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Cyprus is suffering from an ongoing shortage of water. It relies heavily on rain to provide household water and for many years now, the average annual rainfall has been falling. Between 2001 and 2004, exceptionally heavy annual rainfall pushed water reserves up, with supply exceeding demand, allowing total storage in the island's reservoirs to rise to an all-time high by the start of 2005.
However, since then demand has increased annually - a result of local population growth, foreigners relocating to Cyprus and the number of visiting tourists - while supply has fallen. By the end of 2008, the island's reservoirs were down to less than five percent of capacity, with some down to less than one percent.
The Government has invested heavily in the creation of water desalination plants which have supplied almost 50 percent of domestic water since 2001.
In parallel, considerable effort has been invested in waste water recycling. Although the output of this process is not suitable for domestic consumption, it can be used for crop irrigation and the replenishment of underground aquifers.
Efforts have also been made to raise public awareness of the situation and to encourage domestic water users to take more responsibility for the conservation of this increasingly scarce commodity. The Government's "Every Drop Counts" campaign is based on ten simple, common sense suggestions on how to save water with very little effort: not leaving the tap running when washing hands or brushing teeth; taking showers instead of baths; using a bucket of water instead of a hosepipe to wash terraces; using "grey" water for plants rather than just throwing it away, for example.
Despite all of this, water reserves have remained critically low and Cyprus resorted to buying shiploads of water from Greece during 2008/2009.
The Government offers subsidies for those who take active steps to conserve water. These include:
Water rationing was introduced in early 2008 for most areas of the island and restrictions remained throughout 2009. Some local authorities also took a more aggressive stance and imposed huge price levys on excessive water usage. More information on water in Cyprus can be found on the government's Water Development Department website.
Getting straightforward statistics on the quality of domestic water in Cyprus is not easy. However, according to the Cyprus Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation, household tap water is safe to drink. Every home has a supply of fresh running water and the water from taps in hotels is also safe to drink.
In most homes, the incoming supply is split into two feeds - one which goes to a holding tank and another which goes direct to a drinking water tap in the kitchen. This reduces the risk of drinking water which may have become contaminated while sitting in the holding tank.
Despite this, many residents choose to drink bottled water only and for additional peace of mind, others install water filters on the incoming supply to the whole house or purely for the drinking water supply. While these will actively remove any contaminants floating in the water they will not deal with anything which is dissolved in the water and so does not reduce the hardness of the water. Water hardness is another significant issue for most of the island, although water softening systems may be added to a home in order to address this.
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