The Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) and the Malta Resources Authority (MRA) have launched the Water Catchment Management Plan for the Maltese Islands. Following extensive public consultation, the document is Malta’s first ever integrated plan with clear objectives to manage and protect all waters, including coastal waters, ground waters and inland surface waters.
MEPA’s Chairman, Austin Walker, addressed those present at the launch of the plan, stating that “the Water Catchment Management Plan is a milestone in the management of Malta’s water resources; to date, it is the most significant milestone achieved by Malta in the implementation of the EU’s Water Framework Directive.”
Mr Walker continued to say that “the management measures contained in the Plan were identified following a detailed economic analysis to determine the suitability of certain management actions that provide the most cost-effective scenario for Malta.”
The measures and actions described within the plan are not only the responsibility of MEPA and MRA. While these authorities were responsible for the work undertaken to come up with a solid plan, the plan needs to be owned by other government agencies as well, along with other various practitioners such as farmers, industrialists, hoteliers and even home owners.
To ensure the proper implementation of the management measures, an Interministerial Committee has been set up to oversee the actual implementation of these measures on the ground.
The Water Framework Directive (WFD) sets the minimum environmental standards for all waters, and which need to be achieved through three 6-year cycles. With regards to surface waters, the overall objective is to achieve good status where waters are of sufficient quality and quantity to support human activities, as well as the ecosystems that are dependent on them.
At the same time, specific areas in the water environment that are protected through other EU and national legislation, should maintain the higher standards that are required under the legislation that governs them.
The WCMP was adopted following a significant public consultation programme which took place over the last two years. The public was kept informed about the progress being made on the plan through a dedicated website, a number of conferences organised through MEUSAC and also via a number of radio and TV programmes.
The WCMP was also subjected to two assessments: a Climate Check to evaluate whether the Plan will assist Malta in managing its water resources within a changing climate and a Strategic Environmental Assessment to ensure that the Plan is integrating water management with other environmental objectives.
The finalized WCMP for the Maltese Islands presents how the objectives of the WFD will be achieved. The plan details the different planning stages of its development, including the identification of water bodies as management units, the assessment of significant pressures and impacts on all water resources and monitoring programs to determine status of the water bodies.
The Plan also identifies specific objectives for each water body and lists the management measures that will be taken by Malta over the next five years to improve the environmental status of the identified area, bringing the country closer to achieving the objectives of the Water Framework Directive.
It was also revealed that one of the problems encountered by MEPA in the development of the WCMP was the lack of historical scientific data on the surface water environment. MEPA, through a €4.9 million EU funded project, is currently making a substantial investment to develop comprehensive monitoring programmes, including for Malta’s coastal and inland surface waters.
By means of the WCMP, MEPA shall also continue to integrate planning and environmental aspects of water management through the Environmental Impact Assessment process, and via the effective implementation of the planning and environmental permitting processes.