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can water end the conflict?

November 25, 2009

Water covers around two thirds of the Earth’s surface. However, the vast majority is too salty to be consumed as drinking water. Only 2.5% of the Earth’s water is not salty and two thirds is frozen in glaciers.

The increase of the world’s population, the inefficiency of water usage and pollution only make this situation worse.

But none of this is news.

In many countries this situation goes unnoticed. Most people don’t realize or simply overlook the fact that we have decreasing quantities of this vital element and won’t hesitate to take long showers.

In Cyprus we kinda had to become aware. Water shortage is a recurring problem that has been afflicting residents of the island for a long time and is only aggravating.

Cyprus doesn’t have rivers or perennial fountains. The alternative was obtaining water from the earth, for it is cheap and clean. This method has been used for a long time, until it was depleted. The next alternative was desalination plants. Cyprus has three nowadays. However, they provide only 45% of the island’s water demand. Not to mention that it requires a great deal of power consumption, therefore it’s not a very green or sustainable process.

In 2008 one of the worst droughts took place. That same year, the country’s authorities announced a drastic reduction of water provision to Cypriot homes. The water dams were practically dry. Homes were supplied with water only three times a week for only 12 hours.

Summer is the worst time – the dry hot days significantly decrease water levels.

To deal with this issue, Cyprus now imports water from Greece and Turkey.

Luckily I arrived in September which is hot but not as bad as July and August. In our first apartment we had three or four days without water, which was easily managed.  However, we had to be conscious everyday. Our water source changed every other day: one day it’s from your house or apartment, and the following day it comes from the city or from the “street” as they say here. On those days we must take care of laundry, dishes and perhaps a longer shower. When the water source was from the apartment building, we had to be extra careful – short showers and optimized water usage for dish washing. Closing the tap while brushing our teeth and turning off the shower while shampooing became a habit.

In our apartment, since we were only two, it wasn’t a recurring problem. However, in our friend’s house, with six people, they had to worry a bit more, or else, the last one would shower with a few cold drops.

Global warming and drought effects have been increasingly worrying Cypriots, to the point a possibility has emerged: a potential cooperation between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Is the water shortage problem able to diminish the tension between the north and south?

pictures: inmagine

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