Water scarcity in the Maltese Islands : geopolitics and management issues
The Maltese Islands have a history of water resource problems. A high proportion of the Maltese population has suffered over the past few years from water scarcity caused mainly by: (a) a shortage in water production and escalating water demands; (b) rising salinity levels in groundwater and tap water; (c) an undersized and deteriorating distribution system; and (d) increasing levels of groundwater pollution. There is a spatial variation in the intensity of these problems. They are greatest in the south of Malta and it has been suggested that this is due to geopolitical, as well as social, economic and physical, factors. This inequity in water supply has, for many years, been blamed on the politicisation of water. The causes of the water problems are presented and the problems, themselves, are analysed. The link between the water problems and the politicisation of water and conflicts over water resources, is established and discussed. Finally, solutions, through water management and future planned developments, are presented. Social and geopolitical information was gathered mainly through qualitative interviews with water consumers, water suppliers, decision makers, academics and members of non-Governmental organisations, in Malta. Quantitative data on hydrology and the entire water management system was collected and analysed. An extensive literary search to support the physical, social, economic and geopolitical aspects of the research and to obtain legal information, was also undertaken. In conclusion, although the water problems have been enhanced by unsustainable management, they are a part of a wider geopolitical problem, especially the inequitable water supply. In particular, settlements with an affiliation to the political party in Government are better supplied than settlements that support the Opposition. In addition, water conflicts, at all scales, arise due to water scarcity and a lack or absence of water sharing regulations and, of course, human nature.