Drought-hit Cyprus to ship water from Greece

NICOSIA, April 21 (Reuters) - Cyprus, facing its worst drought in a decade, will start importing water from Greece within the next two months, Agriculture Minister Michalis Polinikis said on Monday.

Reservoirs are dangerously low and the crisis has forced emergency water rationing and sped up plans by Cyprus to desalinate more sea water. Its two desalination plants are already running at full capacity.

"We are looking at many options to find conclusive solutions to this issue," Polinikis told reporters.

Cypriot authorities signed a contract on Monday with a local shipping company to start water imports. An estimated 8 million cubic metres of water will be imported by November.

"We will start transporting water from Greece...before the end of June," Polinikis said.

The Mediterranean island introduced water rationing in late March, slashing water supplies to households.

Running water to refill tanks is available for 12 hours every two days, but there have been widespread reports of erratic cuts, leaving households without water for up to five days. Hospitals have borne the brunt of water cuts.

Official records show rainfall in Cyprus has fallen by about 20 percent over the past 35 years. On Monday, reservoirs were 9.8 percent full, containing 26.8 million cubic metres of water.

Rainfall was minimal in the past winter, with an inflow of 18.4 million cubic metres of water, the lowest in a decade. (Writing by Michele Kambas, editing by Jon Boyle)