Thirsty Cyprus left three metres short of water supplies

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A 3.5 metre miscalculation with the final section of an undersea pipeline is depriving Cyprus of badly-needed water supplies shipped over from Greece.

Greek Cypriots on Monday were still awaiting the precious cargo to reach shore, a week after it arrived off Cyprus. The specially-built 1,320 m undersea pipeline falls 3.5 m of a land pipe which is to channel the water to a distribution centre, said the shipping company involved in the project. The connecting pipe from the ship is not long enough after experts apparently miscalculated the length.

A red-faced Agriculture Minister Michalis Polynikis told state radio of his ‘surprise’ over the latest snag because up until Sunday lunchtime he was confident water would be offloaded.

The drought-parched island is in desperate need of additional water supplies from Greece to replenish dwindling reserves, but it now has to wait until the problem is fixed.

Cyprus-based Ocean Tankers has been contracted to ferry a total of 8m cu m of water from Greece to help ease the holiday island’s water crisis. The entire deal will cost the government more than €40m ($62m) but still only meets half the island’s estimated shortfall of 16m cubic metres by the end of this year.

The first ship, the 1983-built, Ocean Tankers-operated Westama, has been anchored off the southern port city of Limassol since June 30. A second tanker will not depart from Greece until the initial consignment is unloaded.

Six tankers are involved in ferrying the water to Cyprus, with the transfer – totalling 200 shipments – expected to be completed by November. Because of a two-year drought, most households on the eastern Mediterranean island have had water supplies reduced by a third to try to tackle the shortage.

The government is also looking to draw up a long-term strategy, including more desalination plants and increased output from the two existing ones. Reservoirs in the government-controlled southern part of Cyprus are now at just 6.8% of capacity, or 18,730m cu m, a third of the level of the same time last year.