Algeria’s New Plan; Growing Capacities of Desalinization Plants

Algeria has experienced harsh droughts over the past twenty years. The driest regions of the west have suffered the most. Algeria has experienced increasing water stress due to growing populations, industry, and water demands of each individual in dry conditions. Drouiche et al. evaluates the future of desalinization of both brackish and seawater in Algeria until 2015. After plans to create more reservoirs were deemed inadequate, the Algerian Government supported plans for large desalination projects. There are also plans to ship water inland from existing coastal dams on the coast inland as water supply from desalinization plants becomes available by the sea. Technology is improving, and making it a more realistic option for supplying large amounts of water around the world. 11 large desalinating plants have been built in Algeria, and 5 more are underway.
Darien Martin 
Drouiche, N., Ghaffour, N., Naceur, M. Hacene, M., 2011. Reasons for the fast growing
seawater desalination capacity in Algeria. Water Resources Management 25, 2743–2754.

          A century ago, a long drought began and Algeria’s Minister of Water Resources planned for dams to pump water of the foothills up to the High Plains. This would aim to relieve the problem of denser populations collecting along the coasts. However, the reservoir levels were sinking. After evaluation it was decided that reservoirs wouldn’t supply an adequate increase in water due to negative predictions for little rainfall, actual building of the dams, physical losses from dams, overuse of groundwater, uneven distribution that would occur, and contaminated surface waters.
During the drought, 21 small desalinization sites were assembled which worked to help people through the drought. Future larger desalinization plans were then assessed and found to be cost effective, and provide more water, over the long run, than new dams would provide. Algeria has many coastal areas that would be able to utilize supplies from plants locally. Other benefits include a virtually endless supply, desalinization processes that don’t pollute waterways, and technology that has advanced and become affordable. The Ministry of Water Resources plans to move water supply from coastal dams inland to the High Plains, and then use the desalinated seawater for the coastal populations.
          Algeria started building desalinization plants in 2003. These were mostly built by oil companies, and used thermal techniques of Multi Stage Flash (MSF) and thermo-compression. The Algerian government planned a new desalinization program. All plants were planned under “Build, Own, Operate” contracts (except in Kahrama). This requires that the same people who design the plants build and manage them, so that plants built are less likely to experience operation glitches. The Algerian Water Authority and the Algerian Energy Company built 16 large plants, 11 of which are complete. Each produces 100,000 to 500,000m3/day.  The new plants use reverse osmosis; except for one in Arzew, and another being built in Hamma which both use Multi Stage Flash. The largest seawater reverse osmosis plant is planned to be built in Maqtaa. When all plants are complete, they will produce 1,461 m3/day of fresh water. 70% of the produced freshwater is used for cities and homes and 27% is used for industry. From 2011 to 2015, water supply coming from the sea is expected to increase 2,433,000 m3/day, and supply from brackish water by 248,000m3/day.
          Desalinization is a growing possibility throughout the world. The world’s desalination capacity is growing at a rate of 55% per year. It now has the capacity to produce 60 million m3/day of desalinated water, and in 2015 is projected to grow to 100 million m3/day. Now, 63.6% is made with a membrane process of reverse osmosis, and 34.8% using thermal processes. Algeria, Spain and Australia have the highest rate of desalination capacity growth in the world. Saudi Arabia, the US, and United Arab Emirates have built plants to make the highest capacities of desalinated water since 1945.
          Algeria now has a plan underway to become more resilient to its long droughts. Through an integrated plan of transporting water from the coastal dams to highlands, and implementing desalinization on the coasts, more water will be available to a growing population, industry and water demand. In addition to this plan of 16 mega-plants, The Algerian government has been supporting this plan to secure water availability to people by subsidizing higher desalinated water costs to fix water prices.

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