17 February 2014 14:32

The Water Board is concerned by the recent, significant increase in the illegal use of water from the southern conveyor project.
Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis has been briefed, as there are fears that the quantity of water to be supplied to the area may prove inadequate because of the drought.
The problem is further aggravated by the over-consumption of water for irrigation, partly because of the drought but also because unemployment in the area has prompted many to turn to agriculture to make ends meet.
Nicolas Christofides, district engineer for the southern conveyor project of the water department said the situation was worrying. He said it was essential that the Agriculture Department interceded to coordinate farmers.
The Water Department is also studying ways of intervening to stop the scores of farmers who have found ways of stealing water.
The Water Department will be making available only 12 million tons of water for irrigation in the villages of the free Famagusta area this year. Of this, three million will be used for permanent cultivations and nine for seasonal ones.
However since the start of the year  and up until last Friday, of the 12 million, more than 1.3 million tons had already been used. Last year in the same period, only 1 million had been consumed.
Excluding the 3 million tons which will be used for permanent cultivations this means only 7.5 million are left, and will be given for seasonal cultivation, primarily green houses.
Meanwhile, potato farmers in the area are continuing to irrigate their spring crop, with water demands expected to rise by May and June when they will be harvesting.
The year also includes a summer crop which is planted in August and September, as well as the watermelon, melon and other crops which will require water.
Based on the rate of consumption, the Water Department estimates that existing reserves for the seasonal cultivations will cover the period until the end of May, with some 1.5 million tons left for remaining cultivations, which may be inadequate.
Compounding the problem of over-consumption and the drought is the theft of water from the southern conveyor project, with most of it stored in large reservoirs, for use in the coming months.
Recently, because of frost, the Water Board supplied water in the evening so that with continuous irrigation, the farmers could save their crops. However, instead of the 300,000 to 350,000 tons of water expected, some half a million was taken from the southern conveyor, with the department believing that 200,000 was taken by farmers - since they found the supply open - for storage.
Christofides said that the department would be taking action, adding that though everyone sympathised that the situation was difficult because of the drought, this did not justify theft.
Everyone needed to work together to get through the difficult days ahead as painless is painlessly as possible.


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