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Prospects for agricultural water management

At present, almost all the renewable water resources in Cyprus are utilized and, in a number of areas, groundwater is rapidly depleting with sea water intrusion occurring in the main coastal aquifers of Morphou (Western Mesaoria), Famagusta and Kokkinochoria (Eastern Mesaoria) and Akrotiri. There is no accurate estimate of the quantity of water extracted in excess of natural recharge, but it could be as high as 40 million m│/year. Even so, in years of drought or below average rainfall, it is necessary to divert water from agriculture to the domestic and industrial sector. In such cases it is necessary to restrict the amount of water made available for both annual and perennial crops. For instance, in the 1989190 and 1990/91 seasons, annual crops were limited on average to 70% of the normally irrigated land, whereas perennial crops received only 80% of normal supply. A similar situation occured in 1993.

This precarious situation is- unlikely to change in the future since almost all the conventional water resources are already used. This includes water stored in a series of dams on all rivers rising in the southern slopes of the Troodos mountains. Other potential but smaller water storage schemes are planned for rivers arising from the northern slopes of the Troodos mountains. These new schemes, which will not be completed before 2005 - 2010, are unlikely to alter the quantity of water available for irrigation significantly (with the possible exception of the Paphos District), since water from most of these rivers currently recharges the aquifer downstream which is already substantially utilized. Furthermore, water demand for domestic and industrial purposes will undoubtedly continue to increase and will receive priority over water demand for agriculture. This leaves the use of treated wastewater as one of the main sources for increasing water supply for agriculture in the foreseeable future. In view of this restrictive situation, the government is also considering alternative ways of increasing the water supply of the country. In this respect in 1996 it awarded a contract for the construction of a desalination plant with a minimum capacity of 7 million m│/year.

Other possible steps and options will also have to be considered and/or evaluated. These include:

  • the further minimizing of water losses in the domestic water distribution system which now average about 23 %, although this figure is already quite low (compared to a current average of 40% for developing countries and 20% for developed countries);
  • the shifting of water from marginally economical agricultural activities to other uses especially to domestic use, thus eliminating the water subsidy;
  • the inter-regional transfers of water from the better-endowed western part (i.e. Paphos), to the eastern districts, albeit at a high cost.

Additional, but integral components of the government's policy in water resources management will be the improvement of the water delivery system in the hilly areas, and further overall water savings through increasing the price of irrigation water (at present covering 34 % of the average cost of water provision) to the maximum allowed by the existing legislation. In both cases the resulting water savings will however be minimal.

Waterlogging, soil salinization, and vector-borne diseases are not present in Cyprus. Contamination of groundwater, especially with fertilizers (particularly nitrates) in certain areas of the island where agriculture is intensively practiced, is however occurring and is a cause of concern. There is also the problem seawater intrusion in the main coastal aquifers. This situation overall requires close monitoring.


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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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