By Christopher Tobutt
With a constantly growing population, and no freshwater lakes or rivers, the provision of fresh, potable water to the people of the Cayman Islands is clearly of vital importance. The Cayman Water Company has been providing Seven Mile Beach and West Bay with water for many decades, by the use of their Seawater Reverse Osmosis desalination plants, which pass saltwater across a special membrane at high pressure. It’s an ingenious method because it means, in effect, that providing all the equipment continues to run as it should, these islands will never run out of clean, drinkable water.
Wednesday 20 April marked a groundbreaking for a brand new, 7.2 million dollar state-of-the art desalination plant at one of the company’s sites in Powery Drive, West Bay, and Hon. Jay Ebanks, Minister of Planning, Agriculture, Housing and Infrastructure was there, along with Deputy Premier Hon Chris Saunder, and Hon. Speaker, McKeeva Bush.
The existing plant on the site, which has been going for more than 25 years and presently handles 900,000 gallons of water per day has come to the end of its useful life, and so when the new plant is ready, hopefully in a year’s time, the old plant, which is housed I a big, rather rusty sheet-metal building, will be decommissioned. The new plant will be able to produce marginally more, 1000,000 gallons, when it is first built, but within a few years the addition of new equipment will mean that figure will be able to double.
Outlining the changes underway, General Manager of the Cayman Water Company, Manuel Thomaz, said that some of the key features of the new plant will be that it will a strong, hurricane-resistant design, with all machinery and electrical equipment housed on the second floor, well above the level of flooding that was reached during Hurricane Ivan. During natural disasters, clean water is a key resource which helps ensure the survival of an island, and the new facility has been designed with water-security in mind. It will have its own generators, so that it continue to function at half capacity, capacity, in the event of a power outage.
“State-of-the-art equipment, with high energy efficiencies have been selected to keep the specific energy consumption one of the lowest in the industry,” Mr. Thomaz said, “All of this will contribute to our goals of being sustainable and resilient and to be prepared for any impacts these islands may feel due to climate change. Similar to all our facilities, this one will be fully automated, and remain in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and be manned only during normal working hours.”
Looking to the future, we plan to install a one million gallon reservoir, and a two million gallon reservoir in West Bay, and a second train of one million gallons per day capacity, within the current decade,” Mr. Thomaz said. Hon Jay Ebanks praised some of the new features of the plant which were in-keeping with the Government’s policy of sustainability. “I wish you guys great success, and we look forward to the completion of this plant in 2023,” he said.