Further to yesterday’s press conference by the Water Services Corporation in relation to a project that will lead of a considerable improvement in the service being provided to consumers and also in the sustainable management of Malta’s aquifers, the Water Services Corporation and the Energy and Water Agency note that a number of observations have been put forward in the press on the state of Malta’s aquifer systems. In this regard, the following are noted to address these observations and hence present a more comprehensive overview of the water management framework in Malta.
- Malta published its 2nd Water Catchment Management Plan, a national water management plan which outlines the roadmap for the achievement of the environmental objectives of the EU’s Water Framework Directive in 2016. These objectives include the achievement of good groundwater quantitative status, namely that groundwater abstraction falls below the mean annual recharge. The Implementation of the national plan is being backed by a 17m EU funded project from the EU’s LIFE program.
It is therefore, incorrect to state that Malta does not have a National Water Plan when it has such a planning document which is called the 2nd Water Catchment Management Plan.
- The 2nd Water Catchment Management Plan, an official government document which was also submitted to the EU Commission, confirms the existence of over-abstraction in the two main aquifer systems in the Maltese islands. The plan however also includes a Programme of Measures which outlines the actions which are to be undertaken by Government during the period 2016-2021 to address groundwater over-abstraction and hence ensure a sustainable use of water resources in the future.
- The programme of measures includes initiatives such as the development of a national water conservation campaign, incentive schemes for operators in the agricultural sector to better manage their water use, the new water programme, the rehabilitation of water catchment areas in valleys and the introduction of new practices such as managed aquifer recharge schemes.
- Focusing on groundwater abstraction in particular, it is also highlighted that flow meters have been installed on practically all legal (registered) groundwater boreholes. These flow meters are also fitted with automated metering modules which transmit abstraction data to a central database. Data on groundwater abstraction by the agricultural sector is therefore being collected and monitored. With the collaboration of the Department of Agriculture, this data is being analysed so that cases of misuse can be identified and farmers given advice on how to optimise their water use.
- The results of the borehole metering programme have shown that the actual groundwater abstraction levels of the agricultural sector are significantly lower than the estimated potential water demand obtained through statistical projections. This is a reasonable result, given the investments undertaken in recent years by the agricultural sector in water-efficient irrigation technologies such as drip irrigation.
- Finally, it is noted that all cases of illegal groundwater abstraction sources reported to the authorities are followed through the provisions of the relative legislation. These include administrative fines, the closure of the borehole and referral to court should the illegalities persist.
Therefore, not only groundwater abstraction is being monitored, important data is being gathered to adopt a holistic approach, an alternative to farmers is being given through ‘New Water’, and all WSC boreholes will be managed through an advanced automated system that will ensure that each specific borehole is sustainably managed.