STUDY SITE 6: Pegia Aquifier, Paphos, Cyprus

Responsible partner: CUT

1. General information

Severe weather conditions along with rapid land development have caused a shock to one of the most productive ecosystems of Cyprus. The area of the ecosystem continues to diminish, while plant species have either been dramatically reduced in number, or are no longer cultivated at all in the area.
Nowadays, in spite of the construction of a significant number of reservoirs that serve to store water, groundwater remains the main resource for the non-governmental managed irrigation sector and most of the domestic supply. The Pegeia aquifer has been subjected to intensive over-pumping over the last 10. Beside the diminished water quantities, the enormous non-scheduled development of the area has caused a dramatic reduction on the area of a very sensitive ecosystem. One of the areas in Paphos that has dramatic land-use changes was Peyia area. The ecosystem was known for its main crops -local varieties- which were banana trees, leafy vegetables and vines.

2. Geographical description

The study area is located in the area of Peyia village, in the vicinity of Paphos (Figure 6.9) . The selected area is a traditional agricultural area with a diversity of annual and perennial cultivations and banana trees and is irrigated with water from Maurokolimpos Reservoir. The area is at sea level and is characterized by mild climate which provides the opportunity for early production. As in the Mediterranean region, a typical Mediterranean climate prevails in the area of interest, with hot dry summers from June to September and cool winters from December to March, during which much of the annual rainfall occurs with an average record of 425mm. Nevertheless irrigation is indispensable for any appreciable agricultural development in the area.

Figure The location of the Pegeia.

Morphologically, the area is a flat terrain of about 30 km2. The dominant type of soil in the area is the Cambisol (calcic and chromic types). The soil of the experimental site is calcareous, characterized by a deep brown color, and having a rather heavy to very heavy structure. The main method of irrigation in the area, due to its morphology and the cultivations is sprinklers.

3. Main ecosystem(s) in the study area, and functions/services they provide

The ecosystem of the area, over many decades, includes mainly banana trees, which are very sensitive to water and weather conditions, a local variety of vine which is almost extinct and other annual leafy vegetables. Leafy vegetables such as potatoes, beans and cabbages were cultivated at a systematic basis and had an early production, which was the advantage of the area. Bananas and vines of the area are very famous, as a local variety, and profited from the weather conditions and the fertile soil of the area.

The ecosystem of the area has been a source of economic wealth and has sustained the local communities in the past. Leafy vegetables are still one of the main sources of income in the area of interest, due to early production. Beside the economic importance which has provided for the livelihood of the local community, the ecosystem was very well known for its attractive landscape which boosted tourism expansion. However, this expansion has in its later stages caused the unscheduled land development.

4. Ecosystem dynamics – are there indications for irreversible change in the area, and that critical thresholds and tipping-points regulate such changes? And what are the drivers for change?

The ecosystem dynamics in the area are very critical or maybe irreversible since the land development cannot be changed now. The problem can be easily detected from satellite images where manmade activities can be distinguished from green areas. The ecosystem in the area is very fragile and any further manmade activities could cause very serious or irreversible damage. Local people and communities have already realized the fact and are trying to protect the whole area. The use of remote sensing techniques could be used as a tool for monitoring the area and identify any further changes or improvements.
Since the reduction of the water supplied from the Pafos Irrigation Project, the aquifer has been under intensive overpumping. The natural recharge of the aquifer originates from precipitation only. The comparison of the water level fluctuation of selected boreholes to rainfall indicates that there is a direct response of the aquifer to precipitation events, with a general time lag of about two months. Until 2005, the Pegeia aquifer was nearly in equilibrium, with total recharge being equal to the sum of average extraction and runoff. Recent electrical conductivity measurements (Figure 6.10) show that there has been a slight increase in the salinity of the aquifer along the coastline which extends for about 1 km inland, suggesting a sea water intrusion front.

Figure Electrical conductivity iso-contours (10 mS/cm: blue, 5 mS/cm: red) in August 2001 (stippled lines) and in July 2005 (fill lines)

Although some protective measures have been taken in the past few years, the continuing development (mainly due to tourism) results in increased water demand for domestic purposes, which results in continuing and increasing pressure on Pegia aquifer and on the ecosystem it supports.

5. Relevant end-users of knowledge in the region / country (like natural resource and biodiversity managers, local/regional/national authorities, users or beneficiaries of ecosystem services

Ministry of Agriculture Natural Resources and Environment, Water Development Department, Peyia Municipality, Agricultural Research Institute

6. Past and on-going projects on ecosystem functioning, thresholds, and related aspects


  • Marie Curie ITN ‘Smart Management for sustainable Human Environment’
  • Estimation of Evap?traspiration in irrigated crops using satellite remote sensing and wireless sensors
  • Monitoring air pollution in Cyprus using satellite remote sensing and GIS and micro-sensor technology
  • Integration of satellite remote sensing, GIS, modelling and wireless-sensor network for monitoring and determining irrigation demand in Cyprus. 
  • Development of an experimental System for Mapping of Lobesia Botrana Population in Cyprus using automated traps and wireless communication and Positioning Systems


  • Use of Earth Observation for sustainable development in Skiathos Island, Greece
  • Use of Satellite Remote Sensing & GIS for managing quarry areas in Cyprus
  • Assessing land cover using satellite remote sensing for sustainable land use in Skiathos and Skopelos Islands in Greece.
  • Sustainable Development of Paphos District Area
  • Investigating the potential of using satellite remote sensing techniques for monitoring water quality and irrigation demand in large dams in Cyprus

7. Key references about ecosystem dynamics in the study area or wider spatial setting

  • Hadjimitsis, D.G. , Clayton C.R.I, Themistokleous K. and Papadopoulos P., Integrated Control of some Agricultural Production using Satellite Remote sensing in Cyprus, Annual Conference 2004 RSPSoc 2004 in Aberdeen ‘Mapping and Resource Management', (2004) 
  • Agapiou A., Papadavid G., Hadjimitsis D.G. Remote sensing as an alternative tool for monitoring water consumption over agricultural areas of Cyprus, 2nd International Conference on Environmental Management, Engineering, Planning and Economics (CEMEPE 09) Mykonos island, Greece, June 21 to 26, 2009 (2009) 
  • Papadavid G. and Hadjimitsis D.G., 'Production economics of organic agriculture; the case of vines and olives in the district of Cyprus', Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Environmental Management, Engineering, Planning and Economics (CEMEPE 09) Mykonos island, Greece, June 21 to 26, 2009 (2009)
  • Hadjimitsis D.G., Hadjimitsis M.G, Toulios L. and. Clayton C.R.I., Use of space technology for assisting water quality assessment and monitoring of inland water bodies, Journal of Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, 35 (1-2), pp. 115-120 (2010
  • Papadavid G, Agapiou A., Michaelides S. and Hadjimitsis, D.G. The integration of meteorology and remote sensing for monitoring irrigation demand in Cyprus, Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences Journal , 9 (6), pp. 2009-2014 (2009) 
  • Hadjimitsis D.G and Papadavid G. Estimating Evapotranspiration using Remote Sensing Techniques for the sustainable use of irrigation water in Agriculture -29th EARSeL Symposium: Imagin(e/g) Europe. Chania, Crete, Greece, 15-18/6/2009 (2009)