Monday, March 31, 2008

Water restrictions in Cyprus

I'm not surprised.

This has been one of the driest winters since we came here, and reservoirs were very low after last summer.

But still, we all hoped and prayed for rain. It hasn't happened - not in sufficient quantity to make any difference, anyway.

And so, on Friday, the first water restrictions started. Our mains was switched off in the morning. I wasn't sure if this was the start of the rationing, or whether it was simply because someone was having a water pipe fitted nearby. It came on again in the evening, but was then off again for some of Saturday. And while it was on for most of Sunday, it was off this morning - and still is, as I type, at half-past two on Monday afternoon.

A quick glance at the newspapers confirmed it. The Cyprus mail reports 'Water cuts begin in Nicosia'. Last Friday's edition of Cyprus Weekly reports, at rather greater length, 'Water cuts begin today'.

Cyprus is unusual in that most homes have both hot and cold water tanks, and also a mains tap - or a switch under the tap for mains water. Cold water from the tank is theoretically drinkable - since it is filled up by the mains - but many of the older tanks are in poor condition, with holes allowing dirt and mosquitoes (and worse). And of course, water that has sat in a tank for a day or two isn't as tasty as fresh water straight from the mains.

But it does mean that, if we're careful, there's sufficient water in the tank for normal use - at least, for showers, and toilet flushing, and cooking. We'll get back into the habit of storing drinking water from the mains in bottles - restrictions were the norm when we first moved here, so we know it's possible.

More of a problem is knowing what to do about the washing machine and dishwasher. Theoretically, the dishwasher is supposed to use less water than washing dishes in the sink, and we usually run it just once per day - less if there are only two of us at home. We may just continue using it and see what happens. If we run out, we do at least have another tank that services our guest flat, and could take showers there.

But when we had restricted water before, I only ran the washing machine when the mains was on. I used to do about three loads every Wednesday and Saturday (or whichever days the water was on). I had a lot of washing line to hang it all out. But here I only have enough washing line for one load of laundry, unless I also use the downstairs washing line, so I've got into the habit of doing one load per morning, five or six days per week. I suppose that will have to change.

The papers aren't very clear about how often we will have water, which doesn't help from the point of view of planning. I think the Cyprus Weekly report is saying that we should have 10-16 hours of water on in every 48 hour period. But if it's overnight, that won't necessarily help other than filling up the tanks.

There's also quite a problem with some of the newer houses and flats, where there are no cold water tanks. After all, we were assured, seven years ago when the Larnaka de-salination plant opened, that Cyprus would never again have to suffer from water restrictions. Unfortunately a wet winter that year ensured that the proposed Paphos de-salination plant was never built... and of course the population has increased, and water usage has also increased, and so we're right back where we were when we first arrived and the island was about to run out of water.

Ironically, it rained last night. Not much, but enough to water the plants and wet the roads.


Kila said...

Water restrictions on an island. Ironic, isn't it.

I was just reading about the barricade that came down in Cyprus!

Wilfus said...

We only have mains water on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the tank doesn't fill up enough for the days its off to be sure you'll be able to flush the loo or have a shower of a night. Weekends are a nightmare. It's an absolute joke. Our landlord seems to think we're stupid water wasting Brits but we're well aware of the situation, bottling water for drinking and cooking and even washing up now, on mains days which is the only day we use the washing machine.