Harvesting rainwater


At the time of writing the average rainfall in Malta from 1st September 2014 to date is recorded at 442.4 mm. The actual rainfall varies from a high of 529.6mm recorded at Selmun to a low of 373.7mm noted at Valletta. With still some months to go, it seems that precipitation in the Maltese islands during the current year will shortly exceed the average annual precipitation of 553.12mm, computed by Charles Galdies in his National Statistics Office publication entitled The Climate of Malta: statistics, trends and analysis 1951-2010. It will however be far short of 955.62mm, the maximum recorded precipitation in Malta which was recorded at Luqa Airport in 1951.

Since 1880, legislation in Malta has specifically provided for the construction of water cisterns in buildings, primarily residential ones. The dimensions of these water cisterns varied over time. Originally they were related to the floor area of the residential building. Recently, the required volume was reduced to be related to the footprint of the building.

These regulatory provisions are however more honoured in the breach, even when reduced. This is not a recent phenomenon. Regulatory control in Malta has been in decline since the 1960s building boom.

Instead of being collected in rainwater cisterns, in an ever increasing number of cases, rainwater is discharged directly onto our roads, or else into the public sewers. As a result, navigating some of our roads during or immediately after heavy rainfall is a dangerous exercise.

This is a case of water literally going down the drain. Large volumes of storm water, which can be utilised for various purposes, are being wasted. Much has been written about the potential use of harvested rainwater. Its use domestically can substantially reduce water bills.

It is also an issue of civil protection. Large quantities of rainwater in our streets, at times moving at an excessive velocity, are a danger to life and limb. Fortunately, it is very rare for people to lose their life in storms in Malta, but damage to property is a more frequent occurrence.

When rainwater is discharged into our overburdened public sewers, not only does the water overflow onto our streets, but it also increases the costs of sewage purification unnecessarily. These costs are recovered through our water bills. Hence, in the end, we all pay the costs of this abuse, irrespective of whether we are participants or not.

The major culprits are a substantial portion of the developers of blocks of flats and maisonettes. The government, directly, as well as through its agencies, has also been responsible for the development of housing estates without providing for rainwater harvesting.

In particular, it is common knowledge that in cases where basement or semi-basement garages are constructed, the duty to provide for rainwater harvesting is very rarely complied with. Since 1992, MEPA has been responsible for determining and ensuring the observance of the conditions of development permits, which in most cases, specify the required capacity of a rainwater cistern.

The Water Services Corporation (WSC) has during the last years, taken over the responsibility for the management of the public sewers from the former Drainage Department. This responsibility includes authorising owners of newly- constructed properties to connect the drains with the public sewer.

Is the WSC verifying that it is only the drains that are connected and, in particular, that rainwater pipes are not connected to the public sewer too? The obvious answer is provided by our streets on a rainy day. No one is bothering to check what is connected to the public sewer . This leads to the conclusion that, while the culprit for the present state of affairs is the building industry as, more often than not, it does not provide for rainwater storage in new developments, it is not the only one to blame. The authorities and government departments must take a substantial share of the blame for not shouldering their regulatory responsibilities. They could have stopped the abuse, but they did not.

A number of areas are practically out of bounds whenever heavy or continuous rainfall hits the Maltese islands. This is a source of danger and, in fact, the Civil Protection Department is heavily involved in assisting residents or motorists who are trapped as a result of flooding. The Birkirkara local council had, some years back installed a storm warning system to alert residents and passers-by that, “danger was on the way”! Public authorities in Malta, unfortunately, have developed the habit of dealing with the effects but continuously ignore the cause of flooding!

Monies made available by the EU have been used to fund a project for the construction of underground tunnels through which it is planned to collect rainwater from our streets and roads and to discharge most of the collected storm water into the sea.

The EU funds utilised in the construction of these tunnels have been utilised to squander a very precious resource. European taxpayers’ monies too have been flushed down the drain. They could have been put to a much better use if they had been applied to address the lack of adequate rainwater harvesting in our towns and villages.

We have been inundated with political speeches lauding sustainability and sustainable development. However, when push comes to shove, it is more than amply clear that this is just a case of some Members of Parliament showing off a newly-acquired vocabulary they have not yet understood. In 2015, Malta still lacks a sustainable water policy.

