Ithaca is a small island in the Ionian Sea with a problematic water situation. In the main village Vathy (pop 1,920), water is no more distributed on Sundays and on weekdays only 07-13. The second largest village of the island, Stavros (pop 366), will only get water two days a week in July and August.
The island has an off-grid water network with a few off-off-grid enclaves. From May to October four desalination plants are at work but do not meet the island’s need for water, although there is a spring at Kalamos and most islanders have private rain water collectors and water tanks.
The mayor of Ithaca Dionios Stanitsas and the water manager Vassilis “Billy” Simiris have created several innovative solutions to overcome the scarcity of water. Not only do they use reversed osmosis but they also use “reversed economies of scale”, having a backwards billing system to promote saving water: if you use 0-40 m3 per 4 months, you pay 1€/m3; if you use 41-80 m3 per 4 months you pay 1,30€/m3; if you use 81-120 m3 per 4 months, the price is 1,50€/m3, if you use 121-160 m3 per 4 months, the price is 2€/m3, and finally, if you use more than 501+ m3 per 4 months you pay 3€/m3. The same goes for hotels but with slightly different numbers and prices. Simply put: if you use less water, you pay less per m3.
There is also a municipal policy for hotels that “go green”: if they meet a set of water-saving criteria as defined by a municipality board in 2009, they pay a flat rate of 1€/m3 for water. We visited Nostos Hotel, which uses slightly salt water from a well to flush the toilets in the hotel rooms, rainwater for the pool, and municipal water for the rest. The hotel guest knew nothing of this and were happy like fish in the sea.
The consumption of municipal water was 168,712 m3 in 2016, but the water production was 239,548 m3. The rest was lost in leaks, subsequently is a big issue. Biggest leaks (44%) were in Perachori village where they have been quite successful in finding leaks with an “Aquaphon” – a sound detector.