MWA Viewpoint on Wastewater Reuse

 

The Malta Water Association (MWA) viewpoint with regard to the reuse of wastewater is based on the following principles:

  1. Sewage must be considered a resource: creating markets for treated sewage effluent
    • The capital investment for treating sewage prior to discharge has been made. However, the water situation existing in Malta requires that the treated effluent is not disposed of at sea but utilised.  The additional treatment for the reuse of treated sewage effluent (TSE),  together with the installation of an appropriate distribution system, has costs which need to be evaluated in the context of the real cost of water; long term objectives must be considered in financial feasibility studies.  This can only be achieved once a realistic price is given to water pumped out of our groundwater reserves – which incidentally is also a requirement of the EU Water Framework Directive (referred to as the ‘Resource Cost’) and which should have been achieved by end 2010.
    • The locations of water intensive sectors, which could be potential markets for the reuse of TSE, essentially agriculture and industry, must be identified and mapped so as to obtain a ‘reuse map’ showing priority areas for the distribution of TSE. Similar exercises carried out in the past as part of the Sewerage Master Plan and other studies can be updated.
    • Dual distribution piping systems which distribute TSE to areas which have a high potential for reuse should be investigated. Dual tariff structures must be utilised, with TSE being supplied at a lower cost than (potable) town water, to entice users to overcome perceived risks and quality concerns, and make the switch. This approach is similar to that adopted by Singapore and its Newater (recycled water) system.

 

  1. Controlling the quality and quantity of discharges to the sewerage network
    • The regulations governing discharges to sewers of rainfall runoff, animal wastes and trade effluents must be updated and subsequently enforced in order to protect sewerage infrastructure as well as the quality of the TSE.
    • The integrity of the sewerage network must be maintained, particularly with respect to seawater intrusion.

 

  1. Practicing Integrated Water Resource Management
    • A holistic approach with defined goals of the Water Services Corporation (WSC), the entity that manages the entire water cycle, must be developed. These goals must include alternative sources of water which would reflect the real costs, for sustainable development.
    • The reuse of the water from the projected stormwater network needs to be seen in conjunction with the reuse potential of TSE.
    • The new projected stormwater network and its management, in conjunction with the sewerage network, with commonalities of plant/operatives need to be brought into the picture in the context of integrated water management.

 

  1. Review of the Sewerage Master Plan
    • The Sewerage Master Plan (1992) envisaged a review after the completion of the first phase which included the priority areas, namely the under-capacity sewers, corporatisation, and the building of treatment plants. This review is overdue.
    • An integral water policy framework must be considered to effectively deliver the proposals made in a number of recent policy documents, including the Water Policy, the Water Catchment Management Plan, the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, and National Strategy for Sustainable Development.

 

  1. Pricing of treated sewage effluent and cost recovery
    • To date, discharges into the sewerage system have been paid out of general taxation. This has led to a laissez-faire attitude by the general population and no significant wastewater recycling initiatives.   Moreover, the cost of wastewater collection and treatment have become more significant of late with the 3 municipal sewage treatment plants coming online in the last 3 years.  Government should logically consider the introduction of a sewage discharge tariff which covers the cost of sewage collection and treatment, also in line with Malta’s obligations with regard to the EU Water Framework Directive.  Such a tariff should appropriately offset any taxes which are now being used to subsidise the service.  Also, state subsidies which may remain in place must be fully transparent to the taxpayer.    This will ensure that the general public is made conscious of the real cost of collecting and treating sewage, encourage discharge reduction and water conservation, and lead towards the adequate and fair pricing of TSE to ensure cost recovery over the long term.
    • The cost-recovery tariff of stormwater management, collection and treatment need addressing along similar lines.

 

  1. Public perception, awareness and training
    • Challenging the public’s perception that polished TSE is inherently of an inferior quality to other sources of water must be a priority for the increased use of TSE. This must be carried out by convincing users (using local and foreign research and experience) that the use of polished TSE is suitable and ultimately safe for its intended use. The MWA believes that this is best achieved through demonstration projects involving water suppliers (WSC), farmers and consumers.
    • Given the local expertise in the areas of desalination, water leakage reduction, wastewater treatment and other areas of water science, together with the close proximity of infrastructure to carry out research, MCAST, MCST, University, and WSC should encourage research and training opportunities to ensure a suitable local knowledge pool which will promote innovation in this area.