Putting into practice its motto “Τomorrow begins Τoday” ECONOMY TODAY magazine brings to the surface the headache called Drinking Water “Challenges and opportunities in the Eastern Mediterranean”, organizing the first international conference held in Cyprus.
The Conference was held on 21st and 22nd of March 2023 and was focused on emerging challenges and opportunities for water for human consumption in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The CEO of the DIAS Group and SIGMA TV, Chrysanthos Tsouroulis, stated that “40% of the planet is facing a lack of water and according to estimates this percentage will reach 50% by 2030, water as the controversial raw material it can be a source of conflict but it is certainly better to be a source of cooperation, and that is in our hands.”
The Deputy Mayor of Larnaca, Iasonas Iasonidis, emphasized that “(water) is critical for socio-economic development, energy, food production, healthy ecosystems but above all for human survival”.
The editor-in-chief of Economy Today, Xenios Messaritis, said that “we will have the opportunity to learn about the latest technological developments in terms of water management, conservation and treatment”.
A central concern, which was analyzed at the conference by experts from Cyprus, Greece, Egypt and Israel who participated, is the quality of water consumed by citizens in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The General Director of the Ministry of Health of Greece, Vassiliki Karaoulis, noted that “with the new directive for suitable for drinking water, new parameters are introduced and when these begin to be systematically monitored from 2026, they will contribute to a more effective monitoring of its quality”.
The experts highlighted the importance of water for human consumption but also the risk of shortages, analyzing among other things the need for sustainable management of water resources.
The three focus areas of the conference were the following:
water and public health,
management of water for human consumption, and
natural disasters, climate crisis and water;
while emphasis was placed on the important challenges concerning each topic and then proposed interventions and actions were agreed upon.
The First Unit in which public health was interconnected with water for human consumption focused the interest of most of the delegates.
In general, it was reported that the quality of water for human consumption meets the requirements of the legislation and only in limited cases there were occasional deviations from certain parameters, mainly in small communities with small water supplies with non-systematic chlorination, for which immediate remedial actions are taken.
The implementation of the new European Directive 2020/2184 on the quality of water for human consumption is a challenge for the agencies involved, due to the introduction of new parameters (e.g., emerging pollutants) and new limits for some existing parameters.
It was noted that the need to apply a European methodology for the analysis of microplastics is emerging.
Proposed actions in the First Unit in order of priority and as listed by the Conferences are the following:
- Completion of the implementation of risk assessment studies by all water supply operators.
- Establishment of guidelines on the issues of risk assessment for water for human consumption.
- Reforming the Legionella control framework with two main interventions:
- Risk assessment studies in priority facilities, such as hospitals, tourist facilities, gyms, mental health units, camps, nursing homes, etc. B. Training of those in charge of priority facilities on Legionella prevention issues.
- Establishment of a Water Safety Council for issues of crisis management, coordination and monitoring of the implementation of the Legislation and imposition of sanctions.
- Technological upgrades to outdated desalination systems, water supply networks and facilities, such as water tanks, etc.
- Informing citizens-consumers about the quality of water for human consumption that comes into direct contact with the consumer.
- Solutions to reduce corrosivity / salt deposition in water for human household consumption and information on issues related to the maintenance of domestic water installations.
During the 2nd Session on the management of water for human consumption, the major issue discussed was the ongoing water scarcity in the eastern Mediterranean region, which appears to be intensifying as a result of climate change, the systematic use of desalination systems and of groundwater overpumping as alternative sources of drinking water.
An important problem is the management of water losses in water supply networks, and in particular in outdated networks and networks with insufficient dimensioning.
There is also the issue of increasing water demand in tourist areas and areas of influx of immigrants and refugees and in areas where increased residential development is observed. The need for rational use and saving of water resources was emphasized.
Proposed actions in section 2 in order of priority are:
- Investigate solutions to reduce increased consumption, eg, update pricing policy as a measure to control the uncontrolled wastage of drinking water.
- Informing citizens/consumers about the implementation of the new directive on water for human consumption and about their rights.
- The establishment of the Water Safety Council, as above, will contribute to the better cooperation of all involved bodies (primary, secondary and control mechanisms).
- Promotion of the use of innovative technologies, such as smart water meters, sensors (pressure, chlorine, etc.) and monitoring systems, tele-control / telemetry, in the water networks for human consumption and their integration into daily practice.
- Creation of a consumer information platform and promotion of lifelong education in matters of rational use and saving of water resources by all involved bodies, from the source to the tap.
During the 3rd section that dealt with the climate crisis, natural disasters related to water for human consumption, it was particularly emphasized that the Mediterranean is one of the epicenters of climate change, as its manifestations, for example, floods, drought, forest fires, are observed in a particularly increasing pace and intensity.
Proposed actions in the 3rd module in order of priorities are:
- Emphasis on the prevention, preparedness, and resilience of natural disaster emergency management.
- Risk analysis as a necessary condition for mitigating the effects of disaster risks and developing, implementing, evaluating, and updating adaptation plans to the new climate conditions.
- Development and utilization of early warning systems of natural disasters
- Creation of an observatory of environmental and health indicators in relation to climate change.
- Promotion of regional cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean using European programs such as the European Union Civil protection mechanism and rescEU.
- Investment in the education and information of the population and professionals in the area (health inspectors, civil defense/protection, training of local government elected officials, etc.).
- Reduction of bad management and coordination practices
- Systematic training in school units on climate change and health effects.