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Irrigation and drainage

In 1994, the water managed area was estimated at 39 938 ha in the government controlled area, of which 39 545 ha were equipped for full or partial control irrigation. Less than 1 % consisted of spate irrigation. It is estimated however, on the basis of current and potentially available water when the latter is fully developed, that this water managed area is already larger than the irrigation potential. In 1994 only 32 864 ha, or only 82% of the water managed area, were irrigated because of water shortages. Due to continuous water withdrawal and to increasing future water needs for domestic and industrial purposes, this area is unlikely to increase considerably. For this reason, estimates of an irrigation potential of 36 807 ha have been given, including the possible use of tertiary treated wastewater in the future and a greater water storage capacity in the new dams to be constructed. This irrigation potential area is slightly more than the actually irrigated area in 1994 but less than the total water managed area in 1994.

Spring water and groundwater were the first target of water resources development. Traditionally this water was cheap and easy to develop by individual farmers or farmers' Irrigation Divisions or Associations. In the former case the farmers develop the springs or tubewells on an individual basis, whilst in the latter case water resources are developed by a group of farmers who are then eligible for a government subsidy for the capital expenditure. In both cases a government permit is required prior to initiation of any water work. Normally these schemes are small and they cover 1 to 3 ha, although larger schemes have also been developed in recent years.

After independence in 1961 and following the full utilization of groundwater resources. emphasis was placed on collecting and storing surface water during the winter and utilizing it throughout the year. In 1994, a little less than half the area was irrigated from surface water.

Public schemes, often based on the joint use of groundwater and surface water have been constructed since the late 1960s. They include:

  • The Paphos Irrigation Project to provide annually 36 million m│ of groundwater and surface water to irrigate 4 600 ha;
  • The Vasilikos Pendashinos Project to provide annually 17 million m│ of surface water to irrigate 1 525 ha and for the domestic water supply;
  • The Khrysochou Irrigation Project to provide annually 18 million m│ of surface water to irrigate 2 790 ha;
  • The Pitsilia Integrated Rural Development Project to supply water for irrigation of 850 ha and for domestic use;
  • The Southern Conveyor Project intended to provide annually 65 million m│ of surface water to irrigate 11 244 ha and for the domestic water supply.

All public schemes are operated by the Water Development Department (WDD) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment and the farmers are charged for the water on a volumetric basis. This is possible through the use of water meters which are monitored regularly by the WDD. Irrigation Divisions or Associations usually operate and maintain their own schemes and charge the users either on a volumetric or an hourly basis. Those irrigation works belonging to Irrigation Divisions, that are considered to be major or to involve safety factors or include small dams, are maintained by the government and one third of the operational and maintenance expenses is recovered from the Irrigation Divisions. Individual farmers who possess their own source of water, manage the water resources themselves.

The irrigation network in Cyprus is highly efficient. It generally consists of closed systems with an overall conveyance efficiency averaging 90-95 %. Field application efficiency averages 80-90%. In parallel with the government's efforts to increase the water available for agriculture, emphasis was placed on the optimum utilization of water through improved irrigation methods. To encourage farmers to use improved irrigation methods the government offered incentives to participating farmers in the form of subsidies and long-term low interest loans for the purchase and installation of improved irrigation systems. In addition, through extensive demonstrations, the government convinced the farmers that improved irrigation methods, initially sprinklers for vegetables and the hose/basin method for tree crops, to be followed by micro-irrigation systems, not only saved water but also led to increased yields. As a result of these efforts, the area irrigated by surface irrigation methods has declined from about 13 400 ha in 1974 to less than 2 000 in 1995 while the area equipped for micro-irrigation has increased over the same period from about 2 700 ha to almost 35 600 ha. There are few margins for further improvements in water application efficiency. The areas irrigated by surface irrigation methods are mostly cropped with deciduous trees and are found in the hilly areas of the country. They are usually irrigated from small springs which do not lend themselves easily to the adoption of improved irrigation techniques.

In 1994, 21 746 ha consisted of large schemes (> 500 ha), 2 091 ha of medium schemes and 15 708 ha of small schemes (<100 ha).

The cost of irrigation development varies and depends on a number of factors. The average cost of irrigation development using tubewells varies from about $US 3 930/ha for up to one hectare, $US 2 260/ha for two hectares to $US 1 700/ha for three hectares. This includes the cost of on-farm micro-irrigation systems. Excluding the cost of the dam, the development of surface water varies from $US 1 560/ha to $US 2 610/ha including on-farm micro irrigation system. The average annual cost of maintenance varies from $US 300350/ha for private schemes (tubewells) to $US 50-120/ha for public schemes.

The major irrigated crops are fruit trees and potatoes. For most crops the cost of irrigation water varies from about $US 90 to 270/year per ha. Public schemes currently charge the consumer $US 0.03/m│, whereas the Irrigation Divisions usually charge their members the full operating costs in addition to a basic charge for repayment of loans (when applicable). These costs are high and discourage the farmers from using irrigation for low value crops such as cereals, pulses, olives, almonds, carrots etc. The above-mentioned cost amounts, for example, to about 23 % of variable costs and 17% of total production costs for oranges or 17% and 11 % respectively for spring potatoes. These two crops are the major export crops of Cyprus and cover an area of about 2 200 and 4 600 ha/year respectively. When irrigation is used for other crops, for example wheat or barley, the yields also substantially increase. While the national average yields of rainfed wheat and barley were 0.55 and 0.92 tons/ha respectively in 1994, irrigated crop yields were 4 and 3 tons/ha respectively. Although irrigated crops cover only about 30% of the cultivated land, they account for 60-70% of the production earnings.


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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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