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A Drought-Proof Water Supply for Algiers
ALGIERS, Algeria, February 25, 2008 (ENS) - One of the largest seawater desalination plants in the world was officially opened in Algiers on Sunday by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and a senior executive of the U.S.-based General Electric Company, which built and will operate the plant.

The new $250 million facility will supply the drought-stricken, thirsty millions of residents of this capital city by the sea.

Constructed on a brownfield site just east of the Port of Algiers, the Hamma Seawater Desalination Plant purifies seawater with GE's proprietary reverse osmosis membranes, and the company says it can handle up to 53 million gallons of seawater a day.

This location was not chosen for the purity of its water, but for its infrastructure.

"Although the water quality in this part of the bay can be affected by ship traffic and port activities, the site is ideal for its

Seawater is purified into drinking water at the Hamma Seawater Desalination Plant. (Photo courtesy GE)

proximity to the city's water distribution network, power grid, and transportation routes," GE says in a Hamma case study.

The plant will provide as many as two million residents of Algiers with a reliable supply of potable water, an increasingly scarce commodity to come by as rural residents have moved to the city in rising numbers over the past 50 years.

Water scarcity caused by demand, drought, and an aging, leaky distribution system has meant frequent water rationing. Sometimes the water has been running only one of every three days.

With few surface water sources, the Algerian government has invested in new dams to improve its rain catchment and storage capacity, but they have not been enough to meet demand, due to persistant drought.

Repairs to the city's water distribution system have cut water losses from 40 percent to less than 25 percent, but still water scarcity has been a daily trial for residents.

Completed on time and on budget in 24 months, the Hamma Seawater Desalination Plant is North Africa's first large-scale reverse osmosis desalination plant to be funded by a joint venture that combines public and private equity investment.

The special project company, Hamma Water Desalination SpA, combines 70 percent funding from General Electric and 30 percent from the state-owned Algerian Energy Company, AEC.

“We are proud to be a partner in the Hamma Seawater Desalination Plant. It is a great example of how private and public partnerships can help solve urgent water needs," said Jeff Garwood president and chief executive of GE Water and Process Technologies, a unit of General Electric.

At the opening ceremony on Sunday, Garwood said, "Partnerships like this one, with the Algerian Government and AEC, combined with our global scale, financing capabilities, and broad portfolio of equipment, chemicals and services put GE in a unique position to provide solutions for the world's growing water challenges. "

GE holds a 25 year contract to operate and maintain the plant and is responsible for daily operations.

The facility will draw in seawater through two 550-meter direct intake pipes to a pre-treatment system, where it will enter a clarifier and have coagulants added to help remove suspended solids and reduce biological challenges of the raw water.

"Seawater is affected by seasonal dynamics, biological blooms and turbidity affects from a working port," GE explains in a paper on the Hamma desalination project.

But the company says the process at the Hamma plant is designed to handle "the potential variability in raw water quality."

So, following flocculation and settling, the water will pass through a dual media filter and enter a clearwell.

Water from the clearwell will be pumped through five-micron cartridge filters before being distributed among nine trains of single-pass reverse osmosis membranes.

Remineralization and disinfection will be the final steps in the process before the water can enter the city's distribution system.

GE says the Hamma's advanced membrane process needs less energy and uses lower chemical concentrations than alternatives such as thermal desalination.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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