Desalination capacity to increase up to eight times in Cape Verde

The government of Cape Verde is planning to add up to eight further desalination plants to boost drinking water capacity and meet booming demand from increased tourism, WWi has learned...

Feb 2nd, 2012

LISBON, Portugal, Feb. 2, 2012 – The government of Cape Verde is planning to add a further eight desalination plants to boost drinking water capacity and meet booming demand from increased tourism, WWi has learned.

Situated off the coast of West Africa, the Republic of Cape Verde spans 10 islands and has become a popular tourist destination, offering a year-round warm climate and white beaches.

While limited groundwater sources have been sufficient to supply the islands’ 500,000 residents, increased tourist demand for water previously forced the government to invest into desalination capacity.

Speaking to Water & Wastewater International (WWi) magazine at the Water & Energy Exchange (WEX) in Lisbon, the country’s ministry said desalination capacity could increase by up to eight times.

Sara Duarte Lopes, minister of environment, housing and territory planning told WWi: “We plan to desalinate more water for tourist and domestic use. We are trying to develop a system of desalination for every island, which is part of putting together the National Directive Plan for Water.”

There are 10 islands in Cape Verde, with one uninhabited and the main island, Santiago already hosting a facility, suggesting that up to eight more facilities could be in the pipeline.

Electra S.A., the principal water and electricity supplier in Cape Verde, said that in 2005 the facility on Santiago was supplying 1.6 million cubic meters of water through reverse osmosis technology.

Last August the Water Resources Group (WRG) announced it had been selected, through its joint venture company Blue Aquifer Group, to provide a 4,000 m3/day desalination plant to the municipality of Santa Catarina in Cape Verde. The US$10 million deal will see WRG earning 49% of the water sales over a 25 year contract term and provide a service and maintenance contract.

Managing water systems efficiently and increasing freshwater supply, given reduced land, continues to remain a challenge for islands with an increased tourist industry. Take the Caribbean island of Aruba, which has a population of 100,000 people yet attracts more than 700,000 tourists annually. The island is planning to build a 24,000 m3/day desalination plant to cope with additional water demand (see WWi article).

“We are trying to implement a reform of water and sanitation,” said Lopes. “We need to improve the access of drinking water for people because of increased tourism. Cape Verde is a dry country and we don’t receive a lot of rain. We have to manage the water we have well.”

Lopes said that 400 million euros of investment will be needed over the next five years to improve the quality of water, infrastructure and wastewater. The environment minister referenced a $66.2 million grant signed from the US government’s foreign aid agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), last year.

She said the country is also in discussions with the European Union and United Nations to secure additional funding.

The desalination plans fit in with Cape Verde’s aim to have 50% of its energy supplied by renewable sources by 2020.

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