RO consumes 4% of Malta’s electricity, says new group

Reverse-osmosis desalination plants consume almost 4% of Malta’s electricity supply, according to a statement from the newly-formed Malta Water Association (MWA) on 22 March 2011. The group, made up of hydrologists, engineers and other water experts, warned that urgent action is needed to protect Malta’s water resources, which “are among the scarcest in the world and under severe stress.”

Malta is increasingly relying on desalination, which accounts for 56% of the country’s water supply, according to statistics issued by the National Office of Statistics (NSO).

The MWA notes that, with annual rainfall of 559 mm and a high population density, Malta can only provide 58 m³ of water per person. The European Union considers any country with less than 2,000 m³ per capita as having “very low” water resources.

Private exploitation of groundwater is unquantified, but estimated at 22 million m³, according to Malta Today. However, NSO statistics show that a 31% decline in groundwater extraction by the Water Services Corporation in the past decade.

This decrease is attributed to increasing salinity, with groundwater having to be blended with desalinated water for consumption. Natural aquifers also suffer nitrate pollution due to fertilizers, leakage from the sewage network and waste from animal farms.

Reversing this unsustainable trend would require “difficult decisions”, but any measures would only work if the population was informed and encouraged to play its part, the MWA says. It wants to encourage rainwater harvesting techniques, such as household water cisterns.