[WATCH] Water plan to target growing population

The Water Services Corporation is investing millions to improve efficiency, increase water production and safeguard the water table

The Ta' Kandja water tunnels administered by the Water Services Corporation
The Ta' Kandja water tunnels administered by the Water Services Corporation

Malta’s resources are under pressure from a growing population and increasing tourist numbers but the Water Services Corporation is investing millions to ensure the demand is satisfied.

Richard Bilocca, WSC CEO, said the corporation had projected the demand until 2050 and was planning its investments accordingly.

He said more water would be produced from reverse osmosis in a more energy-efficient manner, while a concerted drive to cut down on network losses led the corporation to bill for more water while producing less.

Reverse osmosis plants that turn sea water into drinkable water produce 60% of tap water with the rest being extracted from the ground.

Bilocca said new investment into the country’s reverse osmosis plants would see their energy requirements go down by 8.1%, equivalent to 0.3% savings in the national energy demand.

He added that the WSC has reduced ground water abstraction to safeguard the water table for future generations. At the same time, the corporation was producing some seven billion litres of new water – polished water from the sewage treatment plants – that was being distributed to farmers to reduce the need for them to extract water from boreholes.

WSC CEO Richard Bilocca (left) and Parliamentary Secretary Aaron Farrugia, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna and Energy Minister Joe Mizzi
WSC CEO Richard Bilocca (left) and Parliamentary Secretary Aaron Farrugia, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna and Energy Minister Joe Mizzi

Bilocca was speaking at the WSC’s Ta’ Kandja pumping station, where the corporation has an extensive network of tunnels some 100 metres below ground to collect fresh water.

Energy Minister Joe Mizzi said the WSC issued 158 tenders and adjudicated 130 of them during 2018 for a total disbursement of €37 million in EU funds.

“This is an unprecedented achievement, which I was apprehensive of at first but that was possible because of the collaboration between the WSC, the contracts department and the European funds parliamentary secretariat,” Mizzi said.

The corporation plans to invest more than €130 million in EU-funded projects. One such project was the construction of a tunnel linking the Pembroke reverse osmosis plant to the Ta’ Qali reservoir.

The pipeline connecting the two locations would enable the blending of RO water with ground water to produce better tasting tap water.

Ta’ Kandja tunnels

Hewn out of rock at a depth of some 100 metres, the Ta’ Kandja fresh water galleries continue to serve this country’s water needs more than 50 years later.

The network of tunnels was dug out in the 1960s at sea level with galleries running for more than a kilometre in every direction.

On the walls, signs give a sense of direction by pointing out the tunnels that run to Żurrieq, Siġġiewi, Mqabba, Wied il-Kbir, Wied Costa and other areas.

Rain water that would have filtered through the rocks over the course of many years collects in the galleries. The fresh water rests above sea water because it is less dense.

It takes between 40 and 50 years for surface water to seep through the rocks and reach the tunnels.

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