The ongoing drought and looming water crisis facing Cyprus this summer will be raised by Agriculture Minister Maria Panayiotou during a meeting with her counterparts in Brussels.

“Cyprus is facing the third lowest inflow of water in a decade this year,” water development department engineer, Yianna Economidou told the Cyprus Mail.

According to the World Resources Institute’s risk atlas, Cyprus’ level of severe water stress is very high, among the highest in Europe, along with parts of Greece, Italy, Albania, Serbia and Spain.

Water levels in the island’s dams and reservoirs have dropped dramatically this hydrological year, and are continuing to do so, with total levels currently standing at 43 per cent of capacity compared to 66.3 per cent last year.

The total capacity of the island’s dams is 290 million cubic metres.

Some of the reservoirs have fallen to below 30 per cent and fears have been raised over the island’s largest dam-Kouris-drying up, as it is also fast dropping to the one-third full mark.

Meanwhile, the state is said to have taken measures locally, including prioritising infrastructure repairs to reduce water loss from leaks, and construction of a new desalination plant in Moni in Limassol.

Earlier in April, the water development department announced a national investment plan with a budget of €1.17 billion comprising 93 projects. Of these, 33 were deemed as top priority and are already under construction.

“Drinking water supply is the top priority with the state committed to supplying this at 100 per cent,” Economidou said, adding that around 75 per cent of this comes from desalination plants, with the rest provided by dams and boreholes.

Cyprus relies on seawater desalination for a large part of its drinking water supply, and five large desalination plants are currently in operation, along with 24 small ones. The large installations are located in Dhekelia, Larnaca, Vasilikos, Episkopi and Paphos.

Economidou emphasised that despite the state’s commitment to providing household water, it was important for the public to realise that making water conservation a way of life is crucial.

Farmers are the ones who will truly feel the pinch this summer, Economidou said.

In practical terms, farmers are expected to plan their cultivations accordingly, knowing that they will receive around a third less of the water they usually get.

Priority is given to established plantations, such as trees, and to greenhouses, while other sporadic or seasonal plantations, and non-professional establishments must be cast into a lower priority, she said.

The agriculture minister will address the adverse effects of the reduced rainfall on agriculture, livestock farming, and the environment, as well as the state’s concern over fires and the heightened risk this season due to exacerbated dryness.

The minister will request measures from the European Commission aiming to safeguard food production and environmental protection.