Throughout its long history Cyprus has always been confronted with the problem of water shortage. Droughts are a very usual phenomenon. Cyprus has no rivers with perennial flow while rainfall is highly variable and droughts occur frequently. The mean annual precipitation, including snowfall, amounts to approximately 500 millimeters, whereas during the past thirty years (1973-2003) this amount was reduced to 480 millimeters.
Until 1970 groundwater was the main source of water for both drinking and irrigation purposes. As a result almost all aquifers were seriously depleted because of over pumping and seawater intrusion was observed in most of the coastal aquifers. At the same time large quantities of surface water were lost to the sea. The water problem and its exacerbation over the years were recognized early enough by the relevant state authorities, which aided by international organizations, designed a long-term programme to combat the problem effectively.
Following independence, attention was turned to the systematic study and construction of water development works, both for storage and recharge purposes. The first step involved the carrying out of a comprehensive survey of the island's water resources followed by the implementation of a long term plan for the construction of major development projects, which involved the construction of a large number of dams.
Today, the total storage capacity of the dams is about 307, 5 million cubic meters (MCM) of water, compared to 6 MCM in1960, a performance which is really impressive when compared to other countries of the same size and development level. Despite the remarkable work performed in the sector of water development, unfortunately, due to the increased demand of water and the declining trend of rainfall, to the, well known now in the world, climatologically changes and the greenhouse phenomenon, the available quantities of water for water supply and irrigation are not adequate.
In order to face the situation, desalination units were constructed aiming at rendering the water supply of the major residential and tourist centers independent of rainfall. On 1 April 1997, the first desalination unit at Dekeleia started its operation, whereas in April 2001 the second desalination unit started operating close to Larnaka airport. The Larnaka airport unit, which is the biggest water project in Cyprus as regards desalination, together with the Dekeleia unit produce 33 MCM of water every year. After many years of hardships caused by water restrictions, as of January 2001 each household in the free part of Cyprus enjoys a continuous supply of water.
The government water policy is not limited to the subject of desalination, but also focuses on the exploitation of other non- conventional sources of water, such as the recycled water, the use of which releases equal quantities of good quality water used for the purpose of irrigation of agricultural cultivations and for the recharge of the underground aquifers. Furthermore, the implementation of the Framework-Directive for Water, which was the result of long discussions and negotiations among the countries of the European Union, constitutes an integral part of government policy.
Regarding the installation of central systems for the collection and treatment of sewage, within the framework of harmonization with the European acquis, a relevant programme aiming at the installation of central sewage systems to all residential areas with equivalent population over 2000 persons has been prepared. The programme, which has to be completed until 2012, includes the four greater urban areas of Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaka and Pafos, the two tourist areas of Ayia Napa and Paralimni and 38 rural communities. At the same time the installation of sewage treatment systems is forwarded to smaller rural communities, which face sewage problems.
Source: Press And Information Office, Republic Of Cyprus, 2005