From: Reuters
Published January 9, 2008 03:27 AM

Drought-hit Cyprus considers importing water

NICOSIA (Reuters) - Drought-stricken Cyprus may import water to beat a crippling shortage that is threatening to tap the island's reservoir reserves dry, its agriculture minister said on Wednesday.

The decision to bring water in sea tankers from Greece would depend on weather over the next two months, but the outlook for rain was not promising, Photis Photiou said.

"It's January 9. It's supposed to be winter, and it feels like summer," he told Reuters.

Cyprus is no stranger to drought, but the present shortage has been acute enough to send devout Greek Cypriots into Churches praying for rain.

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Authorities were considering importing water from the Greek island of Crete if the drought persisted.

"It is not an easy job. We looked at this option seven or eight years ago and the costs at the time were very high. Some problems in that respect have now been solved," Photiou said.

Water shortages have triggered strict rationing for farmers, and cuts could also be considered to households if the situation does not improve by April, he said.

Official accounts suggest that rainfall in Cyprus has fallen by about 20 percent over the past 35 years, a decline officials attribute to climate change.

Cyprus has two desalination plants running at full capacity, and a third is due to come on stream in June. Reservoirs were 9.2 percent full as of January 8, holding an estimated 25.3 million cubic meters of water.

(Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Michael Winfrey)

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