A water secure world

A water secure world

By 2025, 800 million people will be living in countries with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be under stress conditions. Water security is thus more than ever on the political agenda. The EIB is helping several countries in and outside Europe to adapt their water-management strategies in a global warming environment while reducing energy consumption.

The energy/water connection in Lisbon

Population growth in the Great Lisbon area has increased demand for water significantly in the last decade. To respond to the challenge, the publicly owned utility Empresa Portuguesa das Águas Livres (EPAL) refocused its attention on improving the water distribution network through increased energy and water efficiency.

The EIB supported this effort by financing 50% of the operation with an overall cost of EUR 140 million. The project consists of several schemes that will upgrade the existing bulk water supply system. Replacing old equipment with modern ones as well as installing solar panels in EPAL’s facilities and in the treatment plants is part of the energy efficiency programme. Those measures are expected to have a significant impact on EPAL’s operating costs, reducing the utility’s energy consumption by 13% and the cost of transport of sludge to its final destination by approximately 60%. While improving the distribution network, the project also aims at reducing Lisbon’s facilities’ vulnerability to climate change and improving resilience to natural disasters. To this purpose, the project includes the strengthening of the structural capacity of several infrastructures vulnerable to earthquakes, namely the services reservoirs and rehabilitation of large pumping systems.

Water security in the Veneto region

In 2009, the EIB provided a EUR 88 million loan to the public concession company Veneto Acque Spa to diversify water sources and enhance security of supply in Italy’s Veneto region. Over the past years, Northern Italy has indeed been affected by a decrease in snow cover and rainy days frequency, as well glacier retreat and increase in rainfall events intensity. These climate events are altering the flow of the main rivers, thus hampering water availability in the region. The project has helped to complement poor quality surface water from the Adige and Po rivers with pre-alpine groundwater. As a result, some 600,000 inhabitants plus 400,000 seasonal residents in Central Veneto enjoy high quality water that is, what is more, constantly available.

A number of independent distribution networks have also been interconnected via a central water pipeline, increasing operational efficiencies throughout the region. The new infrastructure brings 173 km of potable water supply pipelines. By 2016, the plant will distribute some 30 million cubic meters annually when operating at full regime.

Jordan’s blue gold

Recognised as one of the world’s most water-deprived countries, Jordan uses up to 900 million cubic meters of water every year but is short of 500 million cubic meters. Water scarcity costs more than 3% of the nation’s GDP and the situation is likely to get worse in the face of global warming and population growth.  To answer the problem, the Jordan Government took the decision to build a 325 km pipeline connecting the Disi desert aquifer in the south of the country to the Capital, Amman and other cities. Disi taps into an immense reserve of fresh water lying around 500 meters under the Desert that was formed since the Pleistocene glaciations era. According to experts, this reserve contains enough drinking water to supply Amman for some fifty years.

The pipe, inaugurated in 2013 for a total amount of EUR 840 m (with EUR 180 m EIB backing), is today supplying 100 million cubic meters per year of potable water to over 2 million inhabitants, almost doubling its past water capacities. Disi is also re-allocating current supplies to other Governorates and enhancing the conservation of aquifers that have been depleted due to over-abstraction. For the duration of the concession, the focus is entirely on pumping desert water to Amman. Later on, Disi could serve as a national water carrier conveying desalinated water from the red sea.