Malta Facing impending water crisis
Arctic Blue Waters providers of providing large quantities of water to countries in need, keeps you up to date with information on the current water crisis and for the need to drink pure water.
Malta is among the most water-stressed countries in the world. Its groundwater reserves are being depleted and they are severely affected by both nitrate pollution and increasing salinity – consequences of largely unregulated human activities.
For 35 years, the island has been increasingly dependent on energy-intensive desalination plants. However, groundwater still contributes most of the water used in this country, especially by water-thirsty agriculture during the dry seasons. Water recycling and rainwater harvesting have lagged behind. Inadequately regulated private groundwater extraction has exacerbated the situation.
The country relies heavily on importation of agricultural produce and other commodities whose production requires significant water use. This import of ‘virtual water’ constitutes more than 10 times the total amount of water that is consumed from domestic sources.
This makes Malta very vulnerable to water crises in other parts of the world, over which it has absolutely no control. A catastrophe (such as a major oil pollution incident) affecting our reverse osmosis plants would create a dire emergency for Malta, as happened in the Maldives a year ago and is happening in California (albeit for different reasons) now.
While this perilous domestic water situation has been apparent to successive governments for at least 20 years, the public has little or no awareness of either Malta’s domestic water situation or our reliance on imported virtual water. There are huge information gaps about Malta’s internal water capacity and utilisation, which makes planning and policy formulation very difficult.
The Today Public Policy Institute’s latest report, which deals with the critical issue of water and is entitled ‘Why Malta’s national water plan requires an analytical policy framework’, is therefore timely. All political parties committed themselves before the last election to the production of a long overdue national water plan. Yet, the government’s action over the past two years has been scant – except to take credit for reducing water tariffs by five per cent, a decision based on no recognisable cost calculus other than perhaps a ‘thirst’ for populist policies.
Until last year, only about half the country’s agricultural boreholes had been metered, yet farming (which contributes just two per cent to GDP) is the largest consumer of free groundwater. It extracts more than double what Water Services Corporation uses to serve the country.
Lack of political will to address free extraction of groundwater or to provide adequate solutions for water harvesting lie at the heart of the problem, despite “water’s vital importance to the very survival of this country”.
The politicisation of water is the biggest obstacle to the production of a necessary and overdue national water plan. But a national water plan cannot deliver the required results without proper analysis of current policies based on reliable data and an assessment of the facts.
What should government be doing? The most urgent priority is to focus seriously on this issue and not seek to kick the can down the road, as its predecessors have irresponsibly done. It can demonstrate its seriousness in tackling the issue by engaging experts, possibly international, to carry out a fully-fledged policy analysis and draw up a national policy framework as an essential prerequisite to a credible long-term water plan.
A national water plan, which, given its vital national importance, must be based on consensus between the major political parties, cannot deliver the required results without such an analysis.
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