The EU LIFE+ Investing in Water Project was launched yesterday afternoon by Minister Mario de Marco at the Exchange Buildings in Valletta, during an event attended by representatives from many businesses and hotels that are being offered help to save water.
Minister de Marco thanked project partners the Malta Business Bureau, the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association for managing to secure EU funding support from the Life Plus programme. This, he remarked, was a particularly challenging endeavour in its own right since this project competed with over 700 other proposals from other countries, of which only a quarter was actually selected for funding last year.
“Freshwater scarcity and availability are amongst the main strategically important issues facing Malta today. The project complements government efforts in dealing with the issue, by raising awareness and providing support to enterprises in introducing sustainable water management practices throughout the industry”, said Dr de Marco in his address. “All efforts to deal with our national water concerns must fit together tightly and dovetail one another - this project is precisely one such piece”, the Minister has added.
The project is providing enterprises with expertise to identify water savings solutions, based on analysis of their water consumption. Although the project has only just been launched, several hotels and businesses have already engaged the project to analyse their water consumption and carry out water audits.
Addressing attendees, Mr John A. Huber, President of the MBB, the lead project partner, explained that: “The project partnership looks forward to helping these enterprises and many more to reduce water consumption. This will also reduce pressure on Malta's scarce fresh water reserves.”
Malta is acknowledged as one of the top ten countries worldwide for water scarcity. Groundwater is the only source of fresh water; however, it is unsustainably exploited. In fact, 48% more groundwater is extracted than is recharged on an annual basis.
This over-extraction, together with nitrate pollution mainly from excessive fertiliser, has resulted in only two of Malta’s 18 groundwater bodies considered as being in ‘Good Status’. Malta is already heavily reliant on reverse-osmosis desalination plants, which produce 55% of publicly supplied water. As groundwater deterioration continues the reliance on reverse-osmosis will increase.
Mr. Tancred Tabone, President of The Malta Chamber stated that: “The project will be of direct benefit to business and hotels as the reduction in water consumption will also lower their operating costs. Water conservation should be one of the main priorities for all business operations as the desalination of water is directly linked to our electricity consumption and operating costs.”
The project engaged the services of Ing. Marco Cremona, a local water expert, who is leading the water consumption analysis and identification of solutions. Solutions identified by the project will also be applicable in other industries, such as restaurants, and even in residential buildings.
Mr Anthony Zahra, President of the MHRA, concluded by stating: “The project integrates business interests and environmental protection, while providing an expert service at no cost to businesses. This is an excellent example of business and environmental protection going hand in hand for the benefit of all.”
This is the first national initiative of this scale addressing the sustainable use of water in Malta to be carried out by a local partnership. The project started in October 2011 and will run until March 2014. Over the course of these 30 months the project aims to help interested businesses and hotels reduce their service water consumption by at least 10%.
These services are brought to local companies free of charge by leading project partner the Malta Business Bureau, supported by partners The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association. The project receives 50% co-financing under the European Community’s LIFE funding programme, with the Ministry for Tourism, Culture and the Environment as the main co-financier, further co-financing and sponsorship from Easydry Malta, APS Bank, Island Hotels Group, and MSV LIFE.