Page last updated at 10:13 GMT, Monday, 30 June 2008 11:13 UK

Parched Cyprus awaits water ships

By Tabitha Morgan
BBC News, Cyprus

A water pipeline installed in Cyprus
A pipeline has been installed to carry water from the ships inland

Ships containing drinking water are expected to start arriving in Cyprus in an effort to relieve the island's chronic water shortage.

The water is being supplied by Greece, in a project costing the Cypriot government more than 38m euros (30m).

Every day for the next six months two tankers will leave the port of Elefsina near Athens, bound for Cyprus.

After four years with no substantial winter rainfall, Cypriot water reserves are at their lowest since 1908.

Desperate times

The ships will dock on Monday at an offshore pumping station near the port of Limassol.

An undersea pipeline will then transport the water as far as the island's distribution network.

It will then be distributed, but only to the southern, mainly Greek-speaking part of the divided island.

An additional 16m cubic metres (half a billion cubic feet) are needed to bring Cyprus' supplies up to acceptable levels.

If deliveries continue until December, as scheduled, the Greek ships will supply Cyprus with just half that amount.

Earlier this year, government water engineers dismissed the proposed tanker scheme as "pure science fiction".

But another spring with negligible rain fall, coupled with the prospect of imposing water cuts in the hotel and tourist districts, forced them to reconsider.

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