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Chronic water shortages spur innovation in Cyprus

13/02/2012

  • Cyprus
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A cost-effective, decentralised system in Cyprus that enables individual households to reuse their spent water offers dramatic fresh water savings to the drought-stricken country.

Water has always been a valuable commodity in Cyprus. But droughts of increasing frequency and intensity have left the island struggling, more than ever, to meet growing and competing water demands. The European Environment Agency’s Water Exploitation Index, which measures how much pressure a country’s water demand puts on its water resources, currently ranks Cyprus at the top of its list.

Following a long, bullish period of public works projects directed toward the construction of new dams and reservoirs – the island currently has 108 – the Cypriot government is now building several desalinisation plants to meet freshwater needs. But the country is also starting to pursue water conservation, and other demand-side measures, at the domestic level.

These ‘soft path’ approaches – which aim to improve the productivity of water use, rather than seek out new sources – are also benefiting from technological innovation. This is partly thanks to Hydranos, a Nicosia-based water recycling company which has developed an innovative, decentralised system to treat and recycle household ‘grey water,’ called Cyprobell. Grey water is the wastewater generated by all domestic activities – showers, sinks, washing machines, etc. – excluding wastewater from toilets. It represents 45% of most households’ water consumption.

Newly generated grey water is not nearly as foul as ‘black water’ – the heavily polluted water from toilets. However, if not treated properly, it can become unsuitable for any purpose, so the Cyprobell system passes all grey water through a compact water treatment unit on the premises.

The treated effluent then passes to a holding tank where it can be used for flushing toilets and local irrigation, which, respectively, account for 28% and 14% of typical household water consumption. Since flushing toilets and irrigation do not require potable water, reusing grey water to fulfil these functions can nearly halve per capita water consumption.

Because grey water makes up a large percentage of household wastewater streams, the Cyprobell system helps reduce strain on septic systems and treatment plants. The system also supports vegetation that would otherwise require irrigation from valuable potable water supplies. In addition, it reclaims plant nutrients contained within effluent, and helps contribute to groundwater recharge.

The system is as cheap as it is ecologically beneficial – since 2009, the Cypriot government has subsidised the installation of Cyprobell systems by €3 000 – 75% of the cost. Hydranos also receives financial support from the European Commission’s CIP Eco-Innovation Programme to assist in its expansion efforts across the island. If used widely, Cyprobell will help Cyprus meet the challenges of sustainable water management.

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