Friday, July 10

Greece: Water, water everywhere but how much to spare?

Giant water bag towing drinking water from Mainland Greece
 to Greek resort islands 

2002 - Al Sindagah on water transport
Drinking water is lighter than seawater and so the bag floats on the surface, making it easier to tow, while empty bags can be reeled onto the deck of the tug, enabling it to return to the filling station at high speed.
One of the pioneers of this process is Nordic Water Supply ASA (NWS), which signed its first commercial contract in October 1997 with the Ministry of Energy in Turkey to transport fresh water to northern Cyprus, which has been under Turkish Cypriot rule since the 1974 invasion. 
Its main competitor is Aquarius Holdings Limited, which has tugged smaller bags from mainland Greece to nearby resort islands since 1997, helping the Greek tourism industry cope with the increased demand for drinking water during the peak holiday season.
Aquarius Holdings Ltd. 
Aquarius Holdings Ltd. is sponsored by ADCECO GROUP in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.
... Since 1997 Aquarius has been delivering potable water in bulk to the Greek Islands using polyurethane water bags. Aquarius has been operating in the Port of Piraeus for the last four years with fully equipped installation tanks and storage facilities. ... 

Water Resources in Greece 

Lake Mornos, created by a dam that was initially built for local water supply, is now partially diverted to supply Athens with drinking water
On average, Greece has quite abundant water resources of 58 billion cubic meter per year (1977–2001), of which the country uses only 12 percent. Of that, 87 percent is used by agriculture, 3 percent by industry and only 10% (or 1.2 percent of total water resources) for municipal water supply. 
However, the average masks substantial variations between years, seasons and regions. Water resources are especially scarce on the Greek islands, some of which are supplied by tanker ships or have turned to seawater desalination.
Droughts are a recurrent phenomenon throughout Greece, including a drought in 1993 that was considered the worst in at least 50 years and another drought in 2007.
Water sources of Athens
Because local water sources are insufficient and to hedge against the risk of drought, the metropolitan area of the capital Athens, where more than a third of the population of Greece lives, is supplied by five different water sources, the most distant one located almost 200 km away.
Due to the need to pump large quantities of water over long distances and mountains, the water company of Athens is the second-largest electricity customer in Greece.  
[From Wikipedia article on water supply and sanitation in Greece]
80 percent of Greece is mountainous, a key consideration with any desalination project meant to serve populations that aren't close to the desalination plant. 

Now just how large is the population?

Tricky question. From Wikipedia's article on Greece, the country's population according to the 2011 census is around 10.8 million.

That figure doesn't include expatriates, refugees/migrants, and tourists -- and commuters  From a July 9 CNN report on expatriates in Greece trying to weather the financial crisis, "Greece is a popular expat destination and estimates are that just over 188,000 European nationals lived in the country last year." The figure says nothing about expats from other parts of the world; one of the people interviewed by CNN is a Brazilian.

In the past week alone, Greece has taken in 9,000 refugees, and:
Greece’s islands have in recent weeks overtaken Italy as the primary entry point for refugees to Europe, with nearly 80,000 arriving this year from Turkey – a rate six times the equivalent figure from 2014, according to the UN.
Then you have to add the population of the tourist industry. 23 million tourists visited Greece throughout 2014. While that's a record number, Greece has long had a big tourism industry. To return to the Wikipedia article:
An important percentage of Greece's national income comes from tourism. Tourism funds 16% of the gross domestic products which also includes the Tourism Council and the London-Based World Travel. According to Eurostat statistics, Greece welcomed over 19.5 million tourists in 2009, which is an increase from the 17.7 million tourists it welcomed in 2007.
The vast majority of visitors in Greece in 2007 came from the European continent, numbering 12.7 million, while the most visitors from a single nationality were those from the United Kingdom, (2.6 million), followed closely by those from Germany (2.3 million).
You would also want to add two other factors when looking at how Greece's population impacts its water situation: 

1.  While the purchasing power for Cypriots is considerably higher than for Greeks, the cost of living is across the board much cheaper in Greece than in Cyprus. So if you're a Cypriot who lives near the border it would certainly pay to buy your groceries in Greece and even dine out there. It would also be much cheaper to rent an apartment in Greece than in Cyprus.  

So the question would be how many Cypriots live in Greece and commute to work in Cyprus.  I haven't seen a statistic that throws any light on the answer.

2.  Here we come to the fun question.  What is the 'population' of major hotel chains in Greece?

I'm afraid Wikipedia doesn't have an answer for that, either.  But someday a very energetic researcher is going to start asking such questions as they apply to tourist destinations across the world in regions that are water stressed at least part of the year.      

For a long time the Greek tourist industry was family-owned businesses -- Mom and Pop running a charming little bed and breakfast and using the kids as employees.  That kind of hotel industry surely still exists in Greece, and it doesn't use up much water.  Yet a great many tourists these days want a hotel with amenities they consider standard, such as air-conditioning, fully outfitted bathroom in every room, swimming pool, and 24-hour coffee shop. Not to mention elevators.

Such a hotel uses a great deal of water not only to service the guests but just to maintain its existence -- its infrastructure and landscaped grounds.

The factors I've mentioned don't address the more complex questions related to a country's water usage, such as efficiency of water management.  

Nor have I delved into the issue of supplying water to Greece's 227 inhabited islands. I don't know how many and the extent to which those islands depend on water from the mainland, and the extent to which the water bag towing has caught on. But the towing seems to be cheaper than the use of tankers to deliver water. And it it seems deep harbors for the tankers to dock are unnecessary with the water bags.

However, the attractive features of water bags could mean that development of additional Greek islands for tourism would become feasible -- or has already become so. (According to Wikipedia there are between 1,200 and 6,000 Greek islands, depending on the definition.) That would mean yet more freshwater hauled from the mainland.

Gather accurate statistics on all the factors I've cited and add them up. Only then could one get something approximating a picture of Greece's actual water supply situation. And maybe, just maybe, the picture could be helpful in understanding more about Greece's arson situation as it applies to land grabs. See the previous Pundita post (Greece Fire Sale). 

Because there is another question Wikipedia doesn't have an answer for at this time.  How many land grabs are water grabs spelled backward?  That question, too, extends far beyond Greece.     


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