Cyprus Cyprus Cyprus Cyprus

Fresh water resources Cyprus

Fresh water resources in numbers - Europe

The total renewable freshwater resource of a country is the total volume of river run-off and groundwater recharge generated annually by precipitation within the country, plus the total volume of actual flow of rivers coming from neighbouring countries. This resource is supplemented by water stored in lakes, reservoirs, icecaps and fossil groundwater. Dividing the total renewable freshwater resource by the number of inhabitants leads to water availability per capita. Thirteen countries have less than 5,000 m3/capita/year while Nordic countries generally have the highest water resources per capita. The Mediterranean islands of Malta and Cyprus and the densely populated European countries (Germany, Poland, Spain and England and Wales) have the lowest water availability per capita. The water availability is an annual data which therefore does not reflect at all seasonal variations (3).

Vulnerabilities Cyprus - Current situation

In 2008, Cyprus suffered its fourth consecutive year of low rainfall and the drought situation reached a critical level in the summer months. To ease the island's crisis, water was shipped in from Greece using tankers. In addition, the Cypriot government was forced to apply emergency measures, including the cutting of domestic supplies by 25–30%. In one village in Limassol district, water pricing to reflect the growing scarcity was introduced, with use above a threshold level subject to sharply escalating charges (1).

Agriculture is the dominant water user in the country, accounting for 69% of total water use, while the domestic sector accounts for 25%, of which one fifth goes to tourism (10).

The biggest water users, particularly those with swimming pools, received bills in the thousands of Euros, resulting in a drastic reduction of water use. In addition to water pricing, the Cypriot authorities have recognised the importance of alternative water sources, such as treated municipal effluents, and are increasingly exploiting them (1).

Tourists use a lot of fresh water with a.o. swimming pools, water parks and golf courses. Moreover, most tourists visit the region during the summer months when water resources are already subject to considerable stress (2). In Cyprus tourism‐related water use represents 16.9% of the total domestic water use (6).

Cyprus is severely over‐stressing groundwater resources since it is exploiting groundwater beyond what has been set as the ecological limit (5).

Cyprus progressively relies on desalination for covering drinking water needs (5).

Vulnerabilities Cyprus - Future projection

The likely effects of climate change on the water resources of the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East region have been investigated using a high-resolution regional climate model (PRECIS) by comparing precipitation simulations of 2040–2069 and 2070–2099 with 1961–1990 (12). The projected change in internal water resources is assumed to be the same as the projected change in precipitation.

The PRECIS projections results suggest that precipitation in Cyprus will decrease by 20% by midcentury. Some of this decrease will be reversed by the end of the century, with precipitation in 2070–2099 decreasing by 17% relative to 1961–1990. Coupled with population growth, per capita water resources by midcentury are expected to be only slightly in excess of half their current levels. Such a change will severely impact upon both Cyprus’ agricultural sector and also its urban water supply systems. Agriculture will have to rely increasingly on treated wastewater, while desalination is expected to supply an increasing proportion of the urban water supply (12).

Adaptation strategies - Cyprus

In Cyprus an integrated approach to water management implements measures to ensure water security both now and in the future, accounting for the impact of climate change (2).


In order to store as much freshwater as possible, Cypriot governments have constructed numerous dams on key catchments over the course of the years. As a result, the water storage capacity of the island increased from six million cubic meters (m3) in 1960 to 327 million m3 in 2009, making Cyprus one of the most developed countries in terms of dam infrastructure (8,9).

The water stored in major dams is supplied to both residential and agricultural users; in recent years with adequate precipitation levels, agriculture has consumed about 60% of these water quantities, but during years with less rainfall more than 65% went to residential users, and this fraction increased further in years with extensive drought (9).

Wastewater re-use

Cyprus also re-uses tertiary treated wastewater, more than half of which is used for irrigation of crops, either directly or through the artificial recharge of aquifers. The government of Cyprus expects wastewater re-use to provide 28.5 % of annual agricultural water demand by 2012. Although potentially beneficial to water resources, the re-use of wastewater for agriculture raises soil contamination and public health concerns, particularly with respect to pathogens and hazardous substances (2).

