Water loss, and its operational and financial consequences, is a major concern for urban water utilities in the Mediterranean region. Losses, both physical and commercial, are due to leakages and the failure to bill customers for the full amount of water they use. A combination of these two factors puts the financial viability of water utilities at risk.
In countries already coping with water scarcity, the burden of water loss often leads to rationing and intermittent supply. As climate change exacerbates the problem—threatening the supply of renewable water and increasing the cost of new water resources—reducing losses from leaky pipes and under-billing, is becoming a priority for water utilities in the Mediterranean and throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Malta, situated at the very center of the Mediterranean, provides a remarkable illustration of how major water resources challenges can be successfully overcome. The island has one of the lowest rates of renewable water supplies in the MENA region, at 100 m3 per capita per year. It also stands in the top ten countries with the highest population density, alongside Gaza, Bahrain, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Several decades ago, Malta became one of the first countries in the region to invest in desalination plants but, in the 1990s, as new plants were being built to meet increasing demand, it became clear that demand for water was fast outstripping its supply.
The Water Services Corporation (WSC), Malta’s national water utility, turned its attention to water loss instead, initiating an aggressive program that achieved significant results. In addition to state-of-the-art concepts and technology for monitoring and reducing leakages, the WSC also put in place a program to optimize energy consumption at its desalination plants, reducing average energy consumption from 6-7 to 4.5 kWh/m3.