New "Zero Drop" program by GWP-Med and Coca-Cola in Crete saves 14,500,000 litres of water annually

The "Zero Drop" water resources protection program, implemented by Global Water Partnership - Mediterranean (GWP-Med) in collaboration with the Municipality of Heraklion, with funding from The Coca-Cola Foundation and Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company, 'travels' to Heraklion, Crete and saves 14.5 million liters of water annually by improving irrigation water supply systems at five locations.

Heraklion, Crete's largest city of 200,000 residents, is 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 tourism 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.

Water losses are frequent at Profitis Ilias, Heraklion, disrupting agricultural production and forcing farmers to increase water extraction from the aquifer.

To help tackle these challenges, the new "Zero Drop" program in Heraklion undertook technical interventions in May 2023 at Profitis Ilias, Voutes, Agios Silas, Petrokefalo and Kerasia, Heraklion, five 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 14,500,000 litres of water annually.

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.

"Zero Drop" undertook a complete replacement of the old piping network that distributed treated wastewater for irrigation at Profitis Ilias.

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.

In the Communities of Agios Silas, Petrokefalo and Voutes, the program installed solar powered remote-control systems in irrigation water transfer, collection and distribution infrastructure, preventing water losses of 1.5 million litres of water per year.

Finally, in the Community of Kerasia pressure release equipment was installed on the main irrigation water transfer pipe to avoid high-pressure related damages and water losses, saving 1 million litres of water per year.

The completion of "Zero Drop" works in Heraklion was inaugurated on 15 June, in the presence of high-level representatives of local authorities, the Coca-Cola system and the national press, at the Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company's production facility in Heraklion. GWP-Med Executive Secretary, Vangelis Constantianos, presented on the project's works and its benefit for local communities, the agricultural sector, and its enhancement of climate resilience.

(left to right) Stavros Mourelatos, Country Manager Greece, Cyprus & Malta at The Coca-Cola Company; Maria Anargyrou Nikolic, General Manager Greece & Cyprus at Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company; Sisamakis George, Deputy Mayor Development Planning, Digital Transformation and of Integrated Rural Development of the Municipality of Heraklion, Vangelis Constantianos, Executive Secretary, GWP-Med.

Mr. Constantianos presented in detail "Zero Drop's" benefits. 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. 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 3,400 farmers.
•    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, while significant gains are secured for the communities of Agios Silas, Petrokefalo and Kerasies.

GWP-Med Project manager, Dr. Nikos Skondras (right), and Project Officer, Babis Lappas, (center) survey the execution of the works at Profitis Ilias.

As part of an integrated effort to inform and engage the local community with regard to water saving principles, “Zero Drop” in Crete also engaged in a capacity building seminar for local farmers, in collaboration with the Municipality, with experts sharing experiences on applied innovations that can greatly enhance environmental sustainability in the agricultural sector.

Dr. Chartzoulakis, an expert on agricultural management in arid areas, discusses latest developments in smart irrigation and deficit irrigation techniques with farmers and local authorities at Profitis Ilias, Heraklion on 15 June 2023.

On June 12-13, 105 schoolchildren from the two local communities of Profitis Ilias and Voutes took part in a specialized water program by a dedicated team of environmental educators and had the chance to play the new 'snakes and ladders' water saving game, especially developed in the frame of the "Zero Drop" program.

Schoolchildren tested their knowledge and competed in the "Zero Drop" 'snakes and ladders' water saving game.

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.

The "Zero Drop" program 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.