Published in the Malta Independent on Sunday : 22 February 2015

Snippets from AD’s electoral manifesto: (1) Corporate Social Responsibility


The following extract is taken verbatim from Chapter 14 of AD’s Electoral Manifesto

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
In today’s world various organisations publish reports on a regular basis in which they list their impacts primarily on the community in which they operate.
In Malta only two companies do so, Bank of Valletta and Vodafone. To date they have published two editions of their reports. Each of these publications is of a positive nature but in every case there is room for improvement both in the policy direction as well as in content.
It is necessary that all companies listed on the Stock Exchange as well as parastatal organisations such as Enemalta and the Water Services Corporation together with all companies employing more than 1000 employees publish such information. It is important to underline that environmental reporting is as important as financial reporting and hence it should also be audited.

L-estratt segwenti hu mehud kelma b’kelma mill-Manifest Elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika (Kaptlu 14)

Responsabbiltà Soċjali tal-Industrija u n-Negozju (CSR)
Fid-dinja tal-lum huma diversi l-organizzazzjonijiet li jippubblikaw fuq bażi regolari rapporti li fihom jelenkaw f’dettall l-impatti tagħhom prinċipalment (iżda mhux biss) fuq il-komunità fejn joperaw.
F’Malta huma żewg kumpaniji biss li jagħmlu dand: il-Bank of Valletta u Vodafone. S’issa ppubblikaw żewg edizzjonijiet tar-rapporti tagħhom. Kull wieħed minn dawn il-pubblikazzjonijiet hu ta’ kontribut pożittiv imma f’kull każ hemm lok għal titjib kemm fid-direzzjoni politika kif ukoll fil-kontenut tar-rapport.
Huwa neċessarju li dan ikun estiż għall-kumpaniji kollha elenkati fil-Borża kif ukoll għall-Korpi Parastatali bħall-Enemalta u l-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma flimkien ma’ dawk il-kumpaniji fis-settur privat li jimpjegaw iktar minn 1,000 ruħ. Huwa importanti li jkun sottolineat li r-rappurtaġġ ambjentali huwa importanti daqs dak finanzjarju u għaldaqstant għandu jkun ukoll soġġett għal proċess tal-verifika.

The risk of failure stares us in the face

The United Nations Environment Programme is one of the success stories of the 1972 UN Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. Through its Mediterranean Action Programme, UNEP successfully brought together the states bordering the Mediterranean. In 1976, they signed the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution.

Malta signed the convention and a number of protocols, among which a 1980 protocol against pollution from land-based sources and activities, known as the LBS Protocol. One of the commitments that Malta entered into in the 1980s was to ensure that sewage should be treated before being discharged into the sea.

Malta was not in a position to honour its LBS Protocol commitments as the finance required to carry out the infrastructural development was not available. It was only as a result of EU accession that such funds were made available for the Xgħajra and the Gozo plants. (Funds through the Italian protocol were used to construct the Mellieħa plant.) This has come about because, in 1991, the EU adopted its Urban Wastewater Directive, which Malta had to implement on EU accession.

Notwithstanding the availability of EU finance, it was only in 2011, when the third sewage purification plant at Ta’ Barkat Xgħajra was commissioned, that Malta finally came in line with the EU Urban Wastewater Directive. This is clearly evidenced by the latest positive results on the quality of bathing waters along Malta’s coast. The waters off Wied Għammieq/Xgħajra, site of the sewage outfall for over 75 per cent of Malta’s sewage, have registered the most notable quality improvement.

While recognising that Malta has honoured long-standing commitments, it is unfortunate that the long wait was not utilised to identify possible uses of recycled sewage on the basis of which the available EU finance would have yielded long-term benefits. Lessons learnt from the Sant’Antnin sewage purification plant at Marsascala seem to have been ignored.

The sewage purification plants have been designed as an end-of-pipe solution. Situated at the point of discharge into the sea, the whole infrastructure is based on the wrong assumption that sewage is waste. Its potential as a resource was ignored at the drawing board. In fact, I remember quite clearly the statement issued by the Water Services Corporation in the summer of 2008 in reply to prodding by Alternattiva Demokratika. WSC had then derided AD and stated that the treated sewage effluent had no economic value.

