Freshwater - Drivers and pressures (Cyprus)

SOER 2010 Common environmental theme (Deprecated) expired
This content has been archived on 21 Mar 2015, reason: A new version has been published
SOER Common environmental theme from Cyprus
Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 21 Mar 2015


Cyprus has a population of approximately 870.000 (2006) with the highest growth rate in the European Union. About 60% of the total population lives in the major agglomerations while the rest of the population is distributed among smaller agglomerations spread over the rest of the country. Most households have 2 members (27%) but there are also many households with three (17%) and four (22%) members.

Tourism is an important source of income and presents in general a positive picture. There are about 2.4 million tourist arrivals per year and the majority of tourism activities takes place in coastal areas.

The wider industry sector shows a steady increase, both in revenue and also in the number of persons employed. The areas of Strovolos and Latsia near Lefkosia and Ayios Athanasios and Ypsonas near Lemesos, as well as the area of Vasilikos are the main industrial areas. However, there are also many industries located outside of these organized estates. The industries can be classified in a wide range of industrial sectors like food processing, chemical industries and metal industries.

Based on the Corine Land Cover 2000, the agricultural area and forests incl. semi-natural areas correspond to 48% and 44% of the total land area of the island respectively. Other land use categories cover much smaller areas, e.g. artificial surfaces cover about 7.5%, wetlands 0.2% and water surfaces 0.15%.

The decreasing importance of the agricultural sector follows the general trend that is observed in most of the E.U. member states and the contribution to the GDP was 3.2% in 2007. The number of persons working in the sector is also steadily decreasing.

The cultivated land in the eastern part of Cyprus corresponds to about 70% of the total cultivated land of the island. On the opposite, the central and western part of the country consists mainly of forest, accounting for 73% of the total forest area. Animal breeding is widely practiced in agricultural areas of Cyprus. Farms for the breeding of pigs, cows and poultry are located in various parts of Cyprus, while the presence of free-breeding of sheep and goats is also very frequent.

Statistical analysis of the rainfall records available over the period of the hydrological years 1916/1917-1999/2000 showed a step change around 1970.  Depending on the region, this decrease ranges between 15% and 25% of the mean annual precipitation of the older period. This fact had as a consequence the significant reduction in the water available on the island. The decrease in the mean annual inflow to dams is estimated, on average, around 40%.


The total annual water consumption during the period 2005-2007 was estimated to be about 230 million m3. The two major water use sectors are agriculture and the domestic sector, with a consumption of 65% and 35% respectively. The tourism and industrial sectors are included in the domestic sector because the system of water distribution in urban areas is common for all uses. The consumption of water for tourism purposes is about 6% of the total water consumption. About 6% of the water used by agriculture is recycled water.

Based on data for 2004-2007, the domestic water demand in areas supplied by Government Water Works is covered from surface water (about 41%), groundwater (about 20%) and desalination (about 39%).

The key pressure on groundwater is overexploitation. It affects almost all the groundwater bodies: Of the 19 groundwater bodies in Cyprus, 17 have significant abstractions which are considered to be ‘over-pumping’.

The pressure due to the urban population is mainly in the form of sewage production, which is mostly discharged to the groundwater, but can also be indirectly discharged to some extent to the surface waters, as a result of surface runoff. According to the criteria of the Urban Wastewater Directive, 57 agglomerations with a population equivalent (p.e.) of 870.000 have to be provided with treatment facilities:

  • 7 Urban Agglomerations:

-    The four cities Lefkosia, Lemesos, Larnaka and Paphos and the Ayia Phyla area

-    The two tourism centers of Paralimni and Agia Napa

  • 50 rural agglomerations:

-    6 municipalities (Athienou, Aradippou, Derynia, Dhali, Peyia, Polis Chrysochous)

-    44 communities

The main pressure related to industrial activities takes the form of industrial wastewater, which may contain several priority and other substances.

An analysis of pressures related to agricultural activities, either in the form of cultivation of land or livestock breeding, shows that the main pressures are in the form of pollution due to nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), oxygen demanding compounds, salinity and pesticides. Due to the distribution of cultivated land, increased loads of nitrogen and phosphorous are encountered in the eastern part of Cyprus while the central and western parts are characterized by significantly lower nutrient loads.

Important potential point source pollutions are from solid wastes and from mines. Five major landfills, with a yearly load that corresponds to 80% of the total solid waste load, serve the main regions of the country (i.e. Lefkosia, Lemesos, Larnaka, Paphos, and Paralimni). In addition there are a significant number of other waste sites spread over the country. With respect to mining, there are one active mine and several abandoned mines in Cyprus, which primarily affect surface water, but may contribute to contamination of groundwater too.


The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

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