Is Malta running out of natural freshwater?

17th March 2021

What many people might not realise is that natural freshwater is a very scarce resource around the world, but especially here in Malta. In fact, Malta has the lowest natural freshwater availability per capita of all the European Union (EU) Member States and places in the top 10 water scarce countries in the world! Malta’s levels of natural freshwater resources are below the manageable capability for the country’s sustainable development.

Why is natural freshwater scarce locally?

Malta has a very high population density, coupled with high numbers of tourists visiting the Maltese Islands (under ‘normal’ circumstances) and the arid Mediterranean climate with long dry summers and mild wet winters, all puts increasing pressure on the local water resources.

Are there any natural freshwater resources in Malta?

There are a few surface-water systems across the Maltese Islands, found in valleys, streams and ponds. The level of water level varies throughout the year and is crucial to sustain endemic ecosystems surrounding these water sources. However, the main resource of natural freshwater is groundwater, found beneath the ground surface. Groundwater is formed when water filters through the pores of the rocks and collects under the surface in water tables. This source of water is very vulnerable to pollution from the surface due to human activities.

Natural freshwater

Is it possible to run out of water?

Three-quarters of the world’s surface is covered by water, however 97.5% of earth’s water is salt water, and the remaining 2.5% of water is mostly frozen in glaciers or under the earth’s surface as ground water. Only one-hundredth of 1% of the world’s water is readily available for us to use.

Unfortunately, Malta has no lakes or rivers for natural freshwater and the groundwater is finite! The water table from where groundwater is taken needs time to replenish, however with the reduction in rainfall is worsening the problem.

Are there any other sources of freshwater in Malta?

Besides the groundwater, Malta’s freshwater supply also comes from desalinated seawater, rainwater runoff and reclaimed water (by treating wastewater). These sources are used for different purposes as they are of different quality. Drinking water is produced from ground water and desalinated water, whilst water for agriculture and industry are from groundwater, reclaimed water and rainwater runoff.

What can we all do to save water?

We’d love to help guide you on this! Over the coming weeks, here at the Malta Sustainability Forum, we’ll be sharing tips on how to save water throughout your home and daily life. Follow us for more! In the meantime, check out water.org.mt for a lot more information on this topic.

(Source: water.org.mt).