Water low but bills likely to get higher

A few sporadic downpours over the last two months have not been enough to boost water reserves, which stand at roughly half of last year’s level, and the government is likely to approve a rise in household bills as one way of deterring excessive consumption and waste. According to sources, customers could be receiving higher water bills as early as next spring because of the shortage. There has been more rain in September and October this year than last but the dry period before that and forecasts of a relatively rain-free winter are causing concern among officials. The four reservoirs – Marathon, Iliki, Mornos and Evinos – which supply water to more than 4 million people in Athens were boosted by just under 10 million cubic meters of water over the last two months. During the same period last year, over 20 million cubic meters of water flowed into the reservoirs. It is a pattern that has been repeated throughout 2008 and total reserves this year are down almost 800 million cubic meters on 2006, when water authorities reported that reservoirs had reached their capacity. In 1993, when Greece suffered a serious drought, water reserves reached only 170 million cubic meters. A campaign was launched at the time to encourage people to cut back on their use of water as there was only enough for 160 days. Though authorities are not expecting a similar situation over the next few months, they are examining ways to reduce demand. This effort is likely to be spearheaded by two initiatives. The first will be to increase the cost of water as a disincentive against consumption, while the second will involve the Public Works and Environment Minister giving the go-ahead – after several years of delay – for treated sewage water to be reused for irrigation.