Since then we have witnessed a policy metamorphosis. Water policy has slowly changed to accept the obvious and unavoidable fact that sewage is a resource that should be fully utilised. During the inauguration ceremony of the sewage purification plant at Il-Qammiegħ Mellieħa, Minister Austin Gatt had indicated that the possible use of recycled sewage would be studied.

The decision to study the matter had been taken when the design of the infrastructure was long determined. At that point, provision for the transfer of the recycled sewage from the point of treatment to the point of potential use was not factored in. Substantial additional expenditure would be required for this purpose. This is a clear case of gross mismanagement of public funds, including EU funds.

It has been recently announced that a pilot project is in hand to examine the impacts of recharging the aquifer with treated sewage effluent. This pilot project was listed in the First Water Catchment Management Plan for the Maltese Islands as one of three measures submitted to the EU in 2011 in line with the requirements of the Water Framework Directive. The other two measures are the efficient use of water in the domestic sector and using treated sewage effluent as a source of second class water.

AD agrees that a successful pilot project on recharging the aquifer could lead to a long-term sustainable solution of the management of water resources in Malta. This is, however, dependent on the nature of the liquid waste discharged into the public sewer. I am informed that tests which have been going on for some time at the WSC pilot plant at Bulebel industrial estate have revealed specific chemicals that are being discharged into the public sewer and which are proving difficult to remove from the treated sewage effluent.

The successful use of treated sewage effluent for a multitude of uses, including recharging the aquifer, is ultimately dependent on a tough enforcement policy ensuring that only permissible liquid waste is discharged into the public sewers. Recharging the aquifer with treated sewage effluent while technically possible is very risky. On the basis of past performance, enforcement is an aspect where the risk of failure stares us in the face!

The technical possibilities to address the water problem are available. What’s lacking is the capability of the authorities to enforce the law. I look forward to the time when they will develop their teeth and muscles. Only then will the risk be manageable.


Published in The Times of Malta, June 16, 2012 : Risk of failure staring at us

Water Sustainability ………… Sostenibilta tal-Ilma

World Environment Day: Water Sustainability a most pressing issue in Malta

In a press conference held in front of the Malta Resources Authority, Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party said that water sustainability is a most pressing issue in Malta.

Michael Briguglio, AD Chairperson, said: “There are various important environmental issues in Malta, including air pollution, noise pollution, rampant construction and waste management. Like such issues, water sustainability deserves top prioritization in Malta’s environmental, economic and social policies”.

“Malta is one of the driest countries in the world, yet sustainable use of water does not yet seem to be a national priority.  We are in a situation where the majority pay their utility bills, whilst others steal water from boreholes. The water issue is ultimately an issue of environmental justice, social justice and economic good-sense. How could it be that we are treating such a scarce resource as if we have unlimited supply of it?”

Malta has mismanaged its water resources for far too long. Focusing on the potential use of recycled Treated Sewage Effluent Carmel Cacopardo AD Deputy Chairman and Spokesman on Sustainable Development and Home Affairs said that the infrastructure for sewage treatment was designed on the basis of the misconception that treated sewage had no economic value. As a result the 24 million cubic metres of treated sewage (estimated data for  2011 : 21,858,000 cm for Malta and 1,982,000 cm for Gozo, excluding rainwater in sewers during the rainy season) so far are being discharged into the sea. Simultaneously 29 million cubic metres of water are produced annually (56% by RO and 44% extracted from the water table).

The recently announced change of policy as a result of which it is envisaged that Treated Sewage Effluent is utilised for various purposes is a positive step.  However it is imperative that TSE of the right quality is available the soonest in order that boreholes all over the country are sealed up after sufficient water of the appropriate quality is available for both agriculture and industry. This said Carmel Cacopardo could lead to a much needed resting time for  the water table.

Last month the Prime Minister announced that a pilot project was in hand in order to examine the impacts of recharging the aquifer with Treated Sewage Effluent.  AD, said Carmel Cacopardo notes that a successful pilot project could lead to a long term sustainable solution to the management of water resources in Malta. This however, he added is not without its pitfalls as it is dependent on a tough enforcement policy ensuring that only permissible liquid waste is discharged into the public sewer.

