The Water Services Corporation has consolidated its anti-theft mechanism and deployed it in another two zones and the results are impressive. Firstly, it is now confirmed that the Corporation can identify alleged theft remotely and address it on the ground in a very short period of time, and secondly, these two anti-theft operations led to the expected savings in water losses. The alleged thefts that are being identified run into hundreds of thousands of euro worth of water with extensive quantities of potable water being diverted for uses that involve substantial wastage.

On 24 January 2020, using data from the model which gave an outcome in less than 24 hrs the Corporation conducted an operation with the assistance of the Malta Police Force in a rural suburb in Malta. The Corporation had identified four suspects; three residential/agricultural holdings and a country villa. The Villa was found to be compliant, but all the other three had bypassed the water meter. The Corporation’s model also linked one of the account holders to a chicken farm in another zone which upon inspection was confirmed to have the same device. The non-revenue water in this zone went down from over 70% to way below the national average immediately after the anti-theft operation.

On Sunday 1 February 2020 the Corporation prepared another operation this time in Gozo. This was executed on 5 February 2020 and the results were equally encouraging. The said zone had a non-revenue component of over 90%. Potential suspects included two country facilities that host people, an agricultural holding and a dairy farm. During the operation, it becomes evident that the non-revenue component was attributable to the dairy farm and investigations into potential alleged elaborate tampering with the water meter are now being undertaken by the meter’s manufacturer. Other potential patterns are being explored and the Corporation is also relying on the assistance of Malta’s Police Force. The gains from this operation are impressive and portrayed in the graph below. It is clear that substantial amounts of water were going by unmetered at this facility. The system being used and developed by the Corporation’s own IT department is so robust that it allows it to go back in time to recover revenue from stolen water.

The graph shows the Hourly Consumption of the zone master meter (in blue). Following the theft operation (red bar) one can notice the immediate plummeting of the zone consumption.

The Corporation is using historical metering data, balances between master meters and billing, satellite NDVI (normalised difference vegetation index) imagery, differential pressure behaviour feeding intelligent purposefully designed algorithms, and other intel it has available. The model is now being deployed across Malta and Gozo. CEO Richard Bilocca stated that ‘this is a turning point in the Corporation’s fight against water theft and that the coming months will involve intensive activities that are expected to yield similar substantial results.’ He also thanked the Malta Police Force for their assistance and cooperation throughout this work which is proving to be crucial.

The Ministry for Energy and Water Management is providing the required tools and assistance to undertake this fight against alleged water theft. It will also continue its important and extensive work in improving the service including the water that is distributed to the general public, as any such improvement is a direct improvement in the Islands’ standard of living.

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