Malta's tap water is a hot topic of debate among its residents and visitors and with good reason. While most people assume that tap water is perfectly safe to drink, it's not always the case.
In Malta, there are numerous concerns regarding the safety of tap water, with some people claiming that it can lead to various health issues and others claiming that it's perfectly fine.
To learn the truth behind Malta's tap water, and to find out whether it is safe to drink, we need to take a closer look at the issues at hand. By exploring the potential health issues, looking at the water sources, and investigating the water treatment methods used, we can begin to build a picture of the water quality in Malta and decide for ourselves if it's safe to drink.
Overview of the Debate Surrounding Malta’s Tap Water
When it comes to the debate surrounding Malta's tap water, people tend to take one of two sides. Those who drink tap water and have no issues claim that it's perfectly safe, while those who experience health issues claim that it's unsafe and should be avoided.
The controversy stems from the fact that Malta's tap water has not always been drinkable straight from the tap. Since Malta joined the EU there has been a huge investment in the water supply infrastructure to ensure that Malta meets all the EU standards for the supply of public water.
Malta sources its drinking water from a mixture of seawater which is treated in reverse osmosis plants and groundwater which is naturally occurring in underground aquifers.
However, the history of Malta's public supply water is somewhat tarnished by reports of high nitrates in the groundwater in 2010 and the prevalence of potentially cancerous THMs a by-product of the chlorination of the water which was highlighted in 2020.
Furthermore, there are often complaints on social media about the rust and sediment that occurs frequently in the water supply in some areas. This occurs due to the works on the water supply pipes in Malta which are being undertaken regularly as the investment in new water pipes continues in Malta
Potential Health Issues Caused by Malta’s Tap Water
The potential health issues caused by Malta's tap water can be traced back to the water sources. Since the water from the underground aquifers is affected by nitrates and the THMs are a product of the chlorination process at the reverse osmosis plants producing the drinking water in Malta then both of the sources of water are potentially contaminated.
Furthermore, with over 2,500KM of pipes delivering supply to over 140,000 delivery points, there is always a risk of contamination during the water delivery to your house.
Once in your premises, contamination may occur in the pipes within your premises with chlorine sometimes reacting with plumbing to impact metallic or ointment-like tastes into your water.
Due to the chlorination of the water supply, there are few bacteria present in the water, which meets all EU guidelines for this and other contaminants on most occasions.
However, with over 5,000 tests carried out every year, there are occasions when certain measures are close to the limits of the regulations and may sometimes breach them temporarily.
Whilst in general terms the water supply meets all EU criteria, one day, at one testing point contamination may be above the limits set by the EU, and as a consumer one can never tell where or when this may happen.
Microplastics are a new area for concern, with no EU regulation or testing in Malta. International research has taken place over the past 10 years into how much microplastics we ingest each week and it's shown to be around 5g from our water and food supply.
With the levels of microplastics found in our seawater, it seems very possible that we have microplastic contamination in our water supply.
The main concerns for contamination in the water supply in Malta are:
- Heavy metals
Sources of Malta’s Tap Water
As we mentioned earlier, Malta's tap water comes from two different sources: the underground aquifers and the sea. Since we've also explored the potential health issues that may be caused by drinking tap water, we can now look at the water sources in more detail so we can learn how they contribute to the tap water's chemical makeup.
Due to increased water scarcity in Malta, the supply from underground aquifers is steadily being replaced by the level of water treated by reverse osmosis. Over the years the ratio of our blended water supplies has changed with the levels of reverse osmosis treated water now reaching over 60% of our drinking water.
Malta also does not harvest water from surface water which is traditionally sent through stormwater drains into the sea.
As an example see the difference between surface and groundwater between Austria and Malta. However, the new Sustainable Development plan for 2050 does suggest that more water will be collected from surface water in the future.
Water Treatment Methods Used in Malta
If you do decide to drink tap water in Malta, you'll be happy to know that it's treated at a plant before it's released into the water system. However, before we can determine if tap water is safe to drink, we need to take a look at the treatment methods used in the water plant.
The water plant treats the water with chlorine and other chemicals to kill bacteria and make it safe to drink. However, while tap water is treated and safe to drink, it's not ready for consumption. The water is treated, but it still contains chlorine, which can be harmful and also does make the water taste poor.
To make the tap water safe to drink, the excess chlorine in it needs to be removed, which is where water filtration systems such as Reverse Osmosis home water filtration systems or TAPP EcoPro come in.
The Quality of Malta’s Tap Water
Now that we've explored the sources of Malta's tap water and the treatment methods used in the water plant, we can begin to build a picture of the water quality in Malta.
Since the water we drink is blended from underground aquifers and the water is sourced from the sea and the improvements in piped supply that are ongoing the quality of the water varies depending on where you live.
However, with the high levels of chlorine in the water, the water quality is not suitable for drinking unless it's filtered. There are also traces of sodium and other minerals, which is normal and expected, in fact, Malta water is alkaline and full of healthy minerals.
However, since some of the impurities in the water aren't removed during the treatment process, there are traces of chlorine in the water, which is why it needs to be filtered before it can be consumed.
The Government’s Stance on the Safety of Malta’s Tap Water
Since there have been several health concerns associated with drinking tap water in Malta, the government has taken action to ensure that it's safe to drink. The government mandates the regular testing of the water supply, and it meets the European Union's drinking water standards.
Conclusion: Is Malta's Tap Water Safe to Drink?
When we look at the debate surrounding Malta's tap water and the potential health issues caused by the water's impurities, it's clear that the tap water may not be ready for consumption. However, once the water is filtered, the water quality is good enough to drink. However, before you decide to drink tap water in Malta, be sure to keep the following in mind: The water is treated, but it still contains chlorine, which can be harmful and tastes awful.
To make the tap water safe to drink, the excess chlorine in it needs to be removed, which is where water filtration systems come in. Once you filter the tap water, it's clean and safe to drink.