Visitors and people living here often ask "Is Malta's tap water safe to drink?" and one would like to think there is an easy yes or no answer. But really it is more complicated because its not just safety that we need to keep in mind, our water in Malta is changing as the country develops and grows and the environment is also changing.
So here we will attempt to provide some perspectives as we see them.
Where does Malta's water supply come from?
This a good place to strat as it helps us understand what the issues are. Malta has no lakes, rivers or natural reservoirs so even though we are surrounded by water in the beautiful Mediteranean sea we need to get our water from the environment as we find it.
Much of our water comes from desalinisation plants and Malta has three of these in Ghar Lapsi, Pembroke and Cirkewa. These plants process the water and add chlorine to ensure the safety of the water to EU Standards.
What are the risks of drinking tap water in Malta?
According to a recent study bout 27% of water comes from groundwater In Malta and this is mixed with the desalinated water to improve the taste. However our groundwater is polluted by Nitrates from farming with Malta having some of the most polluted groundwater in Europe.
Chlorine is the most common addition to water for public consumption, however DPB which are "disinfection by products" are an issue. DPB's are a complex mixture of chemicals and the two main classes of DPBs are trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs) which are formed at high concentrations after chlorination.
THMs are associated with a causal relationship to bladder cancer and this is presented in this January 2020 study of European countries where Malta was ranked 2nd highest in Europe for the levels of THMs found in tap water.
This study concluded that the most common THM in Malta was bromoform and that Malta had the 2nd highest bladder cancer PAF of 17.9% in the EU. A PAF is the "contribution of a risk factor to a disease or a death is quantified using the population attributable fraction (PAF)"
I am not a scientist, just a water consumer trying to understand the risks. But it sure doesnt look good to me!
What does the tap water in Malta taste like?
The salt from the sea is removed in the process but some may still find the water slightly salty, however people often complain of the chlorine taste in the water more than the slight saltiness.
Some people will drink the water straight from the tap and it does depend a little on the area as water taste does differ. The Water Services Corporation in Malta does recognise the issue with taste and over many years of investment they are doing everything they can to improve it.
"However, surveys conducted by the WSC shows that the preferred source of drinking water is, by far, bottled water.
The main reason for this, as most of the WSC survey replies cite, is due to the taste of the water itself. A concern, which the WSC is already addressing by implementing a major EU-funded project to improve the taste of tap water. With €150 million in funding, the ‘Towards a Net Zero Impact Utility’ project is the largest ever Cohesion Policy financing for a project in Malta." Times of Malta
What are my options for water can I drink in Malta?
There are three options currently:
- Drinking water straight from the tap (u ejje - "oh come on..")
- Buying plastic bottled water
- Investing in a home water filter system
What are my options for a home water filter system?
It all depends on your level of investment and your view on maintenance costs, there are three systems you can use:
- Reverse osmoisis
- Water jugs
- Tap water filter
Check out How it works - for a comparison of all systems avaailable in Malta.
TAPP 2 reduces Chlorine by 95% or more based on 100s of tests carried out on tap water around the world. This improves the taste instantly for chlorinated water. In addition to this TAPP 2 removes all known bi-products from Chlorine (whereof some potentially cancerogenic such as THMs). Tappwater.mt