A quarter of water to ebb by 2030, study says

Climate change and the increase in average temperatures will lead to Greece's water reserves dwindling by up to a quarter by 2030, scientists told a seminar yesterday ahead of World Water Day today. Greece will see its rivers and other water sources shrink at an alarming rate while the quality of residual water will diminish, according to Maria Mimikou, who supervised a study by the hydrology unit of the National Technical University of Athens, the results of which were made public at yesterday's seminar. Greeks and the residents of other Mediterranean countries will be living with serious water shortages over the coming decades if current climate trends continue, said Nikos Chrysogelos, president of the Mediterranean SOS Network. According to hydrology professor Maria Kossida, Greece will also face a heightened risk of dangerous floods and of particularly dry summers, which will affect annual water supplies. «Not only did we have very little rain this year, we also had hardly any snow, which usually helps replenish the water table as it melts slowly,» said Manolis Anadranistakis of the National Meteorological Service (EMY). He noted that it was not the first time Greece had lived through a period of drought but stressed that «we will have a problem» if temperatures continue to rise and rain to dwindle. Rainfall has decreased by about 20 percent in Greece, recent studies show. But Environment Minister Giorgos Souflias yesterday sought to play down the urgency of the country's water problem. «There may be a period of lack of rain but this does not mean we are facing a lack of water,» he said. He stressed there would be no shortage problem «for at least three years,» noting that only the islands need special attention at the moment. However Souflias stressed the importance of boosting awareness and sensitivity among farmers, particularly in Thessaly, where massive quantities of water are used for agriculture. Farmland in the prefectures of Imathia, Pella and Thessaloniki will also face an extended period of drought unless water use is curbed, he said. The Technical Chamber of Greece also issued a statement calling for the regulation of water use. «The particularly high consumption of water, especially for agricultural use in Thessaly and for urban use in Attica, is leading toward conditions of permanent drought,» the statement said. «It is absolutely crucial to rationalize the use of water,» it added.