Safeguarding Malta's Groundwater

1. The National Audit Office (NAO) conducted the performance audit, entitled “Safeguarding Malta’s Groundwater”. This report examines whether Malta’s groundwater is being adequately protected from current challenges and climate change threats. This entailed evaluating the extent to which climate change adaptation measures to safeguard groundwater are being implemented. Findings and conclusions presented in this report are as at the end of October 2011. The focus on adaptation to climate change was taken into consideration due to a parallel audit performed in conjunction with eight other State Audit Institutions within the auspices of the European Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (EUROSAI) Working Group on Environmental Audit.

2. The overall status of groundwater bodies in Malta has been classified ‘at risk’ by various risk and vulnerability assessments commissioned by the Malta Resources Authority (MRA). Out of the 15 groundwater bodies, the two Mean Sea Level groundwater bodies are considered to be the most critical in status since they yield an estimated 66 per cent of the total groundwater abstracted in the country.

3. In view of the deteriorating status of Malta’s groundwater, this audit analysed the extent to which Malta is being effective in safeguarding and recharging groundwater against current and climate change threats. The scope of this audit included the various initiatives undertaken by the responsible Governmental entities to ascertain the long-term protection of groundwater. This audit’s objectives sought to determine the degree to which:

• The prevailing and climate change threats as well as their impact on groundwater have been


• The Government has developed the relevant framework to address the current status of groundwater.

• The proposed measures and recommendations to safeguard groundwater are being implemented in an effective and timely manner.

4. The NAO’s review was primarily based on four key documents namely, ‘A Proposal for a Water Policy for the Maltese Islands’ (Water Policy), the ‘National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy’ (NCCAS), ‘The Water Catchment Management Plan for the Maltese Islands’ (WCMP), and the ‘Nitrates Action Programme’ (NAP). These key documents contribute directly towards Government’s regulatory framework to safeguard groundwater.

5. Various risk and vulnerability assessments were undertaken to determine the current and climate change threats to groundwater. The threats identified were excessive over abstraction, as well as high nitrates and chlorides levels. These risks are expected to be compounded by the effects of climate change.