Only 34% of Maltese SMEs are taking measures to save water. This represents a 17 point drop when compared to 2015 when 51% of Maltese businesses took steps to save water.
This emerges from a European commission survey published by Eurobarometer.
The survey suggests that despite Malta’s pressing water scarcity problems, businesses have little incentive to save on water, which is still a relatively cheap resource. Malta is one of the driest countries worldwide. With only 40 cubic meters of naturally occurring freshwater per capita, Malta is among the world’s top ten water scarce countries.
While borehole water comes at little cost, the price of tap water does not reflect the environmental cost of the resource.
The EU’s Water Framework Directive requires all EU countries to take into account the “environmental and resource costs” of groundwater extraction and to ensure that these costs are accounted for when billing the consumption of water.
Since these costs are not accounted for, current tariffs inevitably “include a subsidy that is both unknown and opaque” according to a report issued issued by the Today Policy institute in 2015.
The report had denounced the tendency by policy makers “to follow political imperatives” as was the case when the current government reduced water tariffs by 5% in 2014.
In the EU-wide survey Malta was one of 16 EU Member State where the proportion of SMEs that are saving water has declined.
The sharpest decline was reported in Slovakia (-17 pp), Malta (-16 pp) and Luxembourg (-12 pp). The sharpest increase in the proportion of companies taking steps to save water was reported in in Italy (+19 pp) and Ireland (+15 pp).
The analysis across all countries shows that SMEs in France (68%), Portugal (63%) and Ireland (59%) are the most likely to say they are saving water, while those in Estonia (8%), Romania (23%) and Finland (27%) are the least likely to say this.
More than six in ten SMEs in France (66%), Spain and Ireland (both 65%) are planning additional actions to save water, compared to 5% in Cyprus, 9% in Estonia and 10% in Malta and Slovenia.
Compared to 2015 the percentage of companies minimising waste in Malta has also declined by 13 points.
In 16 EU Member States, SMEs are less likely to reduce waste than they were in 2015, and this is particularly the case for those in Denmark (-14pp), Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia (all -13 pp) and Cyprus and Estonia (both -10 pp).
But Maltese SMEs are now more likely to be saving energy. The percentage of SMEs saving energy has increased by 10 percentage points since 2015.
Companies in Portugal (75%), Malta (74%) and Spain (72%) are the most likely to be taking actions to save energy. But SMEs are among the least likely to be planning additional actions to save energy in the next two years.
SMEs in Spain (80%), France (73%) and Ireland (72%) are the most likely to be planning additional actions to save energy in the next two years, while those in Cyprus, Slovenia and Malta are the least likely to be doing so (all 14%).
The result is based on a questionnaire answered by 200 Maltese companies.