Island water bill keeps rising

As thousands of visitors flock to the Dodecanese or Cycladic islands for their vacations, Kathimerini can reveal that cost of bringing water to these resorts has increased almost 10 times over the last 10 years and an internal Merchant Marine Ministry document suggests that some tanker owners are «blackmailing» the state and local communities. A number of Aegean islands that are popular with visitors do not have any notable water supply of their own, which requires them to ship it from the mainland or other islands. In most cases, the state covers the cost of the water and its transportation. In 1997, this cost the equivalent of 1.2 million euros. In 2007, the bill for shipping the water to the islands rose to 11.2 million euros. During that time, there has also been an increase in the amount of water being transported, but this has been just threefold, from 489,000 cubic meters to 1.8 million cubic meters. The Cycladic islands of Amorgos, Koufonisia, Kimolos, Irakleia, Schinousa, Folegandros, Tinos, Sikinos, Thirasia, Donousa and Milos are supplied water by the Athens Water Company (EYDAP). It is shipped in tankers from the port of Lavrion. The Dodecanese islands of Agathonisi, Leipsoi, Megisti, Nisyros, Patmos, Symi, Halki, Palaionisos and Pserimos are supplied water from wells on Rhodes, which also arrives in tankers. As the number of tourists increases, demand for water on the islands is highest in August. The Merchant Marine Ministry pays roughly 5 euros per cubic meter for the water to reach the Dodecanese Islands and 8.3 euros per cubic meter for it to be shipped to the Cyclades. The feeling at the ministry seems to be that the practice of awarding the contract for shipping the water to one company has led to inflated prices. «The need for a valuable public commodity like water cannot be used as a form of blackmail or method to exercise pressure on the state and local communities,» according to an internal document issued last month. A number of the islands have already begun looking at the possibility of building desalination plants to cover their needs.