Page last updated at 21:08 GMT, Wednesday, 16 July 2008 22:08 UK

Greek ship dumps water for Cyprus

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

A Greek tanker loaded with much-needed drinking water for drought-stricken Cyprus has had to discard its cargo due to contamination fears.

The ship pumped 40,000 cubic metres of water into the ground rather than a reservoir because delays had made the water unsuitable for consumption.

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

Cyprus is spending $70m (35m) to provide 8m cubic metres by November.

The government hopes the scheme will alleviate shortages and ease water rationing.

Turkish Cypriots in the north of the island are considering a separate arrangement with Turkey.

Undersea pipeline

The tanker arrived at an offshore pumping station near the port of Limassol at the end of last month, but as it took two weeks to complete pipes to the reservoir, it was deemed unsafe for drinking.

I will not accept that serious mistakes were made
Michalis Polynikis
Cypriot agriculture minister

Cypriot Agriculture Minister Michalis Polynikis denied the water would go to waste, saying it was important to enrich the water table.

"Due to the chlorination the water smells a bit, but it is not going to waste," he said.

"In just two and a half months we achieved a great feat. I will not accept that serious mistakes were made."

Under the agreement with Greece, every day for the next six months two water-laden tankers will leave the port of Elefsina near Athens, bound for Cyprus.

An undersea pipeline will take the water as far as the island's distribution network from where it will be distributed to the southern, mainly Greek-speaking part of the divided island. Some 16m cubic metres are needed to bring Cyprus' supplies up to acceptable levels.

The Greek ships are expected to supply Cyprus with half that amount.

Government water engineers had initially dismissed the tanker scheme as "pure science fiction", says the BBC's Tabitha Morgan in Cyprus.

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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