In accordance with a relevant evaluation of the European Commission, Cyprus and Malta have the lowest water reserves out of all member States of the European Union, having the lowest available water quantity per resident. To a great extent, rainfall in Cyprus varies and has significant regional fluctuations, frequent droughts and its water sources are rare and expensive to exploit.
The problem is continuously expanding due to the increasing water demands and the simultaneous significant reduction of rainfall and surface run offs, as a result of the climatic change. The statistical analysis of rainfall and surface run offs in Cyprus presents a significant reduction since the 70s, which is still the case today. In addition, the small water catchment areas on the island do not permit a stable or continuous flow of the rivers.
The problem of water inadequacy was diagnosed and treated a long time ago, prior to the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960. The motto “not even one drop of water in the sea” that was dominant for many years, defined the water policy of the governments of the newly established Republic of Cyprus as well as subsequent governments. On the basis of this motto, large water dams and waterworks have been constructed, which have been operating to date, to satisfy the requirements in drinking water and to serve the irrigation requirements at the downstream areas and around the dams.
A conclusive evidence of the emphasis given to increase the channeling capacity of waterworks, is the storage capacity of dams which amounts today to 327,5 million cubic metres of water as compared to 6 million cubic metres of water in 1960. It is worthy to note that in accordance with existing data, Cyprus is classified first in the European area as regards the number and capacity of large dams. This evaluation is of course done in relation to the area of the island at a rate of fifty large dams for every 10 000 square kilometers.
A basic characteristic of the period from 1960 to the Turkish invasion, was the close collaboration of the Ministry of Agriculture, rural Development and the Environment and the Water Development Department, with international and other organizations for the conduct of studies so as to plan, study and construct waterworks and design short term and medium-term action plans to manage the increasing water requirements. During this period, the necessary technical and financial studies were conducted in relation to many waterworks and many dams were built such as the one in Pomos, Ayia Marina, Argaka, Lefkara, Germasogeia, Polemidia and Mavrokolymbos. At the same time, works for the conveyance and distribution of water from the dams to the benefited areas, mainly for irrigation purposes were also built. In addition, water supply projects were constructed at villages in rural areas, mainly by way of the exploitation of local drinking water resources (boreholes and sources).
The period from the Turkish invasion to the accession of Cyprus in the European Union is marked by significant achievements in the field of water development. With the collaboration of competent services of the United Nations (FAO) and by securing finance from international organizations and institutions such as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB), large waterworks were constructed that ensure the storage of large quantities of water, as well as its conveyance, treatment and distribution for various uses. These are the Government Water Works of Paphos, Chrysochous, Vassilikos-Pentaschinos, of the Southern Conveyor Project and Xyliatos-Vyzakia. Also, within the framework of enhancing the rural areas by way of integrated rural development projects, smaller irrigation projects were built such as the Pitsilia and Krasochoria Irrigation Works.
In the same period, the water supply of urban centres and of municipalities and communities in the rural areas was significantly reinforced, thanks to the construction of the drinking water treatment plants in Chirokitia, Kornos, Limassol, Tersefanou and Asprokremmos. To manage the increasing requirements and the drought at the same time, the use of unconventional water sources was introduced: Desalination of sea water for drinking and recycled water (from the tertiary treatment of urban waste water) for irrigation. In particular, in 1997 the Desalination Plant in Dhekelia and in 2000 the Desalination Plant in Larnaca started to operate respectively, for the irrigation of the areas of Nicosia, Larnaca and Famagusta. Also, in 1998 tertiary treatment recycled water started and continued to be channeled for irrigation purposes.
Note that significant measures were implemented to handle demand at the same time as the measures to satisfy the requirements in drinking and irrigation water with the most important ones being: the use of improved irrigation systems; volumetric invoicing; pricing on the basis of increasing scales; implementation of annual scenaria for the allocation of water to the various uses; raising public awareness; creation of a water conscience; financing the installation of saving techniques in buildings etc.
Upon the accession of Cyprus in the European Union, the Water Development Department dynamically promoted the harmonization of the management of the water resources of the country with the relevant European Directives, a procedure that had already started in the pre-accession period. Within this framework, the national legislation was harmonized with European Directives on the management of water, the purification of waste water and handing flood situations.
Briefly, significant waterworks and actions have taken place for the rational management and protection of the water resources of the country, the construction of sewage works for the management of waste water, the evaluation and management of situations of flood.
However, at the same time, the water shortage conditions continued to aggravate due to the increasing requirements for drinking water from the Government Waterworks and the parallel reduction of natural water resources. New waterworks were constructed to increase the storage capacity and the production of drinking water, such as the Solea Project in the Nicosia area, the Kannaviou dam in the Paphos area and the water treatment plant with the same name. At the same time, the production of desalinated water increased and new permanent Desalination Plants were built in Limassol and Vassilikos. Also, temporary desalination plants in Paphos, Moni and Garyllis river were also used.
In addition, upon the conclusion of the sewage systems in large urban centres and community complexes, the production and exploitation of recycled water increased, thus contributing significantly in the field of irrigation for agriculture.