The Malta Independent 21 April 2024, Sunday
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Groundwater – a necessary call to action

Alicia Bugeja Said Sunday, 3 March 2024, 08:26 Last update: about 3 months ago

Water is a fundamental necessity for all living things, as it plays a crucial role in sustaining ecosystems, supporting agriculture, and ensuring human health and well-being.

Among the various sources of water, groundwater holds a special significance due to its accessibility and reliability. However, the availability of potable groundwater is increasingly under threat, emphasizing the urgent need for preservation efforts. This is all the more applicable for a small island nation like Malta. Earlier this month, while I was addressing the House of Representatives, I noted how this lack of clean water, is something that our farmers have to deal with on a daily basis. Currently, around 83% of all water used for our fields and our farm animals, originates from our water table.

It is for this reason, that in the latest green paper, the Government is proposing among other things, that all farmers in Malta and Gozo be allocated specific quotas, in which they can continue to receive natural water according to their farming needs,and without any burdensome costs attached to them.

Simultaneously, the Government is looking to introduce reasonable tariffs for those using this precious resource for domestic or commercial reasons. This will help incentivise non-agriculture users to look for existing alternatives, while ensuring the sustainability of this national resource.

This scheme is only the tip of the iceberg. A massive project is currently underway, in which access towards our existing New Water network will reach 350 additional farmers in the south and south-east of Malta. This €25 million outlay also includes the efforts underway in strengthening the existing infrastructure. In the next few months, a total of 12 kilometeres in new piping will be installed, while New Water production is expected to increase by 6,000 cubic metres daily.

Such investments are all the more needed when one considers the state of our current water resources. The latest information gathered from the Energy and Water Agency (EWA), establishes that, in a number of different locations around Malta and Gozo, the amount of natural potable water is considerably less than what was calculated in years prior.

The importance of these policy changes and initiatives, therefore, cannot possibly be overstated.

Access to safe drinking water is not only a basic human right but also a cornerstone of socio-economic development. Water plays a crucial role in supporting agriculture, serving as a primary source of irrigation for crops. In regions where surface water supplies are limited or erratic, groundwater irrigation can be a lifeline for farmers, ensuring food security and livelihoods. Additionally, many ecosystems depend on groundwater to maintain streamflow, wetlands, and habitat for aquatic life.

Despite its significance, potable groundwater faces numerous threats that jeopardize its quality and abundance. Over-extraction, pollution from industrial activities, agricultural runoff, and improper waste disposal are among the leading causes of groundwater contamination. Once polluted, restoring groundwater quality can be challenging and costly, often requiring long-term remediation efforts.

Climate change further exacerbates the challenges associated with groundwater preservation. Malta is already facing prolonged seasons of drought, and this lack of rainwater replenishing our natural reserves leads to excessive pumping of groundwater. In turn, this depletes reserves signficantly faster than they can be replenished.

Preserving potable groundwater is not only a matter of environmental stewardship but also a necessity for ensuring the well-being and prosperity of present and future generations.

By adopting proactive conservation measures and prioritizing sustainable water management practices, we can preserve this precious national resource and secure a more resilient future for all.

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