Project will give a quality of tap water equal to Nordic countries – Minister

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Project will give a quality of tap water equal to Nordic countries - MinisterThe Water Services Corporation has announced a call for tenders in relation to a €100 million project, to be implemented in phases over the next four years.

Minister for Energy and Water, Joe Mizzi, said this project will lead to “a quality of tap water that will equal that of Nordic countries.” It will also to a “considerable improvement in the service being provided to consumers and also in the sustainable management of Malta’s aquifers,” the Corporation said.

The Corporation’s CEO Richard Bilocca said that apart from 45 kilometres of new mains, the project will undertake radical changes in the processing of potable water reaching households.

The first phase is in Siggiewi, Zebbug and Qrendi, which will be will be the first of three, is expected to take around 18 months.

In a statement on Saturday, the Water Services Corporation and the Energy and Water Agency note gave details on Malta’s aquifer systems and presented a comprehensive overview of the water management framework in Malta.

It said that Malta published its 2nd Water Catchment Management Plan, a national water management plan which outlines the roadmap for the achievement of the environmental objectives of the EU’s Water Framework Directive in 2016. It is an official government document which was also submitted to the EU Commission, the Corporation said.

These objectives include the achievement of good groundwater quantitative status, namely that groundwater abstraction falls below the mean annual recharge.

The Implementation of the national plan is being backed by a €17 million EU funded project from the EU’s LIFE programme.

The Corporation stated that the 2nd Water Catchment Management Plan, “confirms the existence of over-abstraction in the two main aquifer systems in the Maltese islands.”

It added that this plan also includes a Programme of Measures which outlines the actions which are to be undertaken by the Government during the period 2016-2021 to address groundwater over-abstraction and hence ensure a sustainable use of water resources in the future.

These measures, the Corporation said, “includes initiatives such as the development of a national water conservation campaign, incentive schemes for operators in the agricultural sector to better manage their water use, the new water programme, the rehabilitation of water catchment areas in valleys and the introduction of new practices such as managed aquifer recharge schemes.”

Flow meters have been installed on practically all legal (registered) groundwater boreholes, the Corporation said. “These flow meters are also fitted with automated metering modules which transmit abstraction data to a central database.”

Data on groundwater abstraction by the agricultural sector is therefore being collected and monitored.

The Corporation noted, that with the collaboration of the Department of Agriculture, this data is being analysed so that “cases of misuse can be identified and farmers given advice on how to optimise their water use.”

According to the Corporation, the results of the borehole metering programme have shown that the actual groundwater abstraction levels of the agricultural sector are “significantly lower than the estimated potential water demand obtained through statistical projections.”

This is a reasonable result, given the investments undertaken in recent years by the agricultural sector in water-efficient irrigation technologies such as drip irrigation.

“All cases of illegal groundwater abstraction sources reported to the authorities are followed through the provisions of the relative legislation,” the Corporation said. “These include administrative fines, the closure of the borehole and referral to court should the illegalities persist,” it added.

The WSC concluded by saying that, “not only is groundwater abstraction being monitored, important data is being gathered to adopt a holistic approach, an alternative to farmers is being given through ‘New Water,’ and all WSC boreholes will be managed through an advanced automated system that will ensure that each specific borehole is sustainably managed.”

Photograph: WSC

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