The government is once again setting a deadline for the enforcement of a law on energy efficiency and reservoirs in buildings that has been ignored for several years.

One of the measures listed in the pre-Budget document states that all new residential and industrial developments must include a water reservoir proportionate with the building's size from January 2011.

"While the legislation for this measure already exists, it has, so far, been largely ignored. This situation will not be allowed to continue and the executive powers to enforce such legislation will be vested in the appropriate government entity," the pre-Budget document goes on.

According to the Resources Ministry, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority is meant to enforce energy efficiency laws related to buildings introduced in 2007.

However, with the Mepa reform, this responsibility will be passed on to the new Building Regulation Office, which will be given more powers to enforce and monitor the regulations.

The pre-Budget document points out that property developers are constantly trying to cut costs and maximise profits, at the expense of those who end up buying the properties.

"Tenants, who are usually not very well informed about energy-efficiency, end up footing the bills for the lack of resource-usage efficiency and face higher costs to retrofit than would otherwise have been the case had such items been embedded during the undertaking of the construction project. This is an area that the government would like to tackle."

Very few modern apartments have the facility of collecting rainwater, particularly because of maintenance inconvenience and ownership issues.

Even owners of many terraced and detached houses are more likely to opt for a garage or basement instead of investing in a cistern.

The lack of wells or cisterns contributes to the flooding problem because instead of finding its way into reservoirs, rainwater continues to flow to the streets, contributing to the overflowing of the sewage systems.

According to engineer and hydrologist Marco Cremona, the law must be enforced because Malta is so dependent on rainwater.

"If there is some form of disaster that halts our reverse osmosis plant, we will only have around two days of fresh water reserves."

He believes the government should consider providing subsidies to build wells, because in the long-run it will save money that would otherwise have to be spent on maintaining the flood protection system or subsidising the mains supply.

The best thing about storing rainwater is that it is clean and can be used immediately at source, without the need to treat it or transport it, he said, adding that a large percentage of treated water was lost during transportation.

He said that families could use up to 40 per cent of their daily water requirements from a reservoir.

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