New non-conventional water resources solutions completed in Malta by Alter Aqua project

A historical reservoir of 800,000 litres was restored for rainwater harvesting to service the sustainable development vision of Birgu City, which becomes Malta’s first Water Saving City, marking 10 years of collaboration between GWP-Med, The Coca-Cola Foundation, Malta’s Ministry for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development, the Energy and Water Agency and local stakeholders. Over 10 years, non-conventional water resources applications under the Alter Aqua programme have saved more than 20 million litres of water annually, benefiting 20% of Malta’s population.

The City of Birgu has become the first water saving City of Malta, of the most water-stressed islands on the globe, through the support of the Alter Aqua programme, which has completed the restoration of the rainwater harvesting reservoir in Vittoriosa square dating from the 17th century, and the planned restoration of another reservoir in Birgu’s Municipal Council, the historical Auberge de France. The water saved will be used for landscaping and other municipal uses and has sparked interest in the installation by the City Council of a system for the harvested water to be used for secondary uses in homes.

The reservoir was inaugurated on 25 November 2021 in a ceremony in Birgu City Council Hall by Ms Miriam Dalli, Malta’s Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development, who stated: “Water resources are a priceless treasure and in this country we have a number of reservoirs which, up to now, have been left abandoned. We want to see more of these projects to ensure that we make the best use of water resources.”

Dr. Nikos Skondras, GWP-Med Senior Programme Officer and Alter Aqua Project Manager, stated: “Malta’s acute challenge of water scarcity has prompted us to revive its historical water saving heritage, and led us to apply innovative solutions and offer new opportunities for youth to engage in the water sector. The Alter Aqua project does not end here; It was implemented on fertile ground and, thus, has left the seeds for something new to grow.”

The Alter Aqua project this year marks 10 years of collaboration on non-conventional water resources applied solutions in the Maltese islands, thanks to the long-standing support of The Coca-Cola Company and its philanthropic arm, The Coca-Cola Foundation, with a total grant of $1.3 million.

Ms Sofia Kilifi, Coca-Cola Europe, Sustainability and Community Manager, expressed optimism about the future of the Alter Aqua partnership, stating: “We are very much looking forward to continuing the program, since water is essential, not only for our business, but also for the communities we operate in”.

10 years of impactful public-private collaboration

GWP-Med is leading the design and implementation of the project, in close collaboration with all local stakeholders, and most notably with Malta’s Energy and Water Agency, realizing 21 technical applications saving more than 20,000,000 litres of water annually. Alter Aqua solutions have focused on rainwater harvesting, stormwater management, as well as greywater recycling.

Through applications such as in the reservoir in Victory Square, Birgu, as well as previously the reservoir at San Anton Presidential Palace, Alter Aqua is reviving Malta’s impressive water saving heritage, dating from the time of the Knights. Another line of Alter Aqua applications is focusing on the application of modern technologies, such as the installation of a Greywater Recycling System and a green roof at the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST). Based on these interventions, rich educational material has been produced, reaching thousands of students in Malta, using these examples to sow the seeds of a new water saving culture for climate resilience. The current third phase of Alter Aqua also focused on capacity building, with dedicated workshops aiming to promote youth employability in the water sector.

The Birgu reservoir works and exhibition

The restoration project on the underground reservoir in Birgu’s Victory Square has given back over 800,000 litres of secondary water. The works included extensive rehabilitation to enable the reinstatement of its water catchment capacity, with the removal of over 64 tons of sludge, as well as cleaning and plastering of floors and walls together with accessibility works to facilitate future cleaning and maintenance works.

The project also set up an exhibition entitled ‘Vittoriosa – Water Saving City’ at Birgu Local Council to showcase the rich history of the Maltese Islands in water conservation, particularly in the Vittoriosa area from the times of the Knights of St John to the British period. This exhibition will be open until the 5th of December and entrance is free.

The restoration of the Birgu Square reservoir and Exhibition were officially inaugurated by the Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development Miriam Dalli, together with GSD Marketing CEO Maria Micallef, Sustainability and Community Manager Coca-Cola Europe Sofia Kilifi, representatives from Global Water Partnership – Mediterranean, Energy and Water Agency CEO, together with Birgu Mayor.

The Alter Aqua Programme is designed and implemented by Global Water Partnership – Mediterranean, in partnership with the Energy and Water Agency and the Coca-Cola system in Malta (GSD Marketing Ltd. and The Coca Cola Company).