Islands still thirsty despite winter rains

It did rain this winter, and it rained hard. Riverbeds overflowed, the floodwaters washed away roads, farms, homes. In many parts of the country there was massive destruction from flooding. «At least we won’t go thirsty this year,» people said. In some areas there is plenty of water, but over most of the country, nothing has really changed. On many islands, people saw tons of rainwater flow out into the sea, going to waste. A lack of infrastructure meant there was nowhere else to keep it so it could enrich the water table. So once again these islands are being supplied by tanker ships from the mainland or by digging wells, although these often produce nothing but salinated water, or form the few remaining traditional sources. It is clear that the problem of water supply to the islands is not a simple one and cannot be resolved by praying to the rain god. It requires long-term, expert planning, something which is also, unfortunately, in short supply. According to a recent study by the National Technical University’s water resources section, the Institute of Geological and Mining Exploration (IGME) and Center for Economic Research and Planning (KEPE), in the rainy season Greece is capable of storing only one quarter of the total amount that falls. The rest flows out to sea. With the right sort of infrastructure projects, this wastage could be avoided. In recent years, however, many water resource exploitation projects have been badly designed and executed, while the uncontrolled private drilling of wells and overuse of these wells has resulted in a reduction of underground resources and an increase in energy costs. In many areas, in fact, overuse has caused irreversible damage to the quality of the water. Most of the projects planned for the Cycladic islands when Kathimerini published a feature on the issue two years ago (reservoirs, desalination plants and dams) are still on the drawing board. On the better-off islands, where dams and reservoirs have been built, the water collected could meet local requirements, even in August. On others however, there are no comprehensive supply water networks, and where they do exist they are often outdated, meaning the water quality is so poor that it can only be used for irrigation or washing clothes. As for the rest, there is always bottled water from the supermarkets.