Athens, Greece’s capital and largest city, has a population of 3,2 million. The city attracts around 6 million tourists each year, many seeking sunny weather. But high temperatures also represent a threat — to the city’s water supply.
Droughts, wildfires (Η Καθημερινη 2023) and heatwaves (euronews.2022) are not surprising news anymore, so what happens if Athens lacks the water to extinguish the fires, irrigate crops, or serve the population?
These goals are already difficult to achieve, but current water management makes water scarcity worse.
Athens’s water quality is among the best in Europe (scoring 10 in the EU’s Urban Water Atlas), but its management of supply and environmental flows in the Mornos and Evinos rivers is lacking, in what Giorgos Kallis calls a “vicious cycle of water resources.”
Athenians have discussed water scarcity and management since the nineteenth century. One choice that altered Greece’s water infrastructure was the construction of a dam on the Mornos River, which not only failed to meet skyrocketing demand but pushed demand even further. That was because the Athens Water Supply and Sewerage Company (EYDAP) kept prices low to encourage consumption. Citizens bought dishwashers, took longer showers, and used water in many novel ways.
The 2004 Olympic Games boosted the city’s development and its water network, further increasing demand. According to the EEA, Athens is growing at an excessive rate of 6% per year. Supply, on the other hand, is falling. Precipitation and river flow are projected to decrease by 7-12% (against mean flow levels) over the 30-year period to 2040. Supply may not be sufficient, and “supply-oriented” solutions are expensive, unsustainable, and inadequate if demand is not managed.
Bottom Line: It is important understand the root causes of water scarcity in Athens and to break this vicious cycle of water supply by concentrating on more sustainable and equitable water management practices.
* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