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Cyprus Internet Directory [ EU: farming puts huge pressure on water resources ]

EU: farming puts huge pressure on water resources

Poly Pantelides


THE EUROPEAN Commission has identified a range of weaknesses in Cyprus’ water management, top among them the extent of pressure placed on the system by irrigation needs.

As much as 70 per cent of all water consumption on the island goes to agriculture. Farmer also receive a special rate, meaning in effect that consumers end up paying millions more for supply through desalination.

Cyprus hosted the EU Water Blueprint conference last week to discuss the water framework directive, including member states’ progress on certain aspects of the directive. The reports were published on November 14.

“The farming sector represents a significant pressure on the water resources in Cyprus,” the report on the island said.

It also said substantial information on the agricultural measures was lacking in the island’s RBMP (River Basin Management Plans). “This puts into question the level of ambition on this issue,” said the report. “The overall water demands of the sector seem not to be tackled as a whole, although measures exist.”

It added however that farmers seemed to have had a significant involvement in the selection of the measures for the agricultural sector.

But although reuse of treated waste water and recycled water in existing irrigation systems could increase water efficiency, the commission said that there was “information lacking” on how any future measures “will be practically controlled and how the implementation in the agriculture sector will be followed up”. 

And some of the costs may be hidden because Cyprus does not include subsidies and cross-subsidies in cost recovery policies.

But the former head of the Water Development Department’s planning office, commenting on the report said yesterday that because Cyprus had not done a cost-benefit analysis for water, the government had opted for the “easy solution” of desalination units.

“Lack of cost-benefit analysis costs the state between €40 million and €50 million a year in unnecessary desalination and bad management of recycled water,” Spyros Stephanou said. 

After 29 years of service in the WDD and five years serving as the head of its planning department Stephanou opted for early retirement about three years ago. 

Desalination plants have been touted as the way to make the island independent of rainwater and avoid drought situations, but that solution ignores more efficient use of recycled water, Stephanou said.

But agriculture minister Sophoclis Aletraris who used to head the water development board said that Cyprus would continue supporting its workers and was allowed on “social and environmental” reasons to only partially recover the costs of irrigation water. Cyprus has not yet provided a justification of the social and environmental reasons it can appeal to as part of the directive, “but that is easily done,” he said.

Although Aletraris conceded that there could be better use of recycled water, he said that Cyprus was already doing a good job. “We are the best in water management in the whole of Europe,” he said.

“Yes, it costs millions even to have the desalination plants on stand-by but some have short memories,” Aletraris said. “In 2008, after years of drought even our forests started drying up,” he added. “And if we stop helping farmers, our fields will be abandoned. The soil will dry up.”

Under the desalination plants’ Built-Own-Operate-Transfer contracts, the government pays a fee even when the units are not producing water. 

For example, Stephanou said that that the Limassol plant, which should be completed soon, will cost €15,000 per day when not running. It will cost €0.8725 per cubic metre produced at a 40,000 cubic metres/day capacity, according to information available online via the WDD department. In August when the government decided to cover potable water needs through the nearly full reserves to save money, the government said that it would use about 23.3 million cubic metres from desalination and about 46 million cubic metres from dams. Desalinated water should cost about €33.7 million this year, given cost information previously provided by the WDD. But though parliament set a flat rate of €0.77 per cubic metre across Cyprus, EU rules mean that prices will continue rising to meet production costs. To begin with, consumers are looking at paying anything from €1.20 to €3.40 per cubic metre. 

The report also says there are shortcomings in the classification of ecological status and potential, in the designation of heavily modified water bodies, and in the assessment of  groundwater status. 


Farmers are using up a lot of water resources

(Source: Cyprus Mail)
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008 Please contact Cyprus Mail for the copyright terms of this article.

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