The dams may be full, but that doesn’t mean you can waste water

ALTHOUGH Cyprus has one of the highest ratio of dams per population, consecutive droughts have in the last decade decimated our stored and underground water reserves. It’s therefore not surprising that experts in the Ministry of Agriculture’s Water Development Department are jubilant over this year’s rainfall, which has already led to the overflowing of Asprokremmos dam in the Paphos district, and could soon cause the island’s biggest dam at Kouris in the Limassol district to overflow for the first time in its history.

Speaking to the Cyprus Mail yesterday, Water Development Department official Phedros Rousis, could barely hide his excitement.
“This will be a year of breaking records when it comes to inflow of water in to the dams, and storage, and the flow of water has solved the water problem for the next two years,” he said.

“We have 17 dams that were built as part of the government’s water preservation projects, with the two biggest being the Kouris dam with a capacity of 117 million cubic metres, followed by that of Asprokremmos – which has overflowed for the first time in ten years – with 52.4 million.

“January has been a very exciting month for us because the flow of water into the dams this year has been phenomenal, and we are quietly optimistic that for the first time since its construction in 1987, the Kouris dam will overflow by May.

“Kouris dam has 42 per cent of the capacity of all the dams, with the total capacity being 273.3 million cubic metres and that of Kouris being 115 million,” he added.
Rousis said this year’s flow of water into the dams from October 1 until yesterday was 94 million cubic metres in all the dams and that the flow of water for January was an all time record this year.

“It has come up to 86 million cubic metres, something which has never happened in previous years,” Rousis said.

“Already the Yermasoyia, Asprokremmos and Dipotamos dams have overflowed, as well as other smaller ones, and we are expecting Kalavassos, Lefkara and Kouris to overflow for the first time ever.”

Rousis said the situation at Kouris would depend on the flow of water from rainfall and melting snow in Troodos.

“The flow of water now into Kouris is currently close to a million cubic metres of water a day and is decreasing, but the flow could continue for a few more days,” he added.

“We are confident that dams which have never overflowed, like Kouris, Evretou and Lefkara might do so this year.

“We are expecting that Lefkara dam will overflow and we are optimistic that the Kouris dam will also overflow by the end of the winter period because the inflow of water continues until May.”

But the flow of water into the dams is not the only record broken this year. According to Rousis, the other record concerns the water reserves, which yesterday reached 234.1 million cubic metres, 85.6 per cent of the total capacity of all the dams.

“The last highest reserves were last year in May with 218.7 million,” Rousis said.

“This capacity increases with each passing day, and with the continuous flow of water into the dams, by April or May we are expecting the record to rise.”
Rousis said people were wrong to think that the overflowing of the dams would result in a waste of water flowing to the sea.

“Overflowing water from the dams restores water lost in underground water reservoirs, so it’s a good thing that dams overflow; people shouldn’t think it’s a waste of water,” he said.

“In many cases, there are huge underwater reservoirs that have been over pumped and are almost depleted, so this will now help them recover, and also, we had many cases in which sea water seeped into the underground reservoirs due to the droughts, so the overflowing of the dams will remedy that.”

But Rousis said that people shouldn’t use the fact the dams were almost full as an excuse to waste water.

“People should understand that the water problem on the island is a permanent one,” he said.

“The recent rainfall has probably solved the problem temporarily for this year and the next, but because we are a country where droughts often take place, if we have two years of drought we will be back to square one,” he said.

Rousis said the worst drought was during 1996-1997, with only 25 million cubic metres flowing into the dams and in 2000, when only 34 million cubic metres flowed in. He added that although the problem of pure water had been solved with the creation of desalination plants, they only produced 30 million cubic metres, when the total demand is for over 60 million.

“Of course with the desalination plans, we solved the drinking water problem, so we will never be in that situation again and we will not be forced to take measures in that department again,” he said

“In the last two years, we have lifted all restrictions on drinking water, and so the water kept in the dams is mostly used for irrigation purposes, but again this doesn’t mean we can waste it.”

Rousis said the government would continue to increase public awareness and introduce measures to help preserve water.

“We are already funding the drilling of wells in the city, and we also fund the installation of pipes into the well so that the water from it can be used for bathrooms,” he said.
“The biggest waste of water takes place in the bathrooms, so if households use well water, that would be a major help in preserving our drinking water.”