Water: Malta requires sustainable policies

In a press conference near the Malta Resources Authority, Alternattiva Demokratika  – The Green Party, said that Malta requires sustainable water policies so as to avoid massive problems in the years to come.

Michael Briguglio, AD Chairperson, said: “Scientific advice by experts such as those within the Malta Water Association should be taken seriously by the Government. As things stand, Malta risks become over dependent on reverse osmosis plants in the years to come due to theft and unsustainable usage of water from boreholes. Overdependence on water from reverse osmosis plants will effectively result in a huge increase in the cost of water and risks to Malta’s water supply for example in the case of a marine oil spill”.

“Water – which is a strategic resource of national importance – should be priced in a realistic way. In the short run, all unregistered boreholes should be banned. In the longer run, save for some strategic exceptions such as agriculture, the true price of water should be reflected in its consumption, where wasteful practices, and not basic use, are to be penalized. Basic use should be subsidized. The Water Services Corporation should have full control of all water production, which should then be redistributed according to the country’s priorities”.

Carmel Cacopardo, AD Vice Chairman and Spokesman on Sustainable Development and Home Affairs stated that notwithstanding the registration of boreholes in 2008 after more than 4 years access to the water table is still a free for all. This is not only a known fact but it has also been confirmed  by the EU in a report on the Implementation of the Water Framework Directive by Malta which report is dated 14 November 2012 [SWD(2012) 379 final]. The report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council lambasts Malta for not monitoring adequately private groundwater abstractions.

This report added Cacopardo, examines in detail the technical aspects of Malta’s water policies. In addition to the issue of unmonitored groundwater abstraction AD wishes to focus on two particular points raised by the EU relative water policy in Malta.

“The first is one of fragmented governance. It is pointed out by the EU report that both the MRA and MEPA have responsibilities relative to different aspects of water policy. The report states that the coordination mechanisms between the two authorities are unclear. The report implies that this fragmentation is an underlying factor in an unsatisfactory co-ordination with other authorities, Ministries and Departments relative to water policy issues. AD has the same opinion and in fact will be proposing in its electoral programme that an effective way to tackle this fragmentation is to amalgamate MRA and MEPA in one authority in which the Environment function has a leading role. Protecting the environment and the sustainable use of natural resources such as water need to and can be much better achieved in a consolidated authority.

A second important point raised by the report is the fact that agriculture in Malta is indicated as exerting a significant pressure on water resources. This fact should have led to the formulation of a clear strategy that defines measures whuch can be developed together with the farming community.

It is clear that having the regulator for resources (MRA) and the Department of Agriculture as the political responsibility of the same ministry is impeding the regulator from acting effectively. It is to be underlined that recently the National Statistics Office has revealed that agriculture in 2009/10 used over 28 million cubic metres of water which is much more than previously estimated.”

Carmel Cacopardo concluded by emphasising the need to use in a sustainable manner all sources of water (rainwater, seawater, groundwater, storm water and treated sewage effluent). Unfortunately many reports have been written but it is clear that there is no political will to move forward.