AMORGOS, the easternmost island of the Greek Cyclades is a stunner,
with whitewashed houses, trestled alleyways and fiery rust sunsets ...
Kevin Raub in New York Post, 2010

Does water come from heaven?

If our modern European civilisation has taught us to enjoy the pleasure of running water when we open the tap for as long as we want, it has also made us unaware of the value of water. When we spend hours under the shower or in the bath, when we repeatedly wash our laundry, has it ever occurred to us that some countries haven’t seen rain in years?

Amorgos is one of these charming little islands in the Aegean sea, that, unfortunately doesn’t get a drop of rain from May first until October. When I say not one drop, it literally means not one drop. So where does the water come from? Surely not from heaven.

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Until 1956, Amorgos was a relatively green and flourishing island.
Vineyards and vegetable gardens covered the well maintained terraces around the villages. Wheat was harvested and ground to flour in the large windmills scattered around the mountains. There were cows for milk and meat, goats for cheese. There were the donkeys, faithful slaves to men, transporting rocks or hay on their backs, patiently questioning their masters with their wise eyes. The full springs quenched their thirst and supplied all the gardens with the necessary water. Winter rain filled the natural wells, dug into the mountain over 3000 years, and the water thus stored was sufficient for the prosperity of the island’s inhabitants.

Terraces on Amorgos

The bucolic rhythm of this insular community was suddenly disrupted by the earthquake of 1956 which destroyed nearly every single spring on the island. The prettiest one remains in Agios Valsamitis on the way south to Arkesini. A few others still have water but most of them have been cracked and remain helplessly dry. The face of the island is burnt by the sun, the vegetable gardens have disappeared and the goats have stripped the vegetation down to the root.

Cisterns collecting winter rain, in many places, have replaced the sources, and water is also shipped to Amorgos by boat.

Now let me come  to the point. If you have a cistern with a capacity of 100 cubic meters, how long will your water supply last, knowing that five people are living in the house and using the water? Showers, toilets, dishes and garden are the main spenders. You might also have a small washing machine. You will become quickly aware that you are using far more water than necessary and without realising it your cistern will be empty in four months. What about the remaining eight months?

Amorgos is one of those islands that symbolizes the cruel reality of draught and reminds us that we must not waste water even if we have too much of it.

How to reduce water consumption

  • General hygiene: turn off water while showering, brushing teeth or washing hands. Reduce showering time to the srict necessary.
  • Kitchen: Use a bowl in the sink while washing dishes. The dirty water can be recycled by watering flowers with it. Use eco dishwashing soaps or none at all when possible.
  • Laundry: reduce the quantity of washings by filling the machine properly. Choose the eco programm.
  • Garden or flowers: recuperate any water from showers or other use of water for watering your pots.

In this way you can reduce your consumtion up to 50%

We might say water comes from heaven… but it’s not everlasting.

Wendula von Alvensleben, Amorgos


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  1. Thank you Wendula, a very valuable contribution to this site. The only thing I would say is that you probably underestimate the amount of water that can be saved by your recommendations. I would suggest that the way the average visitor uses water here the saving would be well in excess of 50%. Although we are only two and have no washing machine (all done by hand) or any significant garden we usually use only about 10 cubic metres of water a year. I don’t think we go around looking too grubby!?

    • nicola September 11, 2010

      paul, housewifes know that hand washing spends about twice or even three times more water than machine washing. also modern dish washers safe more water than washing by hand 😉

      • Nicola, you may however have misunderstood my comment. I am not suggesting that everyone should launder by hand it is just that we do not have a washing machine (or dishwasher) because Stroumbos doesn’t have electricity!

        • nicola September 12, 2010

          allrighty, paul! so the pedal powered machine would be a solution for you 😉

    • nicola September 11, 2010

      and for saving electric energy this might be the perfect model

    • Author
      Wendula September 12, 2010

      It’s true that booze is a substancial water saver. In your household you must be abble to save at least another 20%

  2. nicola September 12, 2010

    i found an interesting overview on desalting methods of sea water:
    when googeling for water desalting i found hundreds of patents wich use solar power. probably a chance for amorgos to hold that thought in the mind…?

    • Author
      Wendula September 12, 2010

      Hi Nikola, I like to write your name with a K. It’s esthetically charming. For desalinasation/desalting programms, it’s a difficult issue on Amorgos. It’s very expencive and not politically approuved. I know of a wealthy family in Agios Pavlos who tried and flunked the experience, unfortunatly, I must say. Politics on the island are closely linked to economic profit and none of the representents of Amorgos in store want to know about ecological alternatives. As you know, my house is intirely independant from any local supply. Photovoltaic for electricity and water autonomy. Nevertheless the locals press me every year to inscribe myself to the DEH and the local, very polluting, generator of Katapola. I refuse, of course and offer them a glass of raki instead.

      • nicola September 12, 2010

        hi wendula, if it’s more charming for you, just take the k, you also can call me kunigunde, hansi, gretl or apollonia if you find it better than my real name ;-). as we are coming soon to amorgos, im looking forward to meet you and learn more about water and raki of amorgos.

  3. nicola September 12, 2010

    hi wendula, thx for the valuable contribution! and: constant dripping wears the stone!

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