I suppose it’s pointless getting annoyed at what passes for news these days. There’s the suffocating Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando soap opera – the one which he produces, directs, and stars in and which has become as yawn-inducing as one of those never-ending American soaps where the stars soldier on for decades as botoxed, pillow-faced versions of their younger selves.

Why should we reduce household water usage when large-scale quantities are used commercially and the WSC chief executive doesn’t seem to be bothered?- Claire Bonello

Then there’s the way that the attempt to protect the eggs laid by a turtle at Ġnejna Bay has somehow turned into something to kvetch about, as has the Isle of MTV concert. As the wags on the comment boards moan online about everything from the price of the drinks on sale, to the relative merits of Flo Rida and rock ’n’ roll greats, it’s difficult to figure out who should get the prize for the most idiotic comment.

I think the winner – by a mile – must be Mark Muscat, the CEO of the Water Services Corporation. His wasn’t an online offering but some weeks ago he was reported as saying that Malta can never run out of water and that the worst case scenario would be a worsening of water quality. Muscat rubbished claims by his predecessor Tancred Tabone to the effect that we should be seriously concerned about the country’s water supplies and we may be exhausting our underwater supplies.

Muscat’s comment made me bristle for so many reasons. In the first place it’s scientifically un­sound. How can he say: “Malta will never run out of water”? Hasn’t he realised that extraction of water from the water table goes on on a massive scale? And that it has been pretty much unregulated for all these years?

Doesn’t it cross the mind of our cocksure WSC CEO that this would eventually lead to a situation where water quality would deteriorate so much, that it would require costly purifying treatments to make it drinkable? Oh wait. He made a reference to purifying treatments – but not to how much they would cost.

So basically we need not fear the gloomy prospect of not having water in our taps, but we should reconcile ourselves to higher utility bills as we’ll have to pay for the electricity necessary for the purification process. And if cost is no object – as implied by Muscat – then we shouldn’t worry at all. We are surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea and can crank up the reverse osmosis plants to effect that magical transformation of seawater to freshwater. Never mind the cost. The chief at the Water Services Corporation doesn’t seem to mind.

Muscat’s declaration is worrying for another reason. By talking as if there is absolutely no reason to concern ourselves about the amount of water available, he is negating the efforts made to instil a water conservation mentality.

Those educational campaigns and projects enjoining children not to waste water are based on the assumption that water is a precious, finite resource, which has a value and which should be saved.

That’s why we get campaigns such as ‘Catch The Drop’ where educators dedicate much time and effort to try and show children how every little drop counts.

Snapshots of the campaign can be viewed online. A cute little girl holds up a chart where she has painstakingly listed several ways to save water.

A classmate has stuck shapes representing water droplets on a similar chart. Each contains a water-saving tip: Fix leaky taps, turn off tap when brushing teeth, spend less time in shower, have shower instead of bath, use bucket to clean car, only wash clothes when machine is full, use watering can in garden.

Elsewhere children are watching a documentary about water conservation, dancing about in waterdrop costumes, absorbing information about how important it is to do their bit.

And then the WSC’s top man walks in and says there’s absolutely nothing to worry about because we’re never going to run out of water and that there’s loads of it about. That’s where so many water-preservation campaigns go down the drain.

For what’s the point of faffing around with mugs of water while brushing our teeth, or bothering to lug out a bucket full of water to wash the car, when the WSC head himself says that there’s plenty of water till kingdom come?

What’s the point of having a quick shower instead of soaking in the bath, when there will always be water on tap?

Why should we reduce household water usage, when large-scale quantities are used commercially and the WSC chief executive doesn’t seem to be bothered?

I know the government of the day has huge problems to grapple with right now, and its choice of chairmen for parastatal entities does not feature high on its list of priorities, but really it should ensure that appointees are on-message with certain nationwide campaigns, instead of spouting off and contradicting basic tenets of the corporations they head.

cl.bon@nextgen.net.mt

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