NICOSIA (AFP) — Drought-hit Cyprus on Monday signed an agreement with a Cypriot shipping firm to ferry eight million cubic metres of water from Greece to help ease the island's water crisis.
Most households on the Mediterranean island, a major tourist destination, have water only four days a week after the government last month reduced supplies to local authorities by a third to try to tackle the shortage.
The aim is for the additional water to start arriving from June to help the island endure a long hot summer.
"The shortage is in the order of 16 million cubic metres until the end of the year," said Agriculture Minister Michalis Polynikis after signing the deal with Ocean Tankers.
"The Greek government has pledged to give us 8 million cubic metres. There is an option to increase this amount. Any increase depends on the goodwill of the Greek government and any needs that may arise," he added.
Shipping water to Cyprus from Greece will take a 160 days to complete, said Ocean Tankers chairman Michalis Ioannides.
"We are obligated under the agreement to complete the transfer of water in November. It will be delivered on time."
The government is also looking to put together a long-term strategy to help the island cope better with longer dry spells, including more desalination plants and increased output from the two existing ones.
A chronic water shortage has been brought on by a two-year-long drought, unseasonal weather rising above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), and the failure of on-the-spot fines to deter those wasting water.
Cyprus's reservoirs are now at 9.8 percent of capacity, down from 25 percent this time last year.
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