When you get to late August, you’re expecting it. The first storm that heralds the end of summer. Not that temperatures plummet or that summer is over by any means. But, once we’ve had the first deluges – which occur any time between mid August and mid September – then, for the Maltese, summer is ‘over’.
Today, saw parts of Malta get their first real taste of rain since around early May. Anyone in Valletta shopping this morning would have been soaked. But, my neck of the woods got a mere rumble of thunder, some threatening skies, and not a drop to drink for my dehydrated garden. Small though Malta is we still get localised storms. Half the island was praying for rain, half the island experienced it and wished it hadn’t! So harsh is our rain when it comes. It’s nearly always in the guise of an electric storm.
Water is always a hotly-debated topic in Malta. The islands are the ninth thirstiest country in the world if you calculate consumption per capita. So it’s little wonder that we have priests praying for water (as happened, ironically, two winters ago when the rains failed). We have people researching water conservation, and come winter, we’ll have people moaning about water-filled potholes. Children get lectured to save it as water metres whirr with each passing shower; while parents bemoan the high-priced water bills. Water bowser men struggle in the heat and warn of dwindling supplies from their bore-holes (those mysterious sources that plummet the depths to find Malta’s few remaining aquifers).
Water, water everywhere surrounds us in the form of sea, so the islands have been pioneers in reverse osmosis (an expensive and energy-intensive way to generate water). Old houses have their wells or reservoirs under courtyards to catch each drop from our flat roofs. But most new-builds and tower blocks aren’t built to save the rain.
In Malta, we like to joke about the British having an obsession with weather, but rain is as popular a topic here, if not more so, than in any northern European climate. It’s just not possible to be half-hearted about the subject of rain and water when you live on a small rock made of limestone that sees most of its water drain back into the sea. And rain, when it does come, is also not half hearted as it is nearly always in the form of a violent storm.
If you want a more analytical low-down on Malta’s water issues and controversies visit this link for an excellent article by Marco Cremona. Marco has been shortlisted for the Good Entrepreneur, a pan-European competition organised by CNBC for business plans or ideas that will create a greener future for generations to come.