AD has earlier this week met with Malta Resources Authority officials who confirmed that this is still a major sticking point.

Finally Carmel Cacopardo pointed out that Water Services Corporation has produced a “ (Master) Plan for the Use of Treated Sewage Effluent for the maltese Islands. A National  Reclamation project.” Dated May 2009 this Masterplan has been made public earlier this year in Parliament.  AD, stated Cacopardo, queries why this Masterplan has not been subject to a public consultation and being examined in terms of the Strategic Environment Assessement Directive of the EU.

Jum Dinji tal-Ambjent: Sostenibbilta tal-Ilma l-aktar kwistjoni urgenti f’Malta – AD

F’konferenza stampa li saret quddiem l-ufficini tal-Awtorita’ Maltija tar-Rizorsi, Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party qalet li s-sostenibbilita’ tal-ilma hija l-aktar kwistjoni urgenti f’Malta.

Michael Briguglio, ic-Chairperson tal-AD, qal: “Hemm diversi kwistjonijiet ambjentali importanti f’Malta, inkluz it-tniggiz ta’ l-arja, tniggiz akustiku, il-kostruzzjoni rampanti u l-gestjoni tal-iskart. Bhal dawn il-kwistjonijiet, is-sostenibbilta’ tal-ilma jisthoqqa prijorita’ gholja fil-politika ambjentali, ekonomika u socjali ta’ Malta.”

“Malta hi wahda mill-iktar pajjizi niexfa fid-dinja, izda il-politika sostenibbli dwar l-ilma mhux qed tinghata. Qeghdin f’sitwazzjoni fejn il-maġġoranza tal-poplu jħallsu l-kontijiet tad-dawl u l-ilma, waqt li ohrajn jisirqu l-ilma li jiġi mill-boreholes. Il-kwistjoni ta’ l-ilma hi wahda ta’ gustizzja ambjentali, gustizzja socjali u sens tajjeb ekonomiku. Kif jista’ jkun li rizorsa hekk skarsa qed tigi trattata qisha xi wahda bi provvista bla limitu?”

Malta ma haditx hsieb ir-rizorsi taghha tal-ilma ghal zmien twil. Huwa u jiffoka fuq il-potenzjal ghall-uzu tad-drenagg ippurifikat,  Carmel Cacopardo, Vici Chairman u Kelliemi ta’ AD ghall-Izvilupp Sostenibbli u l-Intern qal: “l-infrastruttura ghat-trattament tad-drenagg kienet iddisinjata fuq l-impressjoni zbaljata li dan l-ilma hekk prodott ma kellux valur ekonomiku. Bhala rizultat ta’ dan 24 miljunmetru kubu ta’ drenagg ippurifikat (stima ghall-2011: 21,858,000 mk ghal Malta u 1,982,000 ghal Ghawdex, apparti l-ilma tax-xita fid-drenagg meta taghmel ix-xita) s’issa qed jintefa l-bahar. Fl-istess hin 29 miljun metru kubu ta’ ilma qed ikunu prodotti kull sena (56% bl-RO u  44% estratt mill-pjan).”

“It-tibdil recenti fil-politika tal-Gvern li bhala rizultat taghha nistennew li d-drenagg riciklat ikun utilizzat ghal skopijiet diversi huwa pass pozittiv. Imma huwa essenzjali li ilma riciklat ta’ kwalita tajba ikun prodott mill-iktar fis biex ikun possibli li jinghalqu l-boreholes kollha wara li jkun hemm bizzejjed ilma ta’ kwalita’ ghall-agrikultura u l-industrija.  Dan, qal Carmel Cacopardo jista’ jwassal ghas-serhan tant mehtieg tal-ilma tal-pjan.”

“Ix-xahar li ghadda l-Prim Ministru habbar li progett pilot kien qed jezamina l-impatti li jirrizultaw jekk l-ilma tal-pjan ikun rikarikat b’ilma riciklat mid-drenagg. Alternattiva Demokratika tinnota li jekk dan il-progett pilota jirnexxi dan ikun jista’ jwassal ghal soluzzjoni sostenibbli u fit-tul tal-immanigjar tar-rizorsi tal-ilma f’Malta.  Dan imma, zied jghid, irid jiffaccja diffikultajiet kbar, principalment il-htiega ta’ id tal-hadid biex jigi assigurat li fid-drenagg  jinxtehet biss skart likwidu permissibli. “

“Alternattiva Demokratika iktar kmieni din il-gimgha iltaqghet ma ufficjali tal-Awtorita’ Maltija tar-Rizorsi li ikkonfermaw li din id-diffikulta ghadha ma gietx meghluba.”

