The initiative was launched in Greece in 2020 at the remote island of Agios Efstratios at the North tip of the Aegean. The island’s 268 permanent residents were equipped with water saving devices and participated in a series of awareness-raising activities, aiming to save 500,000 liters of precious water for their island over a one-year period.
One year later, the island has achieved a water saving of 621,000 liters. GWP-Med spoke with Maria Kakali, the Mayor of the island, about the secret of the project’s success.
What was the significance of the "Water is in our Hands" initiative for the island of Agios Efstratios?
We are always open to new initiatives, aiming to mobilise the citizens of our island. “Water is in our Hands” was an excellent opportunity to engage them. We all opened our homes and joined forces against water scarcity and climate change, by changing our daily habits.
“We all opened our homes and joined forces against water scarcity and climate change, by changing our daily habits”
A year later, the savings target was exceeded by 24% - what was the recipe for success?
We know from past experience that if citizens are not informed from the onset, they might react and refuse to embrace even the most beneficial interventions. The “Water is in our hands” team entered the homes of all the inhabitants, talked to each and every one of them, offering water-saving accessories, and highlighting the importance of changing our habits. This contact and the equipment in our houses are for us here in Agios Efsrtatios, a daily reminder of our responsibility to protect our water resources.
Which age groups were most responsive?
We have seen that it is easier for children and elders to change their habits. The age group 25-50 is the hardest to reach, which is why we focus our efforts on them. Since we are a small island, we can reach out to all of them, and of course, we have to manage any reactions.
Did you personally see a difference in your home after applying the devices?
Both my co-workers and I saw a difference in consumption, in the bills we pay at home. It was very tangible proof that our effort was well worth it! We realized that even small changes in our habits can have an immediate effect.
”The “Water is in our hands” team entered the homes of all the inhabitants and spoke to each and every one of them, offering water-savings accessories and highlighting the importance of changing our habits.”
Climate change is an important challenge for water and energy. What else can a remote island do to deal with these challenges?
We are trying to turn these immediate challenges into opportunities for innovation. Our vision is for Agios Efstratios to become a 'green island' and to this effect we have signed a contract for the construction of a hybrid power plant using Renewable Energy Sources that will cover 85% of our energy needs. The project will consist of a wind turbine, a photovoltaic station, storage batteries and an Energy Management and Control System. An integrated district heating system, that will meet the entire community’s heating needs, will also be installed, thermal insulation works will be carried out for all municipal buildings, electric vehicles will be procured, along with a charging station. Through these actions, we are promoting our overall security in vital resources, both energy and water.