Water. It’s everywhere. As a country with clean water supply all around the archipelago, it’s easy to take it for granted. But the current situation for our groundwater is anything but refreshing.
The Maltese islands have 18 main groundwater bodies. Sixteen of these qualify as having a ‘good environmental status’ when it comes to the sheer quantity of water in them. Put simply, this means that overall there is more water poured into the aquifer than sipped out of it.
The two groundwater bodies that suffer from a ‘poor’ status happen to be the main aquifers that are used for water production. In 2011, Water Services Corporation (WSC) extracted a splashing 11,200,000 m³ of water from the Maltese Mean Sea Level Aquifer alone. In that same year, another 10,500,000m3 was extracted for agricultural, commercial and industrial use.
What really strains our underground water are illegal bore holes and lack of regulation of water use
Altogether, this amounted to a net balance of -3,450,000m3. The ‘negative’ sign preceding that value has persisted throughout the years. Put simple, we’re sucking up too much water.
Technology has allowed us to rely on alternative sources. Our current main method of obtaining potable water is through the use of reverse osmosis. In the WSC’s 2017 annual report, 57 per cent of the water they produced came from reverse osmosis. Undeniably, this filtering gizmo can take off a lot of pressure from our groundwater, but it comes at a cost. It is estimated that 3.7 per cent of all electricity produced in the country is used solely for reverse osmosis – leading to high prices and more pollution.
The use of reverse osmosis helps the situation, but it’s not enough. Malta has one of the highest population densities in the world, which adds pressure on the water table as we all need to drink water and clean our dishes, and we all love a long shower. But what really strains our underground water are illegal bore holes and the lack of regulation of water use by industry. Enforcement is lacking and the Maltese islands still do not discuss the major water problem. We all need to make a fuss about water, the fate of which lies in our hands… or buckets!
Gail Sant has completed a Jobs+ Work Placement Scheme with Think Magazine www.um.edu.mt/think
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