Greece, on the brink of a major crisis. Drought threatens tourism and islands run out of water

Greece is gearing up for the peak tourist season, with record numbers of visitors expected. However, the country is facing a major drought-related crisis that threatens the tourism industry, considered Greece’s economic engine.

Record temperatures were recorded in Greece. PHOTO Archive

For months, much of Greece did not see a single drop of rain. Now the pressure on the water supply is increasing significantly, especially on the islands, where tourists spend their holidays. Authorities say the situation this year is extremely difficult.

On the island of Naxos, the largest water reservoir has completely dried up, being now usable only by turtles that adapt to muddy waters. Seawater has contaminated irrigation wells, significantly affecting potato crops in the area according to The Independent.

On Karpathos, restrictions on changing the water in swimming pools have been imposed, and on Thasos, urgent solutions are being sought for the installation of a desalination unit to turn seawater into drinking water.

There has been an intense lack of rainfall in the Mediterranean and especially in Naxos our surface reservoirs are empty”, said the mayor of the island, Dimitris Lianos.

Millions of tourists visit Greece each year to enjoy its gorgeous beaches, crystal clear waters and impressive archaeological sites. However, the effects of climate change, manifested by increasingly high temperatures, low rainfall and frequent fires, endanger the future of this important sector of the Greek economy.

Concerns about tourism have increased significantly this year. After the warmest winter on record, the fires broke out early, affecting areas where there would normally have been snow. Several tourists, including well-known British presenter Michael Mosley, died last month during the first heat wave to hit the country.

Greece’s drought crisis highlights the country’s vulnerability to climate change and its devastating impact on the economy and the daily lives of residents. Urgent water management and climate adaptation measures are essential to protect Greece’s future.

What else is yet to come

Climate experts fear the worst is yet to come. Andrea Toreti, coordinator of the European and Global Drought Observatory of the Copernicus Emergency Management Service, said that once the effects of drought become visible, it is too late to take action.

We must avoid thinking in an emergency mode, but (instead) look at prevention and preparednessToreti said.

The water shortage is serious in Naxos.  Photo capture

The water shortage is serious in Naxos. Photo capture

Water shortages are severe in Naxos, a mountainous island of 20,000 people in one of the most popular – and driest – parts of the Aegean Sea. Tens of thousands of tourists flock to its shores every day during the summer.

The island’s two reservoirs hold 220,000 cubic meters (7.7 million cubic feet) of usable water, a third of last year’s level and the equivalent of just a few dozen Olympic swimming pools.

Authorities have secured three portable desalination units that will treat seawater to make it safe to drink, which Mayor Lianos said should cover the shortage of homes, hotels and swimming pools.

Farmers, on the other hand, will receive nothing from the treated water and must rely on wells that have been contaminated with seawater. Farmers said this contamination occurs when the wells are empty enough for salt water to seep through.

It’s a big disappointment because we humans failed to anticipate climate change knocking at our door”, said Stelios Vathrakokoilis, a farmer from Naxos who grows potatoes.

Mediterranean countries, including Spain and Italy, are looking at ways to shore up their water supplies through desalination, but suppliers said units were in short supply this summer due to rising demand.