Infrastructure: the sustainable response to water scarcity in the worldNews
Water scarcity is so prevalent that more than a billion people – about a third of them children – do not have enough of the resource to meet their daily needs.
One of the latest studies by UNICEF, entitled Water Security for All, cites climate change and population growth among the main reasons for the problem – in addition to a lack of infrastructure for the efficient management of water.
For World Water Day, the United Nations is inviting people to describe what water means to them and reflect on how having access to it is a basic right for everyone. This right can be achieved with the help of infrastructure to collect it, manage it, treat it, clean it and use it. It is something in which the Webuild Group and its subsidiaries Lane and Fisia Italimpianti have played no small part. Throughout the world, they have built projects that cover water’s full cycle, from the production of potable water to the construction of dams for irrigation to the treatment of wastewater.
The Neckartel Dam in Namibia
There is no place with a greater appreciation of water than the desert, and one of the driest is in Namibia.
Although it is where humidity does not exceed 1%, there are months when torrential rains can cause enormous flooding.
It is precisely during these periods when the Neckartal Dam plays its part. Located on the Fish River in the south of the country, the structure recently completed by Webuild halts the course of the waters during the rainy season, creating a reservoir whose potential reaches about 40 square kilometres (15 square miles) with a capacity of 857 million cubic meters, the equivalent of 300,000 Olympic swimming pools.
The water held back by the reservoir helps produce electricity when it is released to flow through two turbines, but its real purpose is to contribute to a planned irrigation network that will cover 5,000 hectares (12,300 acres) of crops like citric fruit. The project promises to create jobs in an economically depressed region.
The Anacostia River Tunnel and Northeast Boundary Tunnel in Washington, D.C.
In many parts of the United States, the rains are far more abundant. So much so that the capital, Washington, D.C., is investing heavily in expanding the capacity of its sewer system to avoid the flooding and subsequent polluting of its waterways during rainstorms. When the system is overwhelmed, it discharges a mixture of untreated storm water and sewage – known as combined sewage overflow – into its nearby rivers, heightening risks to public health.
One of the companies enlisted to help solve this problem under the Clean Rivers programme of the district’s utility, DC Water, was Webuild’s U.S. subsidiary Lane. It excavated two hydraulic tunnels: the Anacostia River Tunnel, which stretches for 3.8 kilometres along the tributary of the Potomac River; and the Northeast Boundary Tunnel, one of the biggest components of the programme that aims to reduce the volume of CSO flowing into its rivers by 96% once the expansion of its sewer system is complete.
The Riachuelo Wastewater Pre-Treatment Plant in Argentina
When it comes to polluted waters, there are few as toxic as those of the Riachuelo River in Argentina.
Winding its way through southern Buenos Aires, it has suffered from the indiscriminate dumping of waste from all manner of industry for more than a century. It has also served as a toilet by the poor living along its banks. Its waters are so filthy that the incidence of lead poisoning and other ailments is high.
With the help of the World Bank, the government is pursuing a comprehensive project to clean up the river and make its banks a safe and healthy place to live and work. Fisia Italimpianti, a subsidiary of Webuild, has joined the effort. It is building a wastewater pre-treatment plant near where the river flows into the River Plate, known as the Rio de la Plata in Spanish. Able to process 27 cubic metres per second, it will be one of the largest plants of its kind in the world in terms of capacity. Once treated, the water will course along a subfluvial tunnel built by Webuild that is 12 kilometres long and 4.3 metres in diametre. The water will surge upwards through a series of 34 tubes near the end of the tunnel to then disperse amid the currents along the bed of the River Plate.
The Jebel Ali M Desalination Plant in Dubai
The waters beyond the shores of Dubai may not be as polluted, but they still need to be treated in order to meet the needs of the nearly three million residents of the largest city in the United Arab Emirates.
That treatment is called desalination, which removes the brine to make the water potable. It is done at the Jebel Ali M facility, the largest such plant in the United Arab Emirates partly built by Fisia Italimpianti. A virtual city onto itself for its enormous size, it is an industry icon. It has a capacity of 140 million gallons of water per day. Each of its eight desalination units can produce 17.5 MIGD (80,000 m³/day) of water.
By providing more than 90% of the city’s potable water, it supports Dubai’s ambitions of becoming an international hub for trade and tourism.
The Rogun Hydropower Dame in Tajikistan
Water is also crucial for a country’s – let alone a city’s - development as a renewable source of energy.
In Tajikistan, the Rogun hydroelectric dam being built by Webuild is a key part of the government’s programme to develop the economy of the poor country of eight million people where only 7% of the land is arable.
Located on the Vakhsh River in the Pamirs, the biggest mountain chain of Central Asia, what will become the tallest dam in the world at a height of 335 metres will harness the glacial waters to generate up to 3,600 megawatts (MW) of electricity, equal to three nuclear power plants.
Although it is yet to be completed, Rogun already has two turbines producing energy for sale to finance the rest of its construction.
By doubling the energy potential of Tajikistan, the dam will have an enormous impact on the economy. At the very least, it will eliminate the frequent power outages suffered by thousands of families every winter.
The Snowy 2.0 Hydropower Project in Australia
In addition to economic development, water as a clean source of energy can support a country’s effort to reduce its reliance on coal to produce electricity.
In Australia, workers of Webuild and its joint-venture partners are preparing to excavate the first of a network of tunnels for Snowy 2.0, the biggest hydropower project in the country. Known as a pumped storage scheme that recycles the water its power station uses to turn turbines to produce electricity, it will generate enough energy to power 200 million light bulbs. It is a major expansion of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme. Operated by Snowy Hydro, it will add 2,000 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity to the Scheme’s 4,100 megawatts (MW). It will also add 350,000 MW hours of large-scale storage.
Hydroelectricity plays a critical role in Australia’s renewable energy generation. It is responsible for some 34% of all the electricity produced by renewable resources, according to Australia's Clean Energy Council, a non-profit organisation that advocates for renewable energy.