Artificial water recharge has been practiced widely in Europe since the nineteenth century and today is used to produce drinking water in many countries. Additionally, both dam water and treated wastewater are used to artificially recharge aquifers that are subsequently pumped for irrigation purposes. Such use of treated wastewater in Cyprus is expected to increase significantly in coming years. Artificial recharge of coastal aquifers in Cyprus is also used to control against seawater intrusion (1).


Spain is the largest user of desalination technologies in the western world. Other Mediterranean countries, e.g. Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta and Portugal, also rely increasingly on desalinated water as an additional resource for public water supply and to support holiday resorts in arid areas. Malta, for example, relies on desalination for 57 % of its water supply. In Cyprus, two permanent desalination plants with a total target capacity of 120,000 m3/day have been constructed and a mobile desalination plant with a capacity of 20,000 m3/day has also been installed. The government of Cyprus is planning the installation of additional desalination plants (both mobile and permanent) in the areas of Limassol, Paphos and Vasilikos with a target capacity of approximately 130,000 m3/day (1).

The capacity of desalination plants in Cyprus has been designed such that virtually all urban residential water needs can be met by desalination generated water, so that a) water supply to households and firms becomes independent of weather conditions and b) all freshwater reserves are supplied to the agricultural sector in order to restore groundwater reserves, which are currently being depleted due to over-exploitation by farmers. Even under the assumption of a rapid increase in water demand, and despite climate change, desalination can more or less satisfy all water demand of households, industry and tourism until 2030 (7).

Water pricing

In Cyprus, a water pricing policy is implemented for water use by all sectors, including domestic use and irrigation (3).

Current water use levels in Cyprus are far higher than the minimum amount needed. Water demand in Cyprus has been estimated to be over 200 liters per person per day (10), whereas basic water needs for human subsistence (drinking, cooking and basic sanitation) are estimated at 20-50 liters per person per day (11). It has been shown that the additional costs of desalination are pretty high. A policy of using water more wisely (conservation) seems to be economically more efficient than the current high desalination capacity and the policy of additional plants in the future (7).

Adaptation strategies - General

EU policy orientations for future action

According to the EU, policy orientations for the way forward are (4):

  • Putting the right price tag on water;
  • Allocating water and water-related funding more efficiently: Improving land-use planning, and Financing water efficiency;
  • Improving drought risk management: Developing drought risk management plans, Developing an observatory and an early warning system on droughts, and Further optimising the use of the EU Solidarity Fund and European Mechanism for Civil Protection;
  • Considering additional water supply infrastructures;
  • Fostering water efficient technologies and practices;
  • Fostering the emergence of a water-saving culture in Europe;
  • Improve knowledge and data collection: A water scarcity and drought information system throughout Europe, and Research and technological development opportunities.

Managed aquifer recharge

Comprehensive management approaches to water resources that integrate ground water and surface water may greatly reduce human vulnerability to climate extremes and change, and promote global water and food security. Conjunctive uses of ground water and surface water that use surface water for irrigation and water supply during wet periods, and ground water during drought (13), are likely to prove essential. Managed aquifer recharge wherein excess surface water, desalinated water and treated waste water are stored in depleted aquifers could also sup­plement groundwater storage for use during droughts (14,15). Indeed, the use of aquifers as natural storage reservoirs avoids many of the problems of evaporative losses and ecosystem impacts asso­ciated with large, constructed surface-water reservoirs.


The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Cyprus.

  1. EEA (2009)
  2. Collins (2009)
  3. European Commission (DG Environment) (2007)
  4. Commission of the European Communities (2007)
  5. Shoukri and Zachariadis, (2012)
  6. Gössling (2006), in: Shoukri and Zachariadis (2012)
  7. Zachariadis (2010)
  8. Klohn (2002), in: Zachariadis (2010)
  9. WDD (2009), in: Zachariadis (2010)
  10. Savvides et al. (2001), in: Zachariadis (2010)
  11. Gleick (1999); Hanemann et al (2006), in: Zachariadis (2010)
  12. Chenoweth (2011)
  13. Faunt (2009), in: Taylor et al. (2012)
  14. Scanlon et al. (2012), in: Taylor et al. (2012)
  15. Sukhija (2008), in: Taylor et al. (2012)