Fl-ahhar nett  Carmel Cacopardo gibed l-attenzjoni li l-Korporazzjoni tas-Servizzi tal-Ilma ipproduciet  ‘(Master) Plan for the Use of Treated Sewage Effluent for the Maltese Islands. A National  Reclamation project’. Datat Mejju 2009 dan il-pjan kien ippubblikat fil-Parlament iktar kmieni din is-sena. Alternattiva Demokratika, qal Cacopardo, tistaqsi l-ghaliex dan il-pjan ma kienx soggett ghal konsultazzjoni pubblika kif ukoll ghaliex ma giex ezaminat ai termini tal-iStrategic Environment Assessement Directive tal-Unjoni Ewropea.

L-ilma mormi l-baħar







Il-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma (KSI) taħseb li d-drenaġġ ippurifikat m’għandux valur ekonomiku. Ħadd ma jrid iħallas għalih. Jidher li għalhekk hemm l-arranġament li l-ilma msoffi jispiċċa l-baħar.


Dan huwa riżultat tal-inkompetenza tal-awtoritajiet li ħallew aċċess inkontrollat għall-ilma tal-pjan permezz ta’ boreholes illegali mifruxin ma’ Malta kollha. Din hi responsabbilta tal-Awtorita Maltija tar-Riżorsi iżda għal snin twal kienet ukoll responsabbilta tal-KSI.


Jekk l-awtoritajiet tul is-snin ippermettew it-teħid tal-ilma tal-pjan b’xejn permezz ta’ boreholes illegali, m’huwiex ovvju illi ħadd m’hu lest li jħallas biex juża l-ilma irriċiklat ? Jekk tista’ liberament tinqeda b’xejn tkun baħnan jekk tħallas !


Il-KSI tidher li assumiet li m’huwiex ser ikun hemm bdil fis-sitwazzjoni u għalhekk għażlet speċifikament is-siti għall-impjanti tad-drenaġġ fit-truf ta’ Malta fejn huwa iktar possibli li l-ilma msoffi jintrema l-baħar mil-ewwel. Dawn huma l-istess postijiet li minnhom kien (u għadu s’issa) jintefa d-drenaġġ fil-baħar. Li kieku taw każ li l-ilma seta jintuża kienu jintagħżlu siti iktar viċin iċ-ċentru tal-pajjiż biex dan ikun aċċessibli bla diffikulta fiż-żoni agrikoli kollha mingħajr il-ħtieġa ta’ ħafna spejjes addizzjonali.


Id-Direttiva tal-EU dwar id-drenaġġ [EU Wastewater Directive] tistabilixxi biss il-kwalita li l-ilma jrid ikollu qabel ma jintefa’ l-baħar. Ma toffri l-ebda gwida dwar x’jista’ jsir mill-ilma. Dak sta għalina f’Malta biex niddeterminawh. Meta tqies li madwar 60% tal-ilma tax-xorb f’Malta huwa prodott b’mod artifiċjali u bi spiża sostanzjali permezz tal-impjanti ta’ disalinazzjoni, huwa irresponsabbli li l-ilma prodott mill-impjant ta’ purifikazzjoni tad-drenaġġ jitqies bħala xi ħaġa ta’ bla valur. Qed nitkellmu dwar xi ħaġa (l-ilma) li f’pajjiżna dejjem kienet skarsa.


Mhux il-bogħod il-jum meta bħala riżultat ta’ iktar tnaqqis fl-ilma tal-pjan, kif ukoll bħala riżultat tal-miżuri li Malta trid tieħu biex timxi mal-EU Water Framework Directive ser ikun neċessarju li jkun ikkunsidrat li l-ilma prodott mill-impjanti tal-purifikazzjoni tad-drenaġġ fix-Xgħajra u ċ-Ċumnija tal-Mellieħa ikun użat. Imbagħad ser ikun hemm min jirrealizza illi l-impjanti tar-riċiklaġġ tad-drenaġġ qegħdin il-bogħod wisq. Imbagħad ser ikun hemm min jargumenta li l-ispiża biex ikun trasportat l-ilma hi għolja wisq.


