Maltese winters becoming ever more dry, Met Office data shows

Malta has experienced 249mm of rainfall since September, slightly higher than the same period last year, but well below the average for the same period over the past 20 years

Malta’s winter season is becoming increasingly drier with time, according to rainfall data provided by the meteorological office at the Malta International Airport.

Mediterranean climates are characterised by a wet season, normally running from October to April, with the remaining part of the year considered to be the dry season.

According to the data, Malta has experienced 249mm of rainfall since September, slightly higher than the same period last year (210mm), but well below the average for the same period over the past 20 years (319mm).

According to biologist Alan Deidun, although records for rainfall in a year are kept from September, running through to the following August, the country can expect very little rain after April.

“I think we will be lucky to exceed 300mm of rainfall this wet season,” said Deidun, adding that at best, the country could expect a maximum of 300 to 350mm of rainfall – well below the average, he said.

Deidun pointed out that while recent years have been characterised by unusually high levels of rainfall in summer months, like June, this is of little use for agricultural purposes for example, where the months between September and April are crucial to ensure a good harvest.

“Rain is a lot more useful now, running through till February than it is in autumn,” he added.


Non-existent water policy a strain on ground water supply

With Malta’s experiencing ever-decreasing levels of rainfall during the winter months, farmers must rely on other methods for irrigation, with many using boreholes to pump water up from the water table. This is, however, not without its repercussions, according to hydrologist Marco Cremona.

Cremona explained that the lack of a national policy and a lack of enforcement meant there was nothing stopping people from drilling their own boreholes, illegally.

Continued unregulated use meant the salinity of ground water was constantly increasing, resulting in the accumulation of salt in Malta’s soil and negatively impacting its fertility.

Average monthly rainfall 1987-2017
Average monthly rainfall 1987-2017

“With no enforcement, farmers, for example, can opt to drill a borehole, rather than go through the more expensive option of building reservoirs to collect rainwater,” he said, adding that with unrestricted access to ground water, there was little incentive for people to conserve water.

Moreover, he said, that not only did this encourage the drilling of illegal boreholes, but also penalised farmers choosing to abide by the proper regulations, since they were able to irrigate their crops at a lower cost than their law abiding counterparts.

The situation, explained Cremona, was further compounded by the fact that as development in Malta increasing, there were less avenues for rain water to make its way back to the water table through the soil, with more and more rain water ending up in the sea.

He said that while Malta was able to use reverse osmosis as a means of producing freshwater, it was not a sustainable approach to ensuring a steady supply of water.

“Apart from the fact that reverse osmosis requires a great deal of energy, it also means we are dependent on clean seas,” he said, adding that an oil spill around Malta could result in the country running out of water within a couple of days. Not to mention the fact that damage to Malta’s reverse osmosis plants could also paralyse the country.

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