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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Evaluation of deep fresh to low-salinity groundwater resources preserved along the Central Mediterranean coastlines (southern Italy and Malta), as an important potential unconventional source of water.

University of Malta (
Academic institution

    Italy has been extensively explored for hydrocarbons for more than 70 years, with the drilling of more than 7000 wells have been drilled for hydrocarbon exploration and production, creating, as a result, a wide dataset of subsurface data. Also the Malta archipelago, which is geologically connected of the south of Sicily in southern Italy, has been place of (much lesser) exploration and drilling activities. Some of these wells, in both Sicily and Malta, have revealed indications of deep fresh to low-salinity groundwater.
    The University of Malta, through a research group and funded research programs (e.g. Marie-Curies, PhDs grants), have committed to analyze a wide dataset of Oil&Gas wells and seismic reflection data in order to characterize deep groundwater in terms of salinity, pressure and 3D distribution at regional scale, by applying a combination of well-established concepts from oil and gas exploration, reservoir engineering, geophysics, hydrogeology and marine geology.
    The objective will be to: i) characterize the geometry, extension and volume of these potentially extensive deep fresh/low-salinity groundwater hosted in deep reservoirs; ii) explore implications, as an unconventional source of water, to the many other Mediterranean countries, of which coastal areas shared a common geological history; iii) run a feasibility study for the potential development of these deep water resources, evaluating how easily and at which costs the existing technology used in Oil & Gas exploration and production industry could be transferred.

    Expected Impact

    The discovery and evaluation of potential deep preserved groundwater in the study area and their scientific understanding, can be quite immediately extended and applied especially to the numerous water scarce areas along the Mediterranean coastlines (e.g. Malta, Cipro, Greece, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon and Turkey), allowing to evaluate its use as a future source of water for many different purposes, including potable water supply of the population, cattle-breeding farms, industrial water supply, irrigation, etc.


    Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV)
    Department of Earth Science, University of Rome “Roma Tre”, Rome, Italy
    Cost Action CA21112 - Offshore freshened groundwater: An unconventional water resource in coastal regions? (OFF-SOURCE)

    Additional information

    Goal 6

    Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

    Goal 6


    By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all


    Proportion of population using safely managed drinking water services


    By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations


    Proportion of population using (a) safely managed sanitation services and (b) a hand-washing facility with soap and water


    By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally


    Proportion of domestic and industrial wastewater flows safely treated


    Proportion of bodies of water with good ambient water quality


    By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity

    Change in water-use efficiency over time


    Level of water stress: freshwater withdrawal as a proportion of available freshwater resources


    By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate


    Degree of integrated water resources management 


    Proportion of transboundary basin area with an operational arrangement for water cooperation


    By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes

    Change in the extent of water-related ecosystems over time


    By 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies

    Amount of water- and sanitation-related official development assistance that is part of a government-coordinated spending plan


    Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management


    Proportion of local administrative units with established and operational policies and procedures for participation of local communities in water and sanitation management

    Name Description
    A summary evaluation and feasibility study for the development of deep preserved groundwater in the study area, including a first-pass evaluation studies of implication for the Mediterranean coastlines.
    Staff / Technical expertise
    Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant funding under the umbrella of “Horizon 2020 - Research and Innovation Framework Programme 2020”, to Lorenzo Lipparini and the University of Malta: “Topographically-driven fresh groundwater flow in offshore carbonate platforms
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    Action Network
    water logo
    02 May 2022 (start date)
    05 August 2024 (date of completion)
    University of Malta
    1. Africa
    2. Europe
    Other beneficiaries

    Mediterranean coastal countries
    State and Regional water management institutions
    Local communities

    Contact Information

    Lorenzo, Researcher