Saturday, 23 March 2013

World Water Day Should be a Wake Up Call

Water is a basic right. It is so because without water people would die. We take it so for granted: you turn on a tap and there is water; we do not often think about how that water came to be in our household, or the complex system behind it. 
If someone wastes water, they are not just wasting their own but they are taking from water which could be used by others. We believe in limiting water usage by individuals and companies because water is a right only for basic use- additional usage is a commodity as it is so limited. However, we should not just limit usage but extend rainfall water catchment. 
Malta should implement a sustainable water catchment plan that also takes into consideration valleys and roads. Pipe systems need to be built or extended and more reservoirs are needed. Each time it rains, precious water is lost. This is especially so during storms, where not only is water lost, but destruction due to its free flowing in the streets is abundant . 
Moreover, 30% of Maltese groundwater bodies are ‘at risk’ and this is due to excessive groundwater abstraction. The solution suggested by the EU was multifaceted; some of the points include: putting a price tag on groundwater (that applies to everyone), more efficient distribution and application of resources (financial, infrastructural and human), fostering an emergence of a water-saving culture and efficient technologies and practices. So far Malta has not followed any of these suggestions.
The water framework directive was transposed into Maltese legislation with the aim of achieving a ‘good status’ for our ground water by 2015. This date was set back to 2027, as it was deemed impossible to reduce salinity and nitrate levels to an acceptable level by then.
Having said that, there are still to this day 3,500 registered boreholes extracting water ad libitum from our aquifers. The installation of meters should be reaching an end next May, after which another year of monitoring needs to be done before quotas are drafted. There are no concrete plans for possible pricing of the water used from boreholes. This is particularly shameful when seen in the context of an arid country which relies mostly on reverse-osmosis plants, with the common family paying hefty water bills. Anyone using a legal (or illegal) borehole gets their water for free, so they have no incentive for cutting down on use. We hope that World Water Day will serve as a reminder to all stakeholders that water is a finite resource, and the current situation needs our urgent attention.
Water is precious, and like all things precious its use should be protected. The 22nd of March should be a wakeup call for everyone to realize the importance of water, and we hope that this long overdue realization will be followed by action

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