Climate change bad for water-scarce Malta
Malta is known for being hot and dry in summer and wet in winter. But if climate change forecasts prove correct, our summers could get a lot longer, hotter and drier.
Climate change forecast maps that were recently published by the European Environmental Agency earlier this month show that by 2050 rainfall in the Mediterranean could decreaseby as much as 15 per cent when compared with figures from the 1960s. Alarmingly, temperatures could rise by peaks of as muchas 2.5°C.
This decrease in rainfall is of particular concern for various reasons. Rain that is absorbed into the earth and that slowly filters its way down into aquifers is theonly source of re-charge for groundwater bodies. A decrease in rainfall will decrease this re-charge and lower the amount of quality groundwater that can be sustainably extracted.
Given that much of Malta’s freshwater comes from groundwater bodies, this is likely to have a significant impact on Malta.
This water is mixed with reverse-osmosis water and forms 45 per cent of the water provided by the Water Services Corporation (MEPA 2008 State of the Environment Fresh Water Sub-Report 5, section 5.2).
Moreover, the agricultural industries – and to a lesser extent various other industries – rely heavily on groundwater.
The European Environmental Agency has noted that “Europe will need to adapt” in order to cope with the increased temperatures and the reduced amount of naturally available freshwater.
One of the ways Europe will need to adapt is in the use of water. The decreasing amounts of freshwater make it all the more important to ensure that our consumption of water is as efficient and sustainable as possible.
The Malta Business Bureau’s EU LIFE+ Investing in Water Project is helping businesses and hotels reduce their water consumption by providing expert assistance to identify water-saving opportunities in theircurrent operation.
To achieve this end, the first step is to cut down on unnecessary waste. Showers with high-flow rates and toilet-flushing systems that use up excessive volumes are two excellentexamples of facilities that can be easily controlled.
Other solutions includerainwater harvesting, which in many commercial ventures is an attractive and easily implemented measure to furtherhelp make water consumption more sustainable.
The EU LIFE+ Investing in Water Project has recently completed a set of water audits amongst businesses and hotels.
The audits revealed that in several cases there is significant potential for water savings, with reductions in consumption of up to 30 per cent possible just by increasing efficiency of current features. Adding rainwater harvesting to the list of implemented solutions could increase this figure to a staggering 60 per cent in some enterprises.
The European Environmental Agency report goes on to predict that in the 50 years following 2050, the Mediterranean will see “much bigger changes than elsewhere”.
This highlights the importance of investing in water savings now by developing a water-saving culture with all the infrastructure required to operate effectively.
Doing this not only protects our water supply and prepares for a future where water is scarcer, but also benefits commercial enterprises by reducing utility bills – a win-win situation for all.
Mr Saliba is project manager for the Malta Business Bureau EULIFE+ Investing in Water.