NICOSIA (Reuters) - A tanker-load of water sent from Greece to drought-stricken Cyprus cannot be used straight away, government officials said on Wednesday, two weeks after the vessel anchored off the island.
The announcement of a further delay in getting the water to households struggling with severe rationing was greeted with derision by media and at least one opposition political party called for an investigation.
It had taken a fortnight to set up the infrastructure before the tanker, containing 40,000 cubic meters of water, could start unloading on Wednesday.
An agriculture ministry statement said it would go to aquifers instead of straight to households as earlier announced because the storage time or chlorination had given it “an unpleasant smell”. The company denied the water smelled bad.
The tanker is the first in a shuttle expected to bring an unprecedented 8.0 million cubic meters of water to the island from Greece by the end of November to help Cypriots cope with one of their worst ever water shortages.
A second ship is expected within days.
“Due to the chlorination the water smells a bit, however it is not going to waste,” said Agriculture Minister Michalis Polinikis. “In just two and a half months we achieved a great feat. I will not accept that serious mistakes were made.”
The water will be filtered naturally in the aquifers and can then be channeled into the water grid. It was not clear how long this would take.
Cyprus desalinates sea water, but not enough to cover the needs of its 800,000 people and visitors at the height of the tourist season.
The tanker carrying the water sailed to Cyprus with much fanfare and a blessing from the island’s senior Christian clerics at the end of June.
“Holy (water) went stinky,” wrote the daily Politis.
Cyprus’s reservoirs are only 6.7 percent full. Emergency measures have rationed running water to households, while some boreholes supplying communities have been shut down because they are at risk of seawater contamination.
“We only have (running) water twice a week,” said Niki Soteriou, 27. “What is even worse is that they are now saying that our water is not safe for consumption so I am not even giving my dog any tap water to drink in case it harms him.”
Writing by Michele Kambas; editing by Philippa Fletcher