Here's what you need to know about water quality in Malta:
- Water in Malta is safe to drink straight from the tap, and will not make you sick. (Don't let bottled water sellers tell you otherwise!) Of course, there may be exceptions to this. We lived at the University of Malta's student residence in 2008, where we were explicitly instructed not to drink the tap water (it was brown).
- A lot of tap water in Malta is desalinated. In other words, its essentially sea water with the salt removed. We'll talk about what this means, and about the sad state of water resources in Malta, later.
- Tap water in Malta does have a 'taste.' When you really think about it, all water has a taste that varies widely geographically. The same holds true even for this tiny island - water tastes different from village to village, and even flat to flat, depending on your pipes and filtration systems. I, personally, hate the taste of water in Malta but Mike finds it tolerable, so its obviously super subjective.
- Many locals and tourists drink bottled water. I suspect this is because in older homes the taste of the water is quite strong. But I'm almost 100% sure this isn't because the water is unsafe to drink. In any case, bottled water is quite inexpensive here (€0.50 for a small bottle, €1 for a 1.5L bottle), but we all know the pitfalls of polluting our planet with plastics. (And I often wonder how we would explain to aliens that we sell water...)
- The taste of tap water in Malta is greatly improved by using an at-home filtration system. We use a Brita, which makes our water taste just as good as any bottle of water I've ever had. Plus, it's cheaper than buying bottles.
- Water (as a utility) in Malta is (from a Canadian perspective) expensive. Water prices in Malta are priced per cubic meter, and vary according to the number of residents registered to each housing unit, and consumption rates. Domestic usage prices start at €1.47 per cubic meter, and go up to €5.41 per cubic meter.
Here's what you need to know about the water supply in Malta (source):
- Malta is on the list with Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, the Maldives, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Yemen as being the ten poorest countries globally in terms of water resources per inhabitant.
- This is because Malta is surrounded by seawater, has a small catchement (water collection/reservoir) area, has a semi-arid climate (no rain from June to September) and a high population density (one of the highest in the world!)
- Malta has below the accepted threshold of 1000 m3 of water per inhabitant, considered to be the minimum to sustain life and agriculture.
- Water that is extracted from the ground has a high level of salinity, due to over-extraction. That makes sense: If you extract more water from an aquifer than you are supposed to, seawater rises up and fills it.
- Malta has a problem with illegal water extraction. No one really knows how many unregistered boreholes are on the island.
So, here's what you can do to cut your water consumption in Malta:
- Take shorter showers. In the summer especially, it's easy to turn the water on and get wet, turn it off and lather up, then turn it on and rinse. Mike and I call it a 'Mediterranean shower.'
- Do not leave the tap running when you brush your teeth (this was drilled into my head in Canada growing up and drives me crazy!)
- Consider purchasing house or terrace plants that require less water (succulents and cacti are great, and - bonus - hard to kill!)
- Many dishwashers and clothes washers in Malta have low-water usage settings. Use 'em.
What has your experience with water been in Malta, or wherever you live? Do you drink it from the tap? How do you cut your consumption? I'd love to know.