Malta’s water resources are among the scarcest in the world and under severe stress, according to the newly formed Malta Water Association.

The association, launched yesterday, World Water Day, pointed out that, while the EU considered any country having less than 2,000 cubic metres of water per capita a year as having “very low” water resources, Malta had only 58 cubic metres of water per person every year.

The scarcity, the association said, was due to Malta’s small catchment area, an average annual rainfall of about 550mm, representative of a semi-arid climate, and a high population density.

“Over-exploitation of the groundwater reserves has taken place over decades and continues today well above the natural recharge by rainwater,” the association said. Consequently, the water resource was diminishing and undergoing invasion by seawater. At the same time, the natural aquifers suffered nitrate pollution from fertilisers, leakage from the sewage network and waste from animal farms.

The island was becoming increasingly dependent on energy-intensive seawater desalination for the production of potable water. On top of this, there was an acute lack of appreciation of the value of naturally occurring freshwater resources with neglect of traditional, highly effective rainfall harvesting solutions (such as the construction of water cisterns). This meant the country routinely experienced flooding whenever it rained in winter and suffered from water scarcity in summer.

“Unfortunately, water is only on the national agenda when there is a big storm,” said the association, made up of a number of Maltese experts.

In an activity at St George’s Square in Valletta, schoolchildren symbolically poured water, coming from the aqueduct near which their 15 schools lie, into the fountain to make it work.

The students wore T-shirts with the words Catch The Drop, made from eco-friendly materials and produced by EFIE, a Young Enterprise company.

Resources and Rural Affairs Minister George Pullicino, who attended the event, encouraged the children not to waste a drop, telling them that, if they left the water running when brushing their teeth, every person would waste about 40 gallons a year.

Everybody needed to be active to look after this resource, he stressed.

SOS Malta launched a virtual walk called Malta Walks For Water to raise funds to help provide sustainable clean water to schools and villages in Uganda. To join in visit www.maltawalksforwater.org.

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