Is the tap water in Malta drinkable?
Visitors and people living in Malta often ask "Is Malta's tap water safe to drink?" and in many Facebook groups a questions such as this causes a strong discussion with many differing opinions.
At TAPP Water Malta we constantly monitor both the facts and the opinions of Maltese residents about the quality of the tap water in Malta and we retain this page, constantly updated in order to reflect the current situation.
As a resident of Malta for the past 14 years I have seen the quality of tap water in Malta is change as the country develops and grows. But even with the investments made by the Water Services Corporation in Malta there has been considerable population growth and the construction of a large number of dwellings which place additional strain on water resources in Malta.
The tap water in Malta is therefore an ever evolving story and in addition our environment is also changing which limits our natural resources in Malta.
Where does Malta's water supply come from?
This a good place to start 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 Mediterranean sea we need to get our water from the environment as we find it.
Much of the tap water comes from desalinisation plants and Malta has four of these in Ghar Lapsi, Pembroke, Cirkewwa and Hondoq, Gozo. These plants process the water and add chlorine to ensure the safety of the water to EU Standards.
The desalination process itself is highly reliable for producing a high quality of water, however it is energy intensive and means that after processing both Chlorine and Lime (added to give desalinated water "taste and body") must be added to the water to keep it safe to drink in Malta.
The WSC produces over 35 million cubic metres of water for public consumption in Malta (2022 data) and 36% of that production was sourced from groundwater which mostly comes from the Ta' kandja underground network of galleries, spanning 6.2KM of underground.
Where is water stored in Malta?
With no rivers feeding lakes in Malta we do not see overground water reservoirs in Malta for the public supply network. However water needs storage and water is stored in 24 separate locations in Malta and Gozo totalling 400,000 cubic litres. This water is already blended between groundwater and reverse osmosis water and the levels are monitored continuously to ensure an effective supply across the islands.
Does the tap water in Malta meet all EU Standards
According to all the EU and WHO guidelines the tap water in Malta is safe to drink. The supply of tap water in Malta is subject to the Directive (EU) 2020/2184 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2020 which came into force in January 2021.
There are tests done regularly across all locations to ensure that the supply is meeting all the standards and the testing data is available to the general public to view in their area on the WSC Live Portal. Just click on your area under Control Room and Water Quality.
In the example below you can see the results showing an undetected level of bacteria, but relatively high Nitrates which is common in Malta.
What are the risks of drinking tap water in Malta?
So although the tap water in Malta is safe to drinking according to all the EU and WHO guidelines there maybe reasons why you would want to consider carefully before doing so.
According to a study from January 2020 about 27% of the tap 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)"
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 tap water in Malta 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 recognised 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 improvements are being made in water taste in Malta?
By the end of 2023 we expect that the part-funded EU funded pipeline from the Reverse Osmosis plant in Pembroke to the reservoir in Ta' Qali will be completed. The completion of this project is expected to make groundwater blending and lime dosing more effective, in other words reducing the amount of lime added to the water which reduces the limescale in our water and will also reduce the PH which is alkaline.
From the Ta'Qali reservoirs the water will be fed to the eastern city population, so Valletta and Sliema areas in addition to feeding reservoirs at San Gwann - so this will have an impact on many densely populated areas.
It is yet to see if the taste improves and if chlorides can be reduced as part of this programme. However it should be considered that there are many other possible contaminants that can affect water supply after the reservoir so a point of use water filter is still a good consideration.
What are my options for water can I drink in Malta?
There are three options currently:
- Drinking water straight from the tap
- Buying plastic bottled water
- Investing in a home water filter system
Drinking tap water in Malta
There are no doubts that some people drink the tap water in the Maltese islands, if you see any Facebook posts in various groups asking the question there will always be a minority of people showing up with comments that support drinking tap water in Malta.
However, the majority of people would disagree. It's a personal choice at the end of the day and made by weighing up your personal balance between health, safety and security for your family.
In fact it is general common knowledge that whilst you can drink the tap water in Malta, the Maltese people do not because of the taste and odour caused by the process that ensures the tap water is safe to drink!
Malta has made huge infrastructure investments since joining the EU and standards have certainly been raised over these past years with great results, however there is still some practical supply inconsistencies between some areas of Malta and even in a house with a mostly reliable water supply; there can be sudden and unexpected variances in water quality.
Check out the TAPP Water great taste guarantee, a chance to confidently enjoy drinking tap water in Malta.
The plastic bottled water supply in Malta
Drinking water from plastic bottled water is very common in Malta. At the major supermarkets you can "earn" free plastic bottles of water by spending money and so it is a common site to see a family collecting multiple packets of plastic bottled water from the special plastic bottled water depot at a supermarket.
This does not make the change away from plastic bottled water in Malta an easy one, even though our numbers suggest that a family can be up to €248 a year better off by dropping plastic bottles water and using a water filter.
The water in Malta is actually quite alkaline with a healthy levels of minerals already in the water, in that way Malta's tap water is already like the bottled water that marketing suggests is healthy for you.
You can easily compare TAPP Water with bottled water to see which is more convenient, cheaper and better for the planet in our detailed report.
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:
Check out TAPP Water advanced microfiltration to learn more about this cost effective, independently tested solution to plastic bottles in Malta.
TAPP Water filters 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 Water Filters remove all known bi-products from Chlorine (whereof some potentially cancerogenic such as THMs). Tappwater.mt
TAPP Water solves the four main problems with drinking tap water in Malta:
- Taste - Malta's use of tap water for drinking is among the lowest in EU, surveys conducted by the WSC shows that the preferred source of drinking water is, by far, bottled water because most people in Malta do not like the taste of tap water even if it meets all the EU safety standards. The WSC data shows that its a question of trust, simply put in Malta people just won't trust tap water even if it costs only €0.02c a litre.
- Plastic Bottles - over 200 million are used every year in Malta. That's loads of plastic bottles, about 500 plastic bottles for every household. Very little is recycled in Malta (only 14%), whilst some of it exported after processing, plenty of plastic never makes it to recycling and ends up in landfill or discarded because only 25% is ever collected.. We all know this in Malta, because we see plastic bottles everywhere, on the beach, in the water, in the countryside, on pavements. It cant be good right?
- Microplastics - When plastic gets into our environment it often ends up in our water system as microplastics; which we can then end up drinking. It may suprise you to know it takes 3 litres of water to make a 1L plastic bottle. Source: One Green Planet
- Cost - Finally consumers have to buy, carry home bottles from the store and then store and throw away the bottles. For this they pay almost 1000 times more than tap water. As if this wasn’t enough the plastic leeches into the water which means that our bodies get contaminated with BPA and phathalates of which we don’t yet understand the long term impact.Source: One Green Planet
20-11-2023 - Updated WSC Reverse Osmosis Water production figures for 2022
20-11-2023 - Updated WSC Web Portal live link
20-11-2023 - Updated for Ta' Qali tunnel improvements