Whether you have a burning question you want answered or you have encountered a water-related issue, find your answer here. If your question is not answered here, scroll below to submit your request and a technical person will get in touch
If you spot a broken or open manhole, please try to cordon it off (wherever possible and in full safety) and report the fault to Water Services Corporation.
If the manhole is of immediate danger to traffic or road users, also report to the Police.
Don’t know where the blockage is and who owns the affected pipework? Don’t hesitate – Water Services Corporation can find this out and repair if the pipework belongs to them, or give advice if the pipework belongs to you.
If you wish to apply for a new water supply to your household or commercial premises you will need to start by downloading the Form for Water and submit it to the ARMS Customer Contact Centre Offices or send it by email on [email protected]rms.com.mt . It is fundamental that these services can be requested if you have the necessary water piping installed in your premise but do not have external supply. For more information visit the ARMS Website FAQs.
QUESTIONS ON WATER
The scarcity of water resources has always been a reality for Malta, in fact it was also highlighted in the first known report on water resources in our islands, which dates back to the mid-1500s.
Malta has a semi-arid climate with long dry summers and mild wet winters which contributes to a limited availability of naturally renewable water resources.
The situation is further compounded by the islands’ high population density which generates a high demand for the limited water resources available, hence further exacerbating the scarcity of such resources.
Some figures: The United Nations considers 500m3/person/year of naturally renewable water resources as the threshold of extreme water stress. The availability levels in the Maltese islands are estimated at only 100m3/person/year, and this makes Malta amongst the world’s top ten water scarce countries.
Yes, Malta does have freshwater resources.
Although in the Maltese islands there are no large and permanent river systems, there are several small inland surface-water systems; valleys, streams and ponds that have varying water levels throughout the year. The presence of water in these water courses and small ponds sustains important endemic ecosystems.
The main natural freshwater resource in the Maltese Islands is groundwater sustained in two aquifer typologies – perched and mean sea-level groundwater bodies, The availability of fresh groundwater has historically sustained the economic development of our country, and to this day is an important resource in Malta’s water supply resource base.
Yes, there is water underground and it is known as groundwater.
Groundwater forms when water seeps from the ground surface into the ground and fills gaps (pores and/or fractures) in the rocks. Malta’s geology gives rise to two types of groundwater bodies – namely perched groundwater bodies which are sustained in the Upper Coralline Limestone formation by the underlying Blue Clay, and mean sea-level groundwater bodies where freshwater floats on seawater within the Lower Coralline Limestone formation. Both groundwater bodies are highly vulnerable to pollution from the surface, whilst the sea-level groundwater bodies are also vulnerable to the intrusion of sea-water in response to abstraction activities.
Pollutants in Malta’s groundwater are various, but they are all a result of human activities such as from agriculture, industries and also our daily activities. A major pollutant throughout our groundwater systems is nitrate which primarily originates from agricultural over-fertilisation.
Other contributions can come from wastewater leakages, which can also result in the introduction of other pollutants coming from our homes in our groundwater systems.
Such pollutants include personal care products, pharmaceuticals and other chemicals used in our daily activities, although these have to date not been detected in groundwater in Malta.
Malta’s water supply comes from four main freshwater resources; (i) groundwater, (ii) desalinated seawater (iii) rainwater runoff and (iv) reclaimed water. These water resources are used to meet the demand for all water users depending on the quality needs, hence ground water and desalinated water are used for the production of drinking water, whilst groundwater, reclaimed water and rainwater runoff are used for other purposes such as agriculture and industry.
Water is a finite resource: there are some 1 400 million cubic kilometres on earth and circulating through the hydrological cycle. This cycle links lakes, soil moisture, rivers and biological systems. This great water cycle causes some 113,000 cubic kilometres to fall as rain and snow every year.
Although water covers 75 % of the world’s surface, 97.5 percent of the earth’s water is salt water; of the remaining 2.5 percent, most is locked away as groundwater or in glaciers.
Since Malta has no lakes or rivers, we get our water from groundwater and from the sea, through desalination. Groundwater is also finite! We cannot keep pumping from the underground water table without giving it time to replenish as it will cause its salinity to rise to unacceptable levels and too little rainfall is worsening the problem more.
Nowadays we are using more water than usual to sanitise our hands, and even things around the house. While this is essential for our well-being, we must look at other ways to save water, for the well-being of our natural resources. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple things like turning off the water while you brush, shave or lather; Or keeping a bucket in the shower and re-using the water the next time you flush.
You can use up the time that you’re spending at home to check for a leaking flushing or dripping faucets. Or even invest in more modern and economical showerheads and tap aerators. Use the time to install them. You’ll be saving 1,000s of litres of water per month. For more information visit water.org.mt.
Black water is primarily wastewater from toilets. The wastewater that leaves your home goes into a huge sewage collection network that is 1545km long, which has 104 pumping stations. It is then directed to one of three wastewater treatment plants located at Ta’ Barkat, Ras il-Ħobż (Gozo) and Mellieha. These treatment plants work by speeding up a natural process that uses bacteria. What normally takes nature weeks is done by sewage treatment plants in around 18 hours. Raw sewage is fed into large aeration tanks and churned by large submerged blowers that introduce air though banks of diffusers. A very heavy concentration of bacteria eats up the solid matter.
Clear, odourless water which is still fairly high in bacteria rises to the top and is then discharged into the sea. This water is not fit for drinking but is harmless to the marine environment. Wastewater treatment is necessary to protect our coastal waters, and hence ensure that we have clean bathing water.
Greywater contains a lower level of organic load and is easier to treat and process. So how can greywater be recycled by commercial entities such as hotels? Firstly, wastewater from showers and wash hand basins must be collected separately to that from toilets (black water). This grey water can be passed through filters to remove suspended matter; some systems also include bacterial filtration. The water is then chlorinated, so it can be re-used. Recycled water can be used for irrigation and toilet flushing.
It is estimated that on average a car washed at home using a garden hose uses 100-300 litres of water whilst an automated carwash uses 125 litres and a jet wash uses on average 70-100 litres. If you use a two-bucket system where you fill two buckets of water – the first one with car washing liquid and the second with clean water – then you will only consume 30 litres of water, which is significantly lower than any alternative washing technique. Always remember to park your car in the shade and out of direct sunlight. This prevents premature drying and avoids your car becoming hot while you wash it, which will result in water evaporating more quickly, making the cleaning process more difficult. If you really don’t want to wash your car yourself try and find a car wash that recycles water.
There are a number of principles to save water in the garden including looking after your soil, watering at the right time using the right amount of water, planting flowers/vegetation that need less water, using the best watering techniques for your plants, and where possible collecting rainwater and reusing old water.
You can even use grey water from your baths, showers and washing up bowls. Grey water contains minimal amounts of soap and detergent and is harmless to plants. Don’t use water containing bleach, disinfectant, dishwasher salt or stronger cleaners, which can harm plants, damage soil structure and could be a health risk.
Hoses and watering cans, although labour intensive, are precise and should be used to water around plant bases beneath the leaves, leaving the surrounding soil dry. This limits weed growth and ensures that all water goes where it is needed.
Automated irrigation systems allow water to drip or trickle directly into growing areas whenever you programme them to do so. Avoid using sprinklers in the garden. They are not very efficient and can use up to 1,000 litres of water/hour.
How to tell when garden plants need water? Plants looking slightly wilted in the late afternoon sun on a hot summer day is normal. However, if the plant(s) looks wilted in the morning, water right away.
The majority of the energy used in washing machines is warming the water. If you are worried that cold water does not work as effectively, buy specific cold water detergents. They are made with different ingredients that work as efficiently as regular detergents in hot water.
Energy efficient (AAA) machines use the exact amount of water needed for the load of clothes you are washing. These machines use less water in general because they rinse clothes with a high-pressure spray, instead of soaking them.
You don’t need to use a new clean towel for every shower or bath you take. You are clean when you get out of the shower. So after drying off, just hang your towel up to dry. Many hotels are even giving their guests the option to hang up their towels for reuse in order to be more considerate of the environment.
We are all guilty of tossing clothes that could be worn again into the basket. After wearing your clothes one time, are they really that dirty?
Only use the washing machine for big loads. Don’t let a small pile of dirty laundry make you feel overwhelmed. Wait for the pile to grow till your next load. Some older washing machines are not equipped to know how many garments you have in there, so they use more water than necessary.
During the house visits our officers will ask you a series of questions about your energy and water consumption. How many people live in the house? What sort of appliances do you use? How old are they? Is your house well insulated? This is important because heating your home in winter and cooling it down in summer have a big impact on the way that you consume energy.
We will then ask about your water and energy consumption habits. Do you take showers, or baths? How often? Do you heat your home with electric heaters/ACs?
We will also have a look at your water and electricity bill, identifying irregular consumption patterns, and any possible mistakes that need to be rectified, like for example the number of people within a household.
Once the visit is done, a report is drawn up and sent to you at home. In certain cases, a follow-up visit can be organized, should the need arise.
Our house visits are beneficial to you because they’re tailor-made to your home and can help you save money on your bills. With the right advice and a small change of attitude, we could help reduce your wastage of water and electricity considerably hence helping the environment too.
“The natural substance water per se tends to be tasteless,” wrote Aristotle. In his view, it serves only as the vehicle for flavour. The most important dimension of a water source’s effect on how it tastes has to do with the minerals that are dissolved in the water. Have you ever seen the term “parts per millions” (ppm) on your bottle of water? This refers to how much of a particular mineral is present in a given volume of water. For example, if you buy a 1-litre bottle of sparkling mineral water, your bottle might say that it contains 500 ppm of total dissolved solids (TDS). This TDS measurement is basically shorthand for telling you that your water contains naturally occurring minerals.
Long answer: Malta has a reliable supply of tap water which meets stringent EU criteria on drinking water quality, yet many consumers still rely on either imported mineral water or on table water: water that is partly extracted from the groundwater table or the national water supply, which is further treated at an additional energy cost as well as an environmental cost: the plastic packaging and the cost of disposing and recycling plastic bottles.
Chief executive of the Energy and Water Agency, Manuel Sapiano, says the Water Services Corporation will be addressing this important taste issue within the next three years.
“Our water is completely safe to drink, but it has a taste of chlorine which consumers do not like… one of the targets of the WSC is to make tap water drinkable by addressing the taste issue, all while attaining lower production costs. This will be through a project which will comprehensively upgrade the WSC’s water production and distribution facilities, enabling it to capitalize on the full blending capacity of desalinated water, improving the quality and taste of their product. ”
Short answer: Many people know that experts recommend drinking eight glasses of water each day. Although this is a guideline, we still know that we should drink throughout the day especially in hot weather or before and after exercising. For years, dieters have been drinking lots of water as a weight loss strategy. While water doesn’t have any magical effect on weight loss, substituting it for higher calorie beverages can certainly help.
Long answer: Cells that don’t maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes shrivel, which can result in muscle fatigue. Drinking enough fluids is important when exercising. During exercise, it is recommended that people start drinking fluids early, and drink them at regular intervals to replace fluids lost by sweating.
Our skin contains plenty of water, and functions as a protective barrier to prevent excess fluid loss. Although over-hydration doesn’t erase wrinkles or fine lines, dehydration makes your skin look more dry and wrinkled, which can be improved with proper hydration.
Water also helps your kidneys. Body fluids transport waste products in and out of cells. The main toxin in the body is blood urea nitrogen, a water-soluble waste that is able to pass through the kidneys to be excreted in the urine.
If you think you need to be drinking more, here are some tips to increase your fluid intake and reap the benefits of water:
• Have a beverage with every snack and meal.
• Choose beverages you enjoy; you’re likely to drink more liquids if you like the way they taste.
• Eat more fruits and vegetables. Their high water content will add to your hydration. About 20% of our fluid intake comes from foods.
• Keep a bottle of water with you in your car, at your desk, or in your bag.
• Choose beverages that meet your individual needs. If you’re watching calories, go for non-caloric beverages or water.
In total the Maltese islands consume around 60 million cubic meters every year, around half of which is mainly utilised for potable purposes. Given the lack of naturally available freshwater resources, potable water in Malta is a mix of desalinated water from the reverse osmosis plants and groundwater. An increase in population and the standards of living are leading to an increase in the national demand for water. Households are the biggest user of freshwater in the Maltese islands and utilise a mix of potable water, recycled water and harvested rainwater.
Many think that the washing machine is the greatest water consuming point appliance within a household. The reality is that the most significant water using point in a household is the bathroom. Toilet flushing and showers together consume almost 70% of your daily water consumption. Therefore, they provide the best opportunity for everyone to make tangible water savings and become more water efficient. Look out for the water saving kit being distributed as part of the campaign and the numerous water saving tips and together let’s be the change.
Of the millions of cubic metres of potable water that the Water Services Corporation produces every year, Malta accounts for approximately 92% of the total water production with the rest being consumed in Gozo and Comino; this reflects the size of the island and the production facilities available. From 2012 to 2017, water losses in the system ranged from 12% to 14%. A higher increase in water consumption is observed throughout the summer months. This is due to the higher influx of people as a result of increased tourism and due to the higher temperatures in general. These seasonal peaks and troughs are even more pronounced in Gozo and Comino, characterised with sharper increases in demand during summer months.
One of the key elements of the distribution network is to ensure that there are no leakages of water outside the system. Over the past few years a leakage control programme using state-of-the-art equipment, refined work practices and policies has been implemented by the WSC. This has allowed the Corporation to reduce total water produced over previous years. Back in 1995 leakage was estimated at 2,800 cubic metres per hour falling to 1,200 cubic metres per hour in 2001. In 2014 it was 407 cubic metres per hour which was again reduced in 2015 where there was an average 395 cubic metres per hour of leakage.
Water galleries are the intricate and connected underground systems that provide Malta with its potable water. These consist of underground tunnels located approximately at the depth of sea level. In 2018, the WSC produced 33.5 million cubic metres (m3) of potable water in Malta and Gozo1. Approximately 14.2 million m3 (42%) of this potable water was produced from a number of groundwater sources, including water abstracted from these groundwater galleries.
The quality and safety of the water WSC produces is constantly checked by the laboratory which is fully accredited by both the National Accreditation Body of the Malta Standards Authority and the United Kingdom Accreditation Services (UKAS). WSC’s monitoring plan for potable water covers both production and distribution networks. In fact, samples are routinely collected from villages, reservoirs, pumping stations, boreholes and reverse osmosis plants. This process analyses the various chemical and microbiological parameters to ensure that the product reaching the customers is of good quality and in line with EU regulations on drinking water. Every year approximately 5,000 samples are collected upon which thousands of physical, chemical and bacteriological tests are carried out. Random tap water quality tests are also carried out in various households around the Maltese islands. These tests ensure that tap water is also safe for drinking at the customers’ end. The results of these tests for the various water quality zones are accessible at https://live.wsc.com.mt/PublicWeb/.
Should you wish to report a leak in a public area, visit http://www.wsc.com.mt/emergencies/report-a-leak/
As for domestic leaks, the Water Services Corporation reports that many cases of high consumption were caused by leakages in consumers’ internal distribution system. Many cases were caused by faulty toilet flushing cisterns that leaked water into the toilet bowl without the owner ever noticing. Other leaks were discovered in buried or underground water pipes and some were leaks from the roof tank. The simplest and often most effective check was to have toilet flushing systems seen to by a competent person. A defective system could waste thousands of litres per year without the house owner ever being aware. Underground leaks, too (usually under floor tiles), can allow large amounts of water to seep away unnoticed. A simple way to determine if a home has silent water leaks is to take a water meter reading at a time when no one is using water, maybe when everyone is away from home. Wait at least two hours, during which time no one should use water in the house, even to flush the toilet, then take a meter reading again. If the number changed, there is probably a leak. This can also be done at night when no one uses water – a reading is taken before you go to sleep and as soon as you wake up. Alternatively visit wsc.com.mt and click on the ‘View Live Map’ button to check your home water consumption.
Initially, the people lived near the coast and where natural springs were found; from that point, tanks and cisterns were created to store water, especially further inland, some of which date back to the Neolithic period. This was how the indigenous people of Malta used water for much of their history and in a sustainable way. It wasn’t until the Knights of St. John came to the island in 1512 that the water quantity limitations were noticed and documented. The springs were reported to diminish during the summer months, and much of the drinking water was kept in tanks.
After their arrival, the Knights of St. John created legislation to require the construction of cisterns for rainwater storage for every new building built in the city. In addition to the rainwater storage tanks, an aqueduct was constructed in 1610 to provide water to Valletta, using a number of springs from the perched aquifer in the Rabat area to feed it. Subsequently a second aqueduct was built, after a drought lasting from 1834–1841, to supply water to the three cities of Cospicua, Vittoriosa, and Senglea, as well as a few other villages.
These aqueducts and rainwater storage structures served as the primary source of drinking water to the people of Malta through the 19th century, but were quite susceptible to contamination from waste products on the roads, sewer leaks, manure from animals, etc. Still, these were the main sources of drinking water until the demand for water gradually increased, and then groundwater was extracted to supplement the growing demands of the population. In the second half of the 19th century, exploration of the mean sea level aquifers and well drilling were at their beginning. From this point onwards, pumping stations and boreholes were progressively added across the country, tapping into both perched aquifers and the mean sea level aquifer.
The Constitution of Malta states: “Nothing (in this article) shall be construed as affecting the making or operation of any law so far as it provides for vesting in the Government of Malta the ownership of any underground minerals, water or antiquities”. Thus, the constitution can be considered to formally vest in the Government of Malta the sole ownership of all groundwater resources in the islands. In 1991, the Water Services Act was promulgated, which regulated the management of water resources. Under this act, the roles of regulator and operator were attributed to the WSC. The two principle regulations currently in force to protect water are: “The Regulations for the Protection of Groundwater against Pollution caused by Dangerous Substances 2002” and “The Water Policy Framework Regulations 2004” that establish a framework of action for the protection of “inland surface waters”, “transitional waters”, “coastal waters” and “groundwater”. Currently the Energy and Water Agency is tasked with formulating policies related to water demand management and sustainability of the water supply-base whereas WSC is the operator.
Flooding is a temporary overflow of water onto land that is normally dry. Flash flooding is a sudden local flood, typically due to heavy or excessive rainfall in a short period of time. Failing to evacuate flooded areas or entering flood waters can lead to injury or death. Floods may result from rain, coastal storms, storm surges and overflows of water systems. Flash floods can come with no warning and can cause outages, disrupt transportation, damage buildings, and create landslides. If there is a sudden flash flood:
• Be prepared, avoid areas or roads that are known to flood. Use alternative roads.
• If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn and find safe shelter right away. Do not switch off your car.
• Stay off bridges over fast-moving water.
• Do not walk, swim or drive through flood waters. Find shelter, always! Be safe.
• Remember, just six inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
• Keep your home safe by decluttering drains and gutters. It is important to keep key documents in a waterproof container and to protect your property.
Water pollution comes from several sources including discarded litter that can end up in waterways, emptying liquids such as paints, thinners and medicines into the drain, emissions from industrial plants, and use of pesticides. Although we cannot prevent industrial scale emissions, we can take steps in our daily lives to reduce water pollution.
Some general ways to prevent water pollution are:
• Dispose litter and garbage at home, properly.
• Never pour chemicals, oils, medicines down the gutter or drain. Take them to a local authorised centre such as petrol stations and pharmacies, or a Civic Amenity Site.
• Wash your car only when needed and make sure to use only the right amount of soap.
• Clean up after your pets, don’t clean up by putting into the gutter or storm drain.
• Always try to minimise your chemical pesticides and herbicides – both are very harmful to the environment.
• Upkeep your vehicle regularly to avoid leaks.
• Whenever possible cut back and buy safer detergents, soaps, and dishwashing liquids. While these are often more expensive, you will be helping the environment.
• Be very careful with toxic chemicals – ammonia, bleach, paint, paint thinner, etc. Safe and careful disposal of these is very important.