Wednesday, 24 August 2016

H2-Oh Dear.

It's that "all-hot-weathered-out" time of the year when you've lost count of how many days you've been feeling sweaty and you have no idea when it last rained. You just know that it was far too long ago.

I read on the Facebook page of one of the local newspapers several weeks ago about the possible crisis we could be facing with regard to our water supply here on Rhodes, owing to the fact that we had an exceptionally dry winter. The new reservoir is apparently much too low and it's touch and go as to whether we'll make it to the the first rains before there's a serious shortage.

I've spoken many times about how the Greeks, especially women washing down their courtyards and terraces, do have to habit of using a hose pipe without a gun/nozzle on the business end and leaving it running for half an hour while they casually brush the whole area over, often stopping for a chat in the process too. The result is that quite often you see huge amounts of precious, glistening, potable water flowing along the ground when it ought really to be still in a reservoir/tank somewhere.

Each week when I do my excursions there are places we pass on the coach where the entire road is flowing with water where someone's washed down a café/bar or taverna terrace at the crack of dawn. I do find it difficult understanding why the water company don't send people around to inspect such places and inflict penalties, or at the very least give people warnings, or even tips on how to conserve water in these circumstances. But then, if one adopts a slightly cynical view, maybe the water company thinks that if they turn a blind eye then they'll be able to send out bigger bills and reap more income. Surely not.

You can't really blame the locals because, although in the UK for decades now they've been learning how to be thrifty with water (and look how much it rains there), here the problem is that before the national water company took over the water bills a couple of years ago, when the water supply and billing was all done by the local councils, water was so cheap that it never really hit anyone's pocket to waste water wantonly. Local people haven't really taken on board the fact too that in recent decades the proliferation in construction of new hotels and apartment blocks for tourists has meant that there's been an ever increasing drain on a finite water supply. 

Yes, Rhodes is blessed with some wonderful fresh water springs up in the mountains, but these aren't going to step up production to cope with the ever more literally mammoth sized swimming pools that the new hotels are now constructing. Time was when a hotel had a swimming pool, end of story. Nowadays they have to build individual plunge pools for every room, long snaking pools along the fronts of other apartment blocks where each front terrace allows the guests to jump straight in, plus ever larger central pools (often these days two or three) for the general use of guests. One hotel near us has so many pools, and so huge are they that they would probably empty about ten of our local reservoirs just to fill them. When I say "local reservoir" I refer to the concrete water reservoirs that you usually see positioned on hillsides or hilltops near villages, which supply water at an acceptable pressure (owing to their height above the village) in the taps. Quite a number of these concrete tanks have in recent years been supplemented by circular metal ones, often installed alongside, to cope with increasing demand.

But, like I said, whilst demand may be increasing, supply is still finite. The day of reckoning approaches, it's a certainty.

Rhodes still sends water by tanker to both Kastellorizo and Symi, water that it can ill afford to send. The small but forward-thinking population of Halki have for two years now had the luxury of their own desalination plant and the water in their taps is not only potable but also has a much better and regular pressure nowadays. I once read a book called "Bus Stop Symi" in which the author, a British man called William Travis explained how the Symiots did once install a desalination plant there, using money sent home from Symiots living abroad. The only problem was, they built the thing slap, bang in the middle of the square behind the harbour, the very same square where today they hold dancing during their festivals. You can imagine what it did for the fledgling tourism industry on the island. So, after a few years they took it apart and never bothered to reconstruct it anywhere else. Once again, the availability of cheap water virtually on demand from Rhodes was doubtless a contributing factor in the decision not to bother to keep the plant. Today though? I bet the Halkiots are laughing all the way to the bank (the river bank?).

What will happen here on Rhodes as we move swelteringly on into September, who knows? The fact cannot be evaded though that the days of a cheap, endless supply of potable drinking water are numbered unless something drastic can be done and done imminently.

It's too flamin' hot. I'm off for a shower...

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