Heraklion, Crete's largest city of 200,000 residents, set on the island's northern coast, is a huge tourist draw and one of Greece's most vibrant cities. However, it faces intense challenges of water scarcity which threaten the residents' quality of life, as well as agricultural production and tourist services.
Problems are partly caused by the city's antiquated water distibution network which has a high rate of water losses, with residents facing frequent outages and the majority of buildings featuring water tanks on their rooftops to ensure continuity of supply. Pressures are becoming more intense as climate change impacts are felt more acutely, with a recent drought reducing the city's main water reservoir levels. During summer months, as the island's population swells due to the influx of tourists, competition for water becomes intense, with the city's authorities often citing water waste in agriculture as a key factor.
To help tackle these challenges, the new "Zero Drop" program in Heraklion undertook technical interventions in May 2023 at Profitis Ilias and Voutes, Heraklion, two agricultural communities, where frequent leaks produced considerable water losses and prompted producers to pump groundwater from the limited aquifer, at considerable energy cost. The project's interventions save a total of 12,000,000 litres of water annually.
Water losses are frequent at Profitis Ilias.
At Profitis Ilias, the "Zero Drop" program focused on the installation of new piping, of much higher technical specifications and safety to damage mechanisms, to replace the old pipes which suffered recurring leaks, causing outages in the distribution network that transports treated wastewater from the municipal treatment plant and channels it for irrigation, gaining an estimated 11,000,000 litres of water per year.
At Voutes, the program completely upgraded the equipment of two major pumping stations, including the installation of inverters, which show important energy savings and reduce the stations' carbon footprint by 30.000 kg of CO2 per year, as well as avoiding losses of 1,000,000 litres per year.
"Zero Drop" undertook a complete replacement of the old piping network that distributed treated wastewater for irrigation at Profitis Ilias.
Overall, by improving the irrigation and water supply system, the new phase of “Zero Drop" program offers benefits to the farmers as well as the wider local community. with the program's interventions indirectly benefiting approximately 100,000 residents of Heraklion. More specifically:
• Water outages at the area of Profitis Ilias are minimized thanks to the reinforcement of the distribution system of treated wastewater.
• Irrigation cost is reduced for 2,900 farmers, as they will no longer have to use groundwater, which is more expensive than treated wastewater due to significant energy costs for pumping.
• Water outages at central pumping stations at the area of Voutes are limited due to the more advanced equipment installed.
• The operating costs of the two pumping stations of Mesarmos and Asprochomata in Voutes are reduced.
Pumping station equipment at Voutes was completely upgraded, including the installation of inverters for energy efficiency and minimising the carbon footprint.
In an effort to inform and engage the local community with regard to water saving principles, “Zero Drop” program in Crete also entails capacity building activities for the local farmers, in collaboration with the Municipality, with experts sharing experiences on applied innovations that can greatly enhance environmental sustainability in the agricultural sector.
In June, more than 100 schoolchildren will also be trained through a specialized water program by a dedicated team of environmental educators and will have a chance to play a new 'snakes and ladders' water saving game, developed in the frame of the "Zero Drop" project. To complement the Municipality's awareness raising efforts, a “Zero Drop” informational leaflet on , including water saving tips and practices, will be disseminated along with the water bills to 52,400 households.
Schoolchildren will have a chance to play the "Zero Drop" 'snakes and ladders' water saving game.
"Zero Drop" was launched for the first time in July 2022 on the island of Folegandros, with exclusive funding from The Coca-Cola Foundation, achieving savings of over 10 million liters of water per year and enhancing the water supply of the island by 63%. This year, a new phase of the program was also launched in Nicosia, Cyprus. The program’s technical interventions in the municipality of Aglantzia have the capacity to save an estimated 3,000,000 liters of water annually. While over the last 17 years, more than 100 water protection, conservation and water supply projects have been implemented in 35 Greek islands and cities by GWP-Med with funding from The Coca-Cola Foundation, benefiting more than 280,000 citizens and saving 2 billion liters of water annually.