Elections 2013 and Water Policy

What about water?

Another forgotten issue seems to be that of water policy.

Hydrologist Marco Cremona expresses concern at the taciturn approach towards water policy being taken by the Labour Party.

"I was present for the business breakfast in which the party's electricity and water tariffs were presented. The majority of the presentation and ensuing discussion was on the PL's energy proposals, with water being relegated to part of a slide at the end of the presentation," Cremona said.

"The PL is banking on the fact that any benefits from the gas project will automatically trickle down to the Water Services Corporation as savings in water production, to the extent that WSC will end up in a slightly better financial situation than it is today, even after reducing the water tariffs by 5% overall. While this is correct, it is a very simplistic way of looking at the much more complex water sector."

The singularity of this approach is a particular bone of contention for Cremona, who says Malta needs tens of millions of euros to implement numerous water-saving projects that can provide an alternative and more sustainable source of water to groundwater and desalination, such as the recovery of water from sewage and from rain.

"The Water Services Corporation's only source of income stems from water tariffs. Now that Labour has fixed future water tariffs to 95% of current levels, and has ruled out the introduction of a sewage tax, there is no income stream to implement these capital projects. I wait with bated breath for the PL's water policy, which now has to work within these unnecessary constraints."

The lack of debate on water stemming from both political parties is also a concern according to Geoffrey Saliba, EU LIFE+ project manager at the Malta Business Bureau, which has championed water-saving measures for businesses.

"With an election round the corner, it would be the ideal time for political parties to discuss the water issue. Malta is one of the ten driest countries in the world," said Saliba.

Water policy is not only a local problem, certain obligations exist under EU law.

"All EU member states are obliged to ensure that water pricing recovers costs of production, includes a resource and environmental cost, and ensures that it acts as an incentive for efficient use.

"Billing inefficiencies mean that 31% of the water supplied by the WSC is not billed. If these inefficiencies were to be addressed, the WSC's costs would remain the same but revenue would increase," Saliba said.

"National policy requires refining to meet the Commission's expectations. Political manifestos for the 2013 elections omit mention of whether or how policy changes are planned to meet these targets - clarifications from the political parties would be welcomed," Saliba concluded.

Michael Briguglio, chairperson of the green party, Alternattiva Demokratika, points out that Malta's water policy requires further diversification, with the 100% dependence on reverse osmosis a major weakness not highlighted by the PL's plans.

"In the case of a man-made disaster such as an oil spill off the Maltese coast, Malta's supply of fresh water could potentially we wiped out overnight."

Reproduced with permission from the original Malta Today article.

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