Water is precious… desalinated water even more so
Northern Chile, one of the driest regions in the world, suffers fresh water availability limitations and faces a real challenge sustaining water resources in the face of growing demand. While water is a scarce resource in Northern Chile, it is rich with copper and minerals, making it a hub for mining facilities. Unfortunately, the mining industry is highly dependent on water as the mining process requires huge amounts of water – the same water that is scarce in this dry region…
The city of Antofagasta is a striking example. A city with a developed mining industry located in the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world. Antofagasta addresses this challenge by desalinating water. 60% of the city’s water is currently desalinated, and by 2015 it is forecast to use 100% desalinated water. But desalinated water has its costs. In addition to the high investment required for planning and building the plant, operational costs are very high due to high energy consumption. This makes desalinated water much more expensive than fresh water. According to the American Chemical Society, the average cost to produce one acre-foot of desalinated water from seawater ranged from $800 to $1,400 (compared with $200 per acre-foot for water from other supply sources).
Recently, Eddy Segal of TaKaDu was the guest of the Aguas de Antofagasta water utility in a visit to the city’s impressive desalination plant. As you can learn from the photos, Aguas de Antofagasta’s desalination plant is one of the biggest and most impressive in the region.
Investing so much in desalination, cities like Antofagasta can’t afford losing water, especially not the high proportion of the water typically lost in Chilean water networks (and in utilities worldwide). Aiming to reduce water loss, water utilities try to get a better visibility and control of their network, implementing solutions and processes such as Active Leak Detection and Water Network Monitoring.
Antofagasta is working hard to reduce its non-revenue water (NRW) rate. Using various water conservation approaches, the utility’s NRW was reduced to 23%, while Chile’s average is 35% and the world average is about 30%. As part of its efforts to reduce water loss, Aguas de Antofagasta uses TaKaDu’s water network monitoring solution that enables better detection of network inefficiencies and leak prevention. With TaKaDu, Aguas de Antofagasta minimizes losses of water, a resource so precious in this area.