S4W Open Call Challenge

Cisterns Know

Credit: Amalia Zepou
Ohi Pezoume/ UrbanDig Project

Host / Region

Ohi Pezoume/ UrbanDig Project – Greece / Sifnos island, Greek Cycladic islands in the south eastern Aegean region. 


Inefficient water services and fragmented supply strategies result in low quality, high energy-consumption and unsteady water supplies. Water management efficiency could be achieved through an imaginative bridging of ancient and future technologies coupled with community engagement. 


drinking water services, water use efficiency, integrated water management, GIS mapping technology

Description of the regional challenge

The Greek island of Sifnos does not have sufficient water supplies to meet demand, and relies on the use of water tankers for maintaining water supply, and on plastic bottles for safe drinking water – at considerable cost. The projected cumulative cost of drinking water supply for the period 2041-2050 is estimated at between 0.9-1.3% of GDP (Bank of Greece, 2011). Efficient water resource management requires a full knowledge of existing water resources. However, given that wells, natural water sources and boreholes are private and remain undeclared, official maps are lacking. A mix of measurement data, data research and existing local knowledge is of critical importance for designing a truly integrated water resource management. Can we spark community-driven solutions through the use of GIS mapping, data-driven technology and the re-incorporation of cisterns built in conditions that promote a sustainable and affordable design of water management? Cisterns were the traditional way in which, for centuries, people collected water in the Mediterranean. They also embody the organic way in which humans deal with nature and the way in which communities manage a common good. Values such as good health, clean water, affordable energy and responsible consumption are only some of the SDGs that we address in this Sifnos Challenge.

Region information

Sifnos is a Greek Cycladic island in the south eastern Aegean. Its size is 73,942 km2. It is typical of the 33 other islands of the Cyclades. Greece has around 6.000 islands, 117 of which are inhabited and which share many common features with the wider Mediterranean world. 

Sifnos is rural and has 7 villages and 5 settlements near the sea. The main villages are Apollonia, the capital, Artemonas and Kastro.

How is the mission S+T+ARTS driven?

We are looking for artists/collectives able to unpack the multifaceted relationship between the island’s inhabitants and water scarcity. Cisterns are a perfect symbol of the built-in wisdom of traditional practices: the principles of collectivity and sharing are embedded in their resilience. Having supported an inclusive and fair ecosystem in practice, cisterns have symbolically acquired a universal dimension. Art ought to generate a vision of their future. We expect the STARTS4Water residency to catalyse community participation in the exploration of mapping and data-driven technology, and to become a driver towards new uses of available resources and traditional techniques in order to reduce water stress.

Residency support network