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Shocking cost of supplying water to parched Greek islands

Rising tourist numbers prompt more costly water tanker trips to restore fresh water supplies.

As the last tourists fly out for end-of-season Greek holidays, authorities on many Greek islands will be counting the cost of transporting millions of litres of water to the most arid islands.

Ferrying clean water to the Greek Islands does not come cheap. The cost of supplying water to Mykonos alone this year will top €800,000 and this is an island that operates a desalination plant for three months of the year.

The overall cost of transporting fresh water to the Greek Island over the past 10 year swill have cost the government around €70 million. Figures from the Ministry for Maritime Affairs, Islands and Fisheries reveals that more than €68 million has been spent on water transport since 2006.

The summer heatwaves of 2008 proved the most costly, with €12.5 pumped into providing drinking water to the most arid islands. Things have improved since then and 2014 is likely to cost the country €6 million.

The rise in desalination plants has helped cut costs somewhat but turning salt water into fresh is not cheap either. It was 25 years ago that the Greek island of Syros, in the Cyclades, got Greece's first desalination plant.

Since then around 45 desalination plants have been installed in the Aegean. The exact number is not known as many were built privately and no central records have been kept. No one is sure exactly sure how much fresh water they pump out each year either.

Several publicly funded plants have been built on the islands but not all of them are operating, although the government claims to have plans to get them all in production by spring next year.

But the sharp rise in tourist visitors to Greece over the past two seasons has resulted in a sharp increase in demand and islands that previously managed to get through the summer without asking for extra tanker shipments are now regularly running out before the end of the summer holiday season.

The Ministry for Maritime Affairs, Islands and Fisheries ,for example, has called for three tanker shipments of water this year for the first time ever while neighbouring Patmos asked for two tanker loads as reservoirs ran out.

Funds have now been earmarked to build new desalination plants on the Greek islands of Leros, Patmos, Koufonisia, Halki, Kimolos, Amorgos and Symi.

But desalination plants are unlikely to provide a complete solution to the problem. These plants are expensive to build and they need constant maintenance.

Also, they don't address the problem of the loss of water through old and leaky water pipes, a major problem in itself on the water starved Greek islands.

Experts estimate that up to 40% of the water on arid island is lost through leaky pipes, poorly maintained water grids and unnecessary evaporation.

The recent opening of a new desalination plant on the Saronic island of Hydra, has prompted moves to replace the entire water grid network on the island.

The growing water shortage problem and the amount of water lost through leaky and poorly maintained Greek island water grids means that Greece needs a comprehensive policy to provide and maintain clean water on the islands if it is to cope not only with the demands of islanders but with the growing popularity of the Greek islands with summer holiday visitors

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