12 Aug 2008

Cypriot Water Shipping

If you didn't know, Cyprus has severe water shortages, so severe that Greece is sending drinking water on ships. Shipments are scheduled to end when a desalination plan comes online. End of problem? No, says a local (and astute) commentator:
desalination is not a panacea. While production costs continue to fall with improving technologies, it remains an extremely expensive means of producing water (though of course much cheaper than shipping in water from abroad), clocking in at about €0.65 per cubic metre. Requiring huge amounts of energy, the cost of desalination is also at the mercy of international oil prices, making Cyprus even more vulnerable to the wild increases we have seen over the past six months. What’s more, with its high CO2 emissions, and plans for several more plants in the pipeline, Cyprus is almost certain to breach its emissions targets, resulting in substantial fines from the EU, all adding to the total cost of water.


So what is the answer? While an island like Cyprus clearly needs desalination as an emergency backup to ensure its population a continuous water supply, far more attention needs to be devoted to cutting down the amount of water we use. The recent months have proved that we can significantly reduce our water consumption if forced to do so: the question is how to maintain that once the water is again running freely in our taps.

If we do not want to return to rationing, and we cannot rely on a collective sense of responsibility, then the only form of pressure is through pricing. Above a certain level, the price of water must become not just expensive but prohibitive to deter people from the kind of waste that has become second nature.

But if the public are to be asked to show responsibility, then the authorities must do the same. A shocking 30 per cent of the water in the network is lost through leakage, a precious commodity worth millions of euros simply running into the ground.
Bottom Line: Hear hear!

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