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23-05-2023 11:13

Address by the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment, Mr Petros Xenophontos, at the European Desalination Society’s Conference

Desalination for the Environment, Clean Water and Energy

I am delighted to address today the European Desalination Society’s conference. I take the opportunity to welcome you all and wish you a pleasant stay in Cyprus.

This esteemed gathering provides a unique opportunity to discuss the critical intersections between agricultural and rural development, climate change and environmental sustainability; their common challenges and the vital role desalination has to play in addressing those challenges and securing a sustainable future.

Cyprus, with its arid climate and limited freshwater resources, faces immense challenges in meeting water demand for all uses, especially during the hot summer period where demand is disproportionally high for tourism and agriculture. As the Minister responsible for overseeing agriculture, rural development and the environment, I am very much aware of the profound impact water scarcity has on our communities, food production and the overall well-being of our citizens.

Cyprus's reliance on desalination is remarkable. With a population of approximately 1.2 million and 3 to 4 million tourists visiting us every year, our country relies heavily on desalination to bridge the gap between water demand and supply. Today, our desalination capacity reached an impressive 280,000 cubic meters per day, ensuring water security and supporting sustainable development.

As we convene here today, we must acknowledge that the journey of desalination is not without its challenges. One such challenge lies in the energy requirements of desalination processes, which can place a significant burden on both the environment and the economy. We are therefore committed to fostering research and development to optimize energy consumption, explore renewable energy integration, and reduce the carbon footprint associated with desalination.

Furthermore, the responsible management of brine discharge remains our priority. We are fully aware that it is imperative to protect our delicate marine ecosystems and we are therefore dedicated to ensuring that brine disposal adheres to strict environmental standards, while also encouraging innovative approaches for brine treatment and resource recovery. By doing so, we can safeguard our marine habitats and preserve the ecological balance of the sea surrounding our island.

While technological advancements drive the evolution of desalination, we must recognize that it is not a stand-alone solution. I emphasize the importance of integrated water resource management and the reuse of treated waste water that has proven to be a reliable steady source of water for agriculture and industry. Embracing a holistic approach allows us to optimize our water resources, minimize waste, and promote agricultural sustainability.

In addition to technical and environmental considerations, we must address the socio-economic dimensions of desalination. Access to desalinated water must be equitable and affordable, particularly for rural communities who depend on reliable water sources for their livelihoods. It is therefore required, in areas where desalination is used, to develop policies and initiatives that enhance accessibility and mitigate financial barriers.

The impact of desalination in Cyprus is evident. Our long history of successfully using desalination, serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration for neighbouring countries in the Eastern Mediterranean region and developing countries around the world that face similar water challenges. Our experiences and knowledge can be shared, fostering regional collaborations that accelerate progress in water management and resource sustainability. By working together, we can create a more resilient and water-secure future for all.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The European Desalination Society’s conference provides a platform for collaboration, knowledge exchange and innovation. Let us seize this opportunity to reinforce our commitment to sustainable desalination, water reuse and environmental stewardship. Together, we can shape a future where desalination plays a pivotal role in ensuring water security, protecting the environment, and fostering prosperity.

Thank you.