Hydra's Water Supply

Greek Philospher Aristotle Thought Of It First

Back in the 4th century B.C., Aristotle imagined using successive filters to remove the salt from seawater.

 

Along with much of the world, water quality and a shortage of drinkable water is a big concern on Hydra especially as the island doesn't have sufficient natual sources of fresh water to meet the needs of its population. Today, the Hydra solution is to supply desalinated water and well as importing approximately 3.5 - 4 million 1ltr bottles of drinking water that are consumed each year.

 

 
The Desalination Plant on Hydra is one of the first of its kind to have been opened on a Greek Island. The company who operate it is TEMAK. The desalination plant provides Hydra with 1600 cubic meters of drinkable water per day. The plant is situated in Mandraki and was opened in August 2014 when Mr Aggelos Kotronis was honoured for his contribution to implementing the desalination plant.
 

 

Drinking Water

 

Desalinated water is safe to drink and on Hydra the water output reaches European standards required. The desalination plant takes sea water and processes it to remove the salt. Chlorine is added during the processing to kill bacteria and lime is added to counteract the effects of the chlorine.

 

 

 

An Historical Insight

 

Natural Springs: Historically, circa 300 years ago and more, Hydra had a number of freshwater springs to supply residents with their drinking water. Many people are of the opinion that the island was named for its water. Over time, seismic activty disrupted these springs, contaminated some, dried up others but also created new ones. However, while the newer sources are today incorporated in the mains water supply, the springs are no longer utilized by residents as a water source.

 

Cisternas: As more homes were constructed, and to make it more convenient for residents, in the 16th & 17th centuries Hydra houses were built incorporating 'Cisternas' (large water tanks to store rainwater). Rainwater would fall on terraces and rooves to drain into the underground cisternas so that householders could use a bucket from a well in their kitchen to access it. During numerous regional wars, and a particularly bad plague during the 18th century, the population of the island was reduced and many left Hydra to seek their fortune elsewhere. The cisternas along with the buildings fell into disrepair. However during the 'renaissance' of Hydra in the late 1700's - mid 1800's the island was repopulated, restoring property, rebuilding and of course repairing cisternas as the primary water supply of homes. A large number of these cisternas are still used today but most frequently as a supplement to the island's mains service used to water gardens or provide water for bathing/cleaning.

 

An original well head with a freshwater cisterna below the floor

 

Wells: Organised wells were introduced on Hydra around the mid to late 1700's. The then 'ruling classes', the wealthy Hydriot merchants and ship owners, while still under Ottoman rule, had a number of wells dug, not only to provide freshwater for those living in property without cisternas but also to provide local employment. As with the natural springs on Hydra, sciesmic activity, especially in the last 100 years has damaged most of the wells but the most famous one on the island is at Kala Pigadia (literally translated as Good Wells). There are two wells at Kala Pigadia and both function as today as they did when they were originally built. Many of the homeowners in the area at the top of Andreas Miaoulia Street, regularly go to the well to collect water. I can speak from experience, having used this water for over a year, that it is 'potable' (drinkable). Down in the town the biggest well sadly has been contaminated with salt water and sealed off. It can still be seen in one of the more picturesque squares and is locally known as the 'Salty Well'.

 

The freshwater well at Kala Pigadia are still fully functioning and used by residents in the area.
 
The Water Boat: By the mid 20th Century, the demand for good drinking water couldn't be met by the island's resources and the Greek Orthodox Church helped to implement a water boat to deliver spring water from the mainland to Hydra on a daily basis. Originally this service worked very efficiently, provided good water that was drinkable and was a low cost solution to Hydra's water problems. Water would arrive daily with the water boat mooring at the end of the jetty (opposite the Historical Archives Museum of Hydra), connected to the pipes and then water would be pumped to the various holding tanks higher up. Then as households needed it, the water would come down into the town mainly with gravity to supply homes. This method of providing water to Hydra worked well until the beginning of the 21st Century when demand, brought about because of modern living and tourism out-paced supply. In addition to not being able to cope with demand, the quality of the water decreased and the its cost along with spiralling transport costs meant that an alternative solution was required. In early 2014 the water boat was finally decommissioned when the state of the art desalination plant went on line in Mandraki.
 
Water supply and services with a desalination plant on Hydra Island Greece The old water boat that used to supply Hydra's water

Hydra's Water Supply

Many of the fresh water wells have dried up or have been contaminiated by salt water due to cracking during siesmic activity. However, a prime exception is at Kala Pigadi - literally meaning 'good wells' at the top of Miaoulis Street where the locals fill containers with water from the well on a daily basis. So the Hydra of today presents a very arid, rocky and barren vista. Most of the Water consumed by the island is now produced by the desalination plant at Mandraki and is supplimented by a natural water source that has recently been found. The water quality on the island is excellent and now, thanks to the desalination plant, it is plentiful.

Water on Hydra is supplied by the desalination plant The old water boat in days gone by

Although the name implies water, Hydra has no natural water available. The water from the taps, etc, is supplied by the mains desalination system via pipes that pump water from a number of huge tanks above the town. For decades the tanks were replenished on a daily basis with water that is shipped over from the mainland by boat. But as of 2014 the island now has its own desalination plant, which is a first for any of the Greek islands.

Desalination plant in Hydra Island Greece Building Hydra's desalination plant, commissioned in 2014

In more recent years, the island's authorities have discovered a natural spring of water high up on the mountains behind Hydra town near Agios Nicholias. Water from this new well is not sufficient for the entire town's needs but is being used to suppliment the water being delivered by the desalination plant.

 

The desalination plant was commissioned and activated in 2014 and provides excellent water in terms of quality and improved quantity as well as reduced cost. The days of water shortages during high season are a thing of the past.

Some houses on the island have their own fresh water cisternas and the town's water supply is augmented with this collected rainwater. A cisterna is a massive tank, usually built under the floor of a terrace or kitchen. At the beginning of the rainy season (mid Oct) home owners clean out their cisternas and then plug them temporarily. The first rains are allowed to clean the roof, terraces and drainpipes and once clear of the summer dust and debris, the cisternas are unplugged to allow them to fill.

Hot water tanks in most places in Hydra are small compared with homes and hotels in mainland centres, so when you are here on holiday don't expect the shower to last long and wait for it to reheat between taking turns.

 

Drinking Water - The water supplied by the town is perfectly safe to drink and cook with.

 

Further Reseach information:

World Health Organisation 2011

 

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