Every year, 20 million cubic meters of water are taken from the groundwater, half of which goes toward agriculture.
A number of farmers are feeling discriminated against because they do not yet have access to recycled water -so called “new water” and have to face high costs of maintaining water from their boreholes for watering their crops.
“I am in a situation here where to irrigate 20 acres of land I need at least 4,000 euros or more per year of electricity to be brought from the borehole This so called new water is something which I personally have never come across and many are irrigating their land without having to pay for anything. ”
Drought and water scarcity is a greater financial burden for farmers who, like Leonard Schembri, do not have access to purified water for irrigating crops in the “new water” project.
Mr Schembri, who owns a farm in Fawwara within the limits of Siġġiewi, argued that the water should be shared equally with all farmers.
“There should be a law that whoever use that water is made to pay something small – we who use it can pay 10 euros for the water to brought over to our fields. That way there is an equal playing field. Instead of being told to fill up a bowser which is more costly than getting it from a borehole. Unless they are prepared to finance the cost of a bowser or pay our electricity bill . ”
Drought has been affecting farmers for years especially due to climate change and changing rainfall, which is happening more frequently.
The Chief Executive of the Energy and Water Agency, Manuel Sapiano explained that the majority of farmers are making efficient use of water.
In Malta and Gozo there are 8,000 registered boreholes with only 3,000 meters installed. According to Mr Sapiano, there are sources such as old boreholes from which water is drawn in traditional ways and not with a pump to which a meter cannot be fitted.
“Not only when it comes to farming but also when it comes to the water we use for drinking. We are roughly reaching the figure of 20-22 million cubic meters per year.”
Mr Sapiano pointed out that over the years farmers themselves have developed efficient irrigation methods – through drip irrigation for irrigated land – which have greatly reduced water use.
In Malta there are 16 aquifers, 12 of which are used by agriculture.