Malta is full of tunnels that have been excavated over the years for various purposes, including the production of groundwater.
The most popular are probably those in Ta’ ‘Kandja, but less known and probably more beautiful due to their natural state are those in Ta’ Bakkja, just outside Żebbuġ, from where the Water Services Corporation picks up about six percent of all groundwater, which is then mixed with reverse osmosis water and delivered to consumers.
In a garage in the Ta ‘Bakkja area, limits of Ħaż-Żebbuġ, there is an entrance to the hidden part of the Maltese islands that was dug up by the British with the help of the Maltese in the early fifties.
“I feel like this is a fantastic place because it is man made,” John Tanti, an employee with the Water Services Corporation, told us.
Dressed in protective clothing and in a special cage we began to descend a hundred metres, close to sea level, a journey that took us about seven minutes.
We went down, walked a few metres and then went down a further floor, where we found a wonderful scene – a tunnel, a quarter of which was filled with crystal clear water.
Engineer David Sacco who is responsible for water distribution within the Water Services Corporation, told us that the tunnels point in six different directions, each about a kilometre long, except for one that is longer and connects to another similar system.
It is estimated that every drop of rain that falls on the Maltese islands takes between 40 and 50 years to pass through the rock and reach these tunnels.
“Obviously as it goes down there will be a filtration process, but eventually it reaches sea level and this is the final part of the process. Because the water is freshwater, it floats on the sea water and of course the process for its collection and management takes place” (Engineer Sacco).
From these tunnels, the best groundwater is sustainably taken to the reservoirs at Ta ‘Qali and is combined with the water that the Corporation produces in reverse osmosis plants.
Malta has eleven of these pumping stations and provides 40 per cent of the water supply, while the other 60 per cent comes from reverse osmosis.
These mines and the natural way they produce the water we consume are an invaluable legacy left to us by our forefathers. The only way we can appreciate the great sacrifices the corporation workers have made and still make for services of water is by being vigilant about every drop of water we use.