Water Services dismisses claims of absence of national water plan

The management plan led by the Energy and Water Agency outlines the roadmap to fulfil the 2016 EU Water Framework Directive’s objectives, which requires that abstraction of groundwater from the water table falls below the mean annual recharge level of the aquifers

The Water Services Corporation has dismissed claims of not having a national water plan, in a reaction to media reports criticising the state of Malta’s aquifer systems.

The WSC was referring to the second Water Catchment Management Plan presented by energy minister Joe Mizzi earlier on Wednesday.

The management plan outlines the roadmap to fulfil the 2016 EU Water Framework Directive’s objectives, which requires that abstraction of groundwater from the water table falls below the mean annual recharge level of the aquifers.

On Wednesday, Mizzi told the launch of the LIFE IP conference that the national water plan will include the upgrade of the WSC’s operational capacity to develop a new water resource that can address the demands of agricultural and commercial sectors, as well as a national water conservation campaign addressing consumers in these sectors and optimising the national hydrological and environmental monitoring capacity.

The Water Catchment Management Plan is backed by an integrated project from the LIFE programme led by the Energy and Water Agency. The project is worth €17 million – €10.2 million of which are EU funds, Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds Aaron Farrugia revealed on Wednesday.

The plan will lead to considerable improvement in management of Malta’s aquifers: as groundwater abstraction is being monitored, important data is also being gathered, while an alternative to farmers is being provided and WSC boreholes will be managed through an advanced automated system.

The initiatives will receive investment exceeding €150 million in the national water sector, with the primary aim of improving the resilience of the water sector.

The management plan, which has been submitted to the European Commission, confirms the existence of over-abstraction in the two main aquifer systems in the Maltese islands.

The WSC said that it also includes an outline of measures to be taken for the period 2016-2021 to address over-abstraction and ensure a sustainable use of water resources in the future.

These include incentive schemes for farmers to better manage water use, the rehabilitation of water catchment areas in valleys, as well as the introduction of new practices such as managed aquifer recharge schemes.

The WSC said that flow meters have been installed on all groundwater boreholes, and that data on groundwater abstraction by the agricultural sector is being collected and monitored. “Cases of illegal groundwater abstraction sources reported to the authorities are followed through the provisions of the relative legislation,” the WSC said.

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