The Focus on Rosarito’s Answer to our Planet’s Water Shortage

Construction begins on desalination plant

10-billion-peso facility will be the largest in Latin America
Mexico News Daily | Saturday, March 24, 2018

A groundbreaking ceremony last week initiated the construction of a desalination plant in Playas de Rosarito, Baja California. It will be the largest in Latin America.The 10-billion-peso (US $540-million), privately-funded plant is expected to begin operating in three years’ time. In its first phase, scheduled for completion by the end of next year, it will produce 2.2 cubic meters of water per second.Once the facility is fully operational, that output will double and be enough to supply 75% of the water currently provided by the Río Colorado-Tijuana aqueduct.

Governor Francisco Vega de Lamadrid explained that the plant’s water quality will comply with the highest standards.He also said the water will only be for use within the state and will not be sold to the United States.It will supply agricultural needs and domestic water requirