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Water policy lacks targets

Report calls on government to address havoc caused by rainwater discharges in sewage system

James Debono
27 March 2012, 12:00am
According to the report, the Water Policy does “not suggest the removal of all rainwater connections to the sanitary system”.

One major shortcoming of the draft Water Policy proposed by the government is that it does not include measures to eliminate discharges of rainwater to the sewage system, which cause overflows in sewers following heavy rainfall, resulting in sewage reaching the sea.

This is one of the conclusions of a Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment on the impacts of the proposed plan carried out by ADI consultants.

The problem of sewage overflows in many residential roads is caused by the fact that many Maltese households lack a cistern and dispose of rain water in the sewage network where it contributes to flooding and eventually ends up polluting the sea. The sight of manhole covers being lifted up and even carried away by water is one of the consequences of having rainwater from buildings drained in to the public sewer system.

According to the report, the Water Policy does "not suggest the removal of all rainwater connections to the sanitary system".

Another shortcoming of the proposed Water Policy is the lack of targets and timeframes.

The Water Policy issued in 2010 aims at the sustainable use and management of  Malta's water resources. It also includes measures and actions designed to protect drinking water protection areas, as well as groundwater.

According to the assessment, the Water Policy will result in a positive impact on the environment, biodiversity and health.

"However, the effectiveness of the policy needs to be considered against proposed targets."

Targets and timeframes should be included in order to qualify as well as quantify effectiveness through monitoring  progress against targets.

The policy also lacks governance structure to identify how the different entities will work together with MRA to ensure effective policy implementation.

According to the SEA, the policy largely consists of measures that are already being implemented and rarely introduces alternative measures that could be contemplated to achieve the objectives. For example according to the SEA, the Water Policy does not discuss the possibility of energy recovery from sewage treatment.

The implementation of measures for improved ground water quality will have positive effects on human health. But this impact is considered uncertain because of the lack of targets in the policy.


James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...
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