Water Crisis Hits Greek Islands as Tourist Season Peaks

Written by Camilla Jessen

Jul.09 - 2024 7:30 PM CET

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Greek islands are grappling with severe water shortages.

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The biggest reservoir on the Greek island of Naxos has dried up, leaving only muddy water for the turtles.

Seawater has seeped into empty irrigation wells, damaging the island's famous potato crops.

On Karpathos island, authorities have put limits on filling swimming pools, while on Thasos island, officials are trying to get a machine to make seawater drinkable.

As reported by Reuters, most of Greece has had little or no rain for months.

As the islands get ready for a record number of summer tourists, the pressure on water supplies is at its highest.

"There has been an intense shortage of rainfall across the Mediterranean and, on Naxos particularly, our surface reservoirs are empty," said the island's mayor, Dimitris Lianos.

Millions of tourists visit Greece each year for its ancient sites, beautiful beaches, and clear waters.

But climate change, including higher temperatures, erratic rainfall, and wildfires, threatens this key part of the economy.

This year, after its warmest winter on record, Greece saw wildfires start unusually early. At least six tourists, including British TV presenter Michael Mosley, died last month during heatwaves.

Serious Water Shortages

The water shortage is very serious on Naxos, a mountainous island with 20,000 residents in one of the driest parts of the Aegean Sea.

Tens of thousands of tourists come to its shores every summer. The island's two reservoirs hold 220,000 cubic meters (7.7 million cubic feet) of usable water, only a third of last year's level.

Authorities have secured three portable desalination units to treat seawater and make it safe to drink. Mayor Lianos said these units should cover the shortfall for homes, hotels, and pools.

But farmers will not receive any of the treated water and must rely on wells contaminated by seawater. This happens when wells are empty enough for salty water to creep in.

Mediterranean Water Crisis

Countries across the Mediterranean, including Spain and Italy, are looking to desalination to bolster their water supplies. But suppliers are struggling to meet the high demand.

Even Thasos, which is greener than rocky Naxos, wants to buy a desalination unit for future use. Greece-based manufacturer Sychem cannot fully meet customer demand this summer due to a shortage of key components and longer building times.

"Since the problem is widespread, any temporary equipment has already been leased," said Sychem Chief Executive Alexandros Yfantis.