The seawater desalination plant of the Mossel Bay Municipality that was built as an emergency project during the recent drought in the Southern Cape, won the top award of Consulting Engineers South Africa for 2011 for projects in the category for projects between R50 million to R250 million.
The plant, which cost R210 million to build as an emergency project when the Southern Cape experienced its worst drought in 132 years, can produce 15 million litres of water a day. It is the biggest seawater desalination plant to have been built in South Africa to date, with the second biggest having a capacity of 1,5 million litres of desalinated seawater per day.
The project has been financed jointly by the National Treasury, PetroSA and the Municipality. A third of the plant’s daily production is destined for PetroSA’s synthetic fuels plant at Mossel Bay. The plant is the town’s biggest employer. .
“We are of course very pleased with the award, given the difficult circumstances under which it was embarked upon and the hard work that went into getting such a complicated and big project off the ground in such a short period of time.
“Although Mossel Bay’s water situation has since improved to such an extent that the project will be mothballed almost immediately after the commissioning of the plant in September 2011, it is invaluable from the point of view of Mossel Bay’s water security in the longer term.
“’A seawater desalination was originally planned for 2014, but had to be brought forward because of the drought. This is, however, to the advantage of our ratepayers as the State contributed R92 million to the cost of the project, which we would probably not have received had it not been for the fact that the Southern Cape had been declared a disaster area at the time. PetroSA contributed a further R80 million to the cost of the project,” said the Executive Mayor, Alderlady Marie Ferreira.
She said the project, together with other emergency projects, has placed Mossel Bay in an excellent position with regard to the availability of water for future economic development. The other emergency projects include a wastewater reclamation plant with a capacity of 5 million litres of purified water a day, a number of boreholes and the incorporation of the previously unutilised and brackish Hartebeeskuil Dam into the Municipality’s water supply network.
The project was adjudged the winner out of fifteen entries in the category. Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) makes the awards annually on the basis of innovation, quality, outstanding workmanship and professionalism. .
The Municipality embarked on the project at a stage when the Wolwedans Dam, the Municipality’s main source of water was expected to run dry by the end of 2010. Despite strict water restrictions the dam’s level dropped to just 14,5 per cent in October 2010. Good rains fell in the meantime and the dam is more than 100 per cent full at present.