Din hi inkompetenza amministrattiva. Min ser jassumi r-responsabbilta’ ?

Inħarsu l-Ambjent : għax hekk tajjeb u għax jaqblilna !




Il-messaġġ kontinwu li qed twassal AD f’dawn il-jiem huwa li l-ħarsien tal-ambjent hu stument biex intejbu l-kwalita’ tal-ħajja tagħna lkoll.


Li nifhmu illi huwa meħtieġ illi ma naħlux elettriku u ilma huwa biss wieħed mill-issues. Nisħqu fuq illum iktar mill-bieraħ għax is-suġġett huwa attwali minħabba fiż-żieda fil-prezzijiet kif ukoll minħabba fiż-żieda fis-surcharge.


L-AD qed tinsisti li min ma jaħlix ikun ippremjat u min jaħli għandu jħallas sakemm jirrealizza li jaqbillu hu ukoll li juża r-risorsi bil-galbu.


Kif nistgħu ma naħlux ?


L-ewwel nistennew li jagħti eżempju l-Gvern. Għidna f’waħda mill-istqarrijiet tal-AD illi ma jistax ikun li l-impjanti tat-tisfija tad-drenaġġ wara li jkunu ppurifikaw l-ilma jarmu kollox il-baħar. Dan x’sens fih ? Veru li l-ilma ma jkunx għadu tajjeb. Imma veru ukoll li bi ftit investiment ieħor (ħdejn il-miljuni ġja investiti) jkun tajjeb ta’ l-inqas bħala ilma għat-tisqija. Il-Gvern fi ftit kliem qed jagħti eżempju ħażin.


It-tieni nistennew li min jimxi sewwa u juża r-risorsi bil-galbu jkun ippremjat mis-sistema.  Għalhekk qed nipproponu li min ikollu konsum baxx kemm tal-elettriku kif ukoll tal-ilma ikollu rati tas-surcharge (inkella t-tariffi meta dawn jinbidlu f’Ottubru li ġej) li jvarjaw skond l-użu. Min juża ftit ikollu rati baxxi ta’ surcharge u min juża ħafna jkollu rati għoljin. Mhux biss għar-residenzi iżda ukoll għall-użu kummerċjali.


Biex dan isir hemm bżonn li jkunu stabiliti benchmarks raġjonevoli permezz ta’ audits dwar l-użu tal-ilma u l-elettriku.


Hemm bżonn li min jiġġenera l-elettriku huwa permezz tal-pannelli fotovoltajci jew mtieħen żgħar tar-riħ jitħallas b’rata iktar għolja mill-Enemalta. Hekk jiġri f’pajjiżi oħra biex jinkuraġixxu lil min jagħti sehmu.


Hemm bżonn li min juża l-ilma tax-xita ikun eżentat mis-surcharge. Tafu għaliex ? Għax lill-pajjiż jiffrankalu :

1.      il-ħtieġa tal-produzzjoni ta’ l-ilma, inkluż l-elettriku li jintuża fl-impjanti tar-Reverse Osmosis,

2.      inaqqas l-ilma tax-xita mit-triq jew mid-drenaġġ, għax dan ikun qiegħed jinġabar fil-bir,

3.      jiffranka kwantita’ ta’ ilma li għalxejn jispiċċa fl-impjant tat-tisfija tad-drenaġġ, u allura l-elettriku meħtieġ biex dan jissaffa.


Jekk iktar nies jaħżnu l-ilma tax-xita fil-bir u jużawħ flok l-ilma li tipprovdi l-Korporazzjoni għas-Serviżżi tal-Ilma l-effett ikun enormi : għall-pajjiż u għall-but tiegħek. Il-pajjiż jiffranka l-miljuni u inti tiffranka l-mijiet.



Inħarsu l-ambjent ifisser kwalita’ tal-ħajja aħjar. Bil-flus iffrankati minn użu bil-għaqal tar-riżorsi jistgħu jsiru affarijiet oħra li bħalissa m’għandniex mezzi biżżejjed għalihom.