Integrated Water Resources Management in the Maltese Islands
The Maltese islands present a case of extreme natural freshwater resources unavailability where available resources are not sufficient to sustainably meet the national water demand. This due to the islands’ semi-arid climatic conditions and small land-mass which preclude the formation of surface water bodies such as rivers and lakes. In fact, the island’s fragile groundwater bodies are the only naturally renewable freshwater systems available for the development of water supply resources. Furthermore, the islands high population density results in a high specific demand for water to address the requirements of the population, their economic activities and water dependent ecosystems. In order to address these challenging conditions Malta has developed an integrated water management framework based on the conjunctive use of water supply augmentation and water demand management measures. Under this framework, Malta promotes the application of Non Conventional Water Resources such as the desalination of sea-water and the reclamation of wastewaters to supplement natural freshwater resources. The application of Non Conventional Water Resources enables national water demands to be met, whilst ensuring the sustainable use of natural freshwater resources. Water Demand Management measures ensure that water use is kept at highly efficient levels, thereby reducing the need for the production of water from these additional alternative resources. The development of this water management framework is outlined in Malta’s 2nd River Basin Management Plan. It therefore supports the achievement of the EU’s Water Framework Directive’s environmental objectives in the Malta River Basin District. Its integrated context also supports Malta’s adaptation efforts to climate change, whose impacts are expected to further exacerbate the water challenges facing the island. Malta’s water management experience highlights the importance of the development and implementation of integrated water management frameworks. The effective protection of natural freshwater resources such as the islands’ groundwater resources cannot be ensured if these are addressed in isolation but can only be achieved through the application of such integrated frameworks which addresses the sustainability and security of water supply on a national basis.
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