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Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Cyprus Drought - An effective watering strategy

Our village has had 15 minutes worth of rain since May and even cacti look in need of water. We listened to a very interesting radio program discussing the water shortage problems in Cyprus which stated that we have had only half the average rainfall during the last four years. And looking back further, since the 1980's a 15% drop in comparison to average rainfall has been recorded. Is this climate change or just a cyclical event?

The lack of rain has meant groundwater levels are becoming depleted and the problem has been worsened by rapid development linked to tourism with more hotels, swimming pools and golf courses using greater amounts of water.

The problem of reduced rainfall has been partly alleviated by construction on desalination plants and a pipeline from Turkey but are these long term solutions?

Between 65%-75% of water demand is linked to agricultural needs with high water need crops like citruses and potatoes still important to the export market. Is it time for Cypriot agriculture to consider crops which have much reduced demand on water resources?

For smallholders and gardeners the problem in not so acute but we can still play our part in preserving water.

By using an effective watering strategy we can reduce water usage. It is very important in the Mediterranean climate to ensure plants survive and grow by regular watering, sometimes twice a day, to keep the soil surface damp and as plants grow increase the water provided, especially for fruiting vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes. But timing is critical to allow water to soak into the soil, not evaporate away and avoid baking dry the surface and is consequently most beneficial early morning or early evening. Different crops have differing water needs and these can be found in more detail under each crops information. at  http://sites.google.com/site/cyprusgardener/home/vegetables

We are very aware of the need to conserve water and minimize its need by: continually adding organic matter to our soil which increases its ability to hold water; by mulching to reduce evaporation; by avoiding digging in the summer months which brings any stored water to the surface; by keeping weeds to a minimum as they compete for any water available and by growing natural windbreaks to reduce the rate of evaporation during dry hot winds.  

We use an irrigation system and timer which allows watering times and duration to be set and allows us to get on with other gardening tasks - a real time saver and well worth the expense. The piping is very cheap and nipples can be inserted with a tool to ensure drip watering where you want. 

We are fortunate enough to have a continuous supply of water but we still recycle our domestic water for use in the garden and this may be more important if your supply is restricted. Our solar panels are very efficient at meeting our hot water needs but quite a few litres run before hot water flows and we use this for watering by keeping buckets by the sink and shower. We also recycle water used for washing fruit and vegetables and water from steaming or boiling (which is usually contains nutrients). If you use a biodegradable washing-up liquid and store this water for two days it can be used without harming your plants. If you have guttering on your roof also consider capturing rain water in a holding tank.

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