Farmers with fields in Żabbar and Xgħajra are running out of water due to unfinished upgrading work on pipes supplying them with recycled water.

The farmers are worried that with summer just around the corner, they will not have enough water for irrigation during the hotter months.

Over 25 full-time and many other part-time farmers have invested thousands of euros in new crops but are now risking losing the investment, right before the hot summer season.

A spokesman for the Water Services Corporation promised that the pipework will be completed as soon as this week.

The farmers had already faced the same predicament last year as a result of concurrent work on reservoirs. They said the situation was the result of the simultaneous closure of supply from the three reservoirs in Żabbar (San Anard), Marsascala (Tal-Bidni) and Xgħajra (Milord).

This, they said, was seriously prejudicing water supply to their fields.

On that occasion, then minister for water and resources Joe Mizzi had told them that the simultaneous closure was the EU’s fault as they wanted the projects on two of the reservoirs to run concurrently.

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Fast forward a year and the farmers have been without new water for irrigation for two months. They are having to fork out €50 a week to fill up their wells.

“We already face difficulties in selling our produce, due to competition from abroad... all we need is this,” one farmer told Times of Malta.

“I’ve been without water for two months and have to get a bowser of water every week, resulting in an extra financial burden, especially during these times when our work was severely affected by the pandemic.”

The water services spokesman said new water distribution towards St Leonard Fort had been temporarily halted due to repairs.

“They should be completed in a couple of weeks. Water through the ‘old’ open channel systems will resume soon after, that” he said.

He explained that work to expand and modernise the corporation’s ‘new water’ system was also under way. Once this project was completed, farmers in the south would be able to extract new water via card-accessible distribution points.

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The project in the south involves the rehabilitation of five large reservoirs.

Some 40 kilometres of dedicated pipes are being laid to supply thousands of cubic metres per day of high-quality water to farmers in the areas of Marsaxlokk, Żejtun, Marsascala, Xgħajra, Żabbar and Kalkara.

New water is high-quality, second-class water, resulting in farmers achieving higher yields and longer-lasting crops, mainly because the water does not contain salinity. This water is produced through polishing plants built within the sewage treatment plants at Ras il-Ħobż, Gozo, Ic-Ċumnija, in Mellieħa, and Ta’ Barkat, in Xgħajra.

This project, expected to be completed next year, is partly financed by the EU and will help better manage the aquifer.

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