Water taken from Maltese boreholes is up by 24%, and nobody is even paying for it

Over 230 million litres of water extracted annually by just four boreholes

Over 230 million litres of water are extracted annually from just four borholes
Over 230 million litres of water are extracted annually from just four borholes

The equivalent of an impressive 115 million bottles of mineral water (of the standard two-litre variety) gets pumped up from just four Maltese boreholes each year, statistics from the Energy and Water Agency show.

Each borehole is pumping over 50,000 cubic metres annually, three of which were in excess of 60,000 cbm.

The four boreholes account for a minimum of 9% of all groundwater extracted by metered boreholes, but in Malta users are still not expected to pay for extraction of water from the national water table.

Altogether, there were 245 commercial boreholes in operation in 2018, water extraction decreased from 644,893 cbm in 2017 to 527,294 cbm.

But another 2,873 boreholes used for agricultural purposes saw extraction increase from 1.44 million cbm in 2017, to 2.06 million cbm in 2018.

Globally, it means metered groundwater extraction increased by 24% from 2.1 million cbm to 2.6 million cbm in 2018.

Moreover, while in 2017 the highest abstraction – the technical word for water extraction – from a single agricultural borehole was slightly in excess of 30,000 cubic metres, in 2018 more than five agricultural boreholes extracted over 30,000 cbm.

And in in 2018, eight commercial boreholes were extracting over 30,000 cbm annually, two of which in excess of 60,000 cbm, when compared to 2017 when just one commercial borehole extracted over 30,000 cbm.

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Still, the vast majority of agricultural boreholes (99%) extract less than 10,000 cbm annually. 92% of metered commercial boreholes also extract less than 10,000 cubic metres a year. That means that while on average an agricultural borehole extracted 717 cbm, the average commercial borehole extracted 2,152 cbm.

Since agricultural boreholes are more numerous, they also account for 80% of the water extracted.

The amount of groundwater extracted in Malta is probably higher than that quoted in these statistics, because of the 4,368 registered groundwater sources used for agriculture only 2,873 have been metered.

Omitted from the metering process are a number of old hand-dug wells. The number of metered boreholes has remained the same as last year.

Moreover, a further 738 agricultural boreholes and 23 commercial ones are not equipped with automated data transmission. In these boreholes metering data is still collected manually and could not be provided. These boreholes are located in remote locations, where signal shadowing is difficult as transmission is impeded by the presence of structures in the vicinity.

However, installation of automated data transmission modules is still ongoing. The agency was unable to indicate how much water is extracted for the specific production of mineral water: when boreholes were registered in 1997 and 2008, the bottled water producers were included in the more generic “food and beverage” category.

Plans are currently underway to increase the supply of ‘new water’ derived from sewage treatment plants to farmers through dispensers, in a bid to further reduce groundwater extraction.

READ MORE: Groundwater extraction data reveals major discrepancy