water desalination plant on the West Coast
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water desalination plant on the West Coast

The city of Cape Town is planning to shift its pilot project site for a water desalination plant from the V&A Waterfront to Silwerstroom after the new owners of the Waterfront company showed no interest in pursuing the project.

The city was finalising an agreement with the former Waterfront company two years ago for the location of the plant, after a study in 2005 identified the V&A Waterfront as the most suitable location for a pilot desalination plant.

In the most recent progress report on the project, due to be discussed by the mayoral committee tomorrow, the city says it has abandoned negotiations with the V&A Waterfront.

Paul Rhode of the city’s water and sanitation department says the pilot plant will be set up at Silwerstroom instead, with a view to investigating desalination technologies and learning from the construction and operation of the plant in advance of full-scale desalination being implemented.

Desalination is being considered as a viable future water resource for Cape Town and is also being investigated as part of the Western Cape Water Supply System Reconciliation Strategy – a joint programme by the department of water affairs and the city of Cape Town focusing on long-term water resource planning to ensure future supply can meet demand.

One of the recommendations of the strategy is a pilot desalination plant.

Bid documentation is being compiled to appoint a professional service provider to establish a sea-monitoring programme and confirm the suitability of the location selected, obtain environmental authorisation for the construction of the pilot plant and associated infrastructure.

The programme would also involve identifying suitable land on the West Coast for siting a full-scale desalination plant.

The city’s water and sanitation department investigated siting the pilot plant at either Koeberg power station or Silwerstroom, which were alternatives identified in the study.

Silwerstroom does, however, present technical difficulties which centre on the ability of the existing infrastructure to convey desalinated water into the distribution system.

The city’s progress report notes there are technical advantages to operating a desalination plant at Koeberg, such as utilising existing infrastructure and waste heat from the power station which would save costs in the desalination process.

But because of access restrictions and the approvals that would be required for construction and operation at a nuclear power station, it has been decided not to implement the pilot project there.

Rhode says the city will consider a possible future agreement with Eskom to establish a desalination plant at Koeberg.

The city says advances in desalination technology in the past decade has meant the cost has decreased significantly.

“The decreasing costs, together with the fact that desalination could prove to be a more environmentally acceptable solution, could result in it being implemented prior to some of the conventional resources schemes that have been identified in water resource planning for Cape Town and surrounding areas,” said the report.


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