The controversial 55 million m3/year Gaza desalination facility will use membrane-based, reverse osmosis (RO) technology for water filtration with the aim of producing water at a cost of US$0.70 per cubic meter, WWi has learnt.
The Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) confirmed this week that unless the planned desalination facility is in operation by 2020, the aquifer currently supplying water to the country would be irrereversibly diminished, if extraction continues at the current rate.
Addressing the World Water Week in Stockholm, Dr. Shaddad Attili, minister and head of PWA emphasised the importance of water security and said “there are 1.6 million Palestinians living in the most densely population area on earth with water unfit for drinking”.
Later in a press conference, Eng. Rebhy El-Sheikh, deputy chairman of PWA told WWi that the facility would use RO technology as the thermal equivalent (multi-stage flash or multi-effect distillation) “was deemed not appropriate” for the project.
When asked about the expected operation expense to produce one cubic meter of water, El-Sheikh said PWA is estimating a US$0.70 cost.
In March WWi (Water & Wastewater International magazine) reported that France would be donating 10 million euros into the project (see WWi story).
The Islamic Development Bank has signalled support for 50% of the total $455 million project costs, according to PWA. These include the desalination plant, as well as wider rehabilitation work in Gaza, including efforts to reduce non-revenue water. PWA said that the target is to have a water system efficiency of 80% by 2017 - the slated date for the desalination plant to be operational.
Also, a North-South conveyance system will be constructed that will allow the distribution of freshwater throughout the Gaza strip.
The desalination facility will be crucial to relieve current over-abtraction from the region’s aquifer. Total abstraction is 170 million m3/year and PWA warned that salinity levels in the aquifer far exceed the World Health Organisation guidelines.
Dr. Rafiq Husseini, deputy secretary for environment and water of the Union for the Mediterranean said the project is seeking similar donations from other European countries, as well as France.
Minister Attili said this week that he has had meetings with the Swedish ministry and will be travelling to Finland next, in a bid to secure support and funding from Europe towards the project.