Għajn: National Water Conservation Awareness Centre
The Għajn Centre opened its doors in April of 2017. The Centre aims to raise awareness on the
challenges facing the water sector in the Maltese Islands. The centre supports national educational initiatives on water management and conservation, whilst providing a community friendly environment in the Nigret neighbourhood in Rabat.
The GĦAJN National Water Conservation and Awareness Centre addresses important water challenges and raises awareness in visitors attending the Centre, especially on how their actions may impact and improve sustainable water resources in Malta. The Centre uses audio-visual presentations, augmented reality technology and interactive games on wall screens to try and convey its message in a ‘fun and interactive’ manner. All interactive games have been specifically developed for the Centre and have themes that are concurrent with the present National Curriculum being taught in schools. Educators that bring their students to the Centre can use this ‘fun’ (non-formal) setting to consolidate the lessons that are being taught at school in a formal way.
Sustainability at the Għajn National Water Conservation and Awareness Centre
The sustainability factor is the main feature recurring throughout the GĦAJN: National Water Conservation and Awareness Centre, as seen from the design of the building itself and its surroundings. The building housing the Centre consists of a low environmental impact building, especially with regards to water use, as one of the main design considerations taken during the development phase, was to reduce its overall water footprint.
The centre features a rainwater harvesting reservoir with capacity of about 500,000 litres to collect rainwater runoff, which is used to irrigate the landscaping around the grounds. To minimise water demand, highly efficiency water fittings were installed both inside and outside, including an efficient irrigation system. In fact, the Centre is one of the first near zero-water buildings in the Maltese Islands, sourcing almost all of its water demand from water generated within its footprint. Special attention was also given to the landscaping throughout the whole area. All the plants, shrubs and trees that are found in the perimeter of the building, are all indigenous to the Maltese Islands. These indigenous plants require minimum watering throughout the year.
All glass panes at the Centre all have solar filming which decreases the amount of heat inside especially during the summer. The centre is also equipped with photovoltaic panels on the roof to generate renewable energy. The capacity of the PV system is that of 18kwp.
Għajn: Where does the name come from?
In our language, ‘Għajn’ refers to a natural source where water outflows – a spring. The Rabat area where the GĦAJN Centre is located hosts several freshwater springs which sustained, in older times, the main water supply resources of Malta. In fact, up to the early 1900s the freshwater from these springs used to supply Malta with most of its water needs. One can still see today the Wignacourt Aqueduct built by the knights of Malta, which delivered water from these freshwater springs to the city of Valletta.
In the old days the ‘Għajn’ was also one of the main sources of water in the villages. People used to go with buckets and collect the water from the ‘għajn’, to then take to their own homes. Hence the location of the Għajn was one of the meeting points of the village, and an important factor in the village’s social life.