Farmers guzzling water

Amid fears about the availability and quality of water for drinking and irrigation, figures made public yesterday showed that over four-fifths of Greece’s water is used by farmers, much of it unnecessarily. The statistics, presented during a conference on Greece’s water resources, organized by the Citizens’ Movement for an Open Society, indicate that only 4 percent of the country’s water is consumed by over 4 million Athenians – over a third of the country’s population – while 86 percent is used for agricultural purposes. The thirstiest of Greece’s farming areas is Thessaly, which uses up over a fifth of the water available. Eastern central Greece, which is next on the list and includes Attica, uses almost half that amount. Last month, the Council of State ruled that a project to divert 600 million cubic meters of water a year from the Acheloos, Greece’s second-largest river, to the heavily farmed plain of Thessaly should be canceled due to the lack of proper planning. Industry, on the other hand, still uses a minimal amount of water (2 percent) while only 1 percent is for the production of hydroelectric power. Experts at yesterday’s conference warned that a lack of central planning by the government on how water is distributed is a cause for concern. They said that the excessive use of water by some farmers was not only impacting on reserves but also on the quality of water itself. Some 450,000 hectares of farmland currently suffer from the heavy use of fertilizers, according to figures from yesterday’s conference, and this is causing the levels of chemicals in drinking water in some areas, such as Argos in the Peloponnese, to be well above permissible limits.