Most drilling for water in Attica is unlicensed

Drier days are coming, according to the latest scientific evidence, but in Greece almost nothing is being done to prepare for them. In recent years climate change has brought about rising temperatures and a reduction in average rainfall in the Mediterranean, according to Christos Zerefos, head of the Athens Observatory. Yet Greeks are wasting and even destroying their own water resources. Over half of all drilling for water in the prefecture of Attica is illegal. «In Greece, whoever needs water will find a way to drill for it, thereby exhausting the water table and obstructing the establishment of an overall water policy,» said Georgios Stournaras, head of the Greek Hydrogeology Committee. A large number of licenses for water use and drilling were handed out in 1993-1994, during which there was a drought and the state was recommending restrictions on water consumption. A total 1,230 drills have been recorded in the Athens prefecture, but 69 percent of them do not have a license. Meanwhile, demand for water is steadily increasing. World consumption of water is doubling every 20 years, either due to population increases or improved living conditions. According to the UN, in 2050, 7 billion of the 9.2 billion people in the world will be facing serious water shortages. These figures were cited at the recent Seventh Hydrogeology Conference held by the Greek Hydrogeology Committee in Athens in cooperation with the Cypriot Association of Geologists and Mining Engineers that attracted experts from 13 countries. The conference focused not only on ground water but surface water also, since, as Stournaras pointed out, water reserves are indivisible. Zerefos said the threat of drought was a real one since the past decade has been one of the hottest in the last 500 years. This might not be apparent in Greece, where it has rained considerably in the past three years. However, the average rainfall in the Mediterranean basin has fallen. Spain is suffering from a terrible drought, as is western Turkey. Zerefos stressed the need for a strategy to protect underground water reserves that comprise 99 percent of the planet’s clean water. Unfortunately, 69 percent of that amount is in the form of ice, inaccessible to humans. Lakes and rivers – that is surface water – represent just 0.3 percent of the total available, while ground water comprises 30 percent. About 75 percent of Europeans depend on ground water.