavy rainfall of the last few weeks combined with the already high water reserves have ensured this pleasant surprise. There was heavy rainfall last year as well, so there could have been the temptation of easing measures aimed at dealing with drought.

Kadis’ comments showed there was no such attitude nor any sign for the complacency and short-termism often displayed by our policy-makers. Two good years could very easily be followed by three or four dry years that would return us to drought conditions. It is not as if this did not happen before. In 2004 the dams also overflowed but by 2008 the country faced such water shortages the government decided to bring water in tankers from Greece.

The message not to waste water remained said the minister, who explained that the reason dams overflowed so soon was “the fact that through the correct management in the year that passed the dams kept large quantities of water.” He said that “this prudent approach” would continue and we hope he keeps his word, because there is a tendency to waste water, both by the authorities and individuals, when we have it in abundance.

Campaigns reminding people not to waste water should continue until it becomes ingrained in people’s minds because nobody can forecast when the next drought will come. Fines for hosing down pavements, roads and cars should remain in place because many people will feel that full reservoirs is a licence to waste water. There should be no let-up by the authorities until people develop a water-saving conscience.

And the infrastructure projects undertaken by the authorities should also continue because we should always be prepared for the next period of drought. It may sound absurd to be talking about drought after so much rain, but extreme weather conditions are becoming more frequent and we must always be prepared. The agriculture minister is absolutely right to carry on talking about the danger of drought, even though the dams are full three months ahead of schedule.

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