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Water resources

Despite the relatively low rainfall and the arid appearance of the Maltese Islands, local catchment characteristics are very favourable for the storage of rainwater and the hydrological cycle provides a generous supply of freshwater which undoubtedly contributed to the early settlement of the inhabitants.

Surface water resources

Total surface water resources are estimated at 0.5 million m/year. Structurally, Malta tilts gently to the east giving rise to a topography that is high along the western shores and gently slopes down to sea level along the eastern shores. This implies that the surface drainage lines cross the entire width of the island from their source close to the western shore before reaching the sea on the east. This favourable topography, combined with the good water storage capacity of the soil, excellent infiltration characteristics and effective runoff interception by numerous dams and cisterns, gives the surface water maximum time to seep into the ground and thus minimizes runoff losses to the sea. A greater amount of surface runoff, however, is lost from urban areas via sewers or directly to the sea especially in coastal towns and villages. Attempts are in hand to tackle the storm water wastage problem for a more effective use of surface runoff.

Morphologically, the Maltese Islands are divided into two main units by the Victoria Lines fault, that crosses the northern part of the island of Malta from west to east. North of this fault, Malta is broken up into a number of horsts and grabens by less pronounced faults. Drainage is parallel to the general strike of the horst-graben system and the few intermittent streams flow into the bays to the north-east. The second morphologic unit lies south of the Victoria Lines fault, where two main drainage systems are found. The main one converges into the Valletta basin by a system of east- or north-east-trending streams, while the second one converges into Marsaxlokk bay to the south-east.

Groundwater resources

The renewable groundwater potential on the Maltese Islands is estimated as being approximately 40 million m/year. In order not to deplete the storage capacity of the main aquifer without causing salt water intrusion, only 15 million m/year of groundwater would be potentially extractable. Based on the 1995 figures of the Water Services Corporation, however, 19.75 million m/year were extracted from 13 pumping stations, approximately 160 boreholes in Malta and Gozo, and about 2800 registered private wells (the latter extracting an estimated total of 2.44 million m/year). This means that groundwater depletion does in fact take place. Moreover, there is significant extraction from illegal and unregistered wells (probably up to 2.97 million m/year), leading to a total groundwater extraction of 22.72 million m/year.


Most runoff occurs after heavy torrential rain. This is the only time when surface water flows, for a few days at most, along the beds of the major valleys. To retain this storm discharge, a large number of small dams have been constructed across the drainage lines. They also serve the purpose of reducing the rate of soil erosion. Open reservoirs have been constructed along recently made roads to minimize runoff. Total dam capacity is estimated at 154 000 m.

Desalinated water and treated wastewater

At present 31.4 million m/year of desalinated water are being produced from four sea water Reverse Osmosis Plants and one brackish water Reverse Osmosis Plant, but this is a rather expensive procedure. In 1993, of the total produced wastewater estimated at 23.7 million m, about 1.82 million m was treated and 1.56 million m of this was reused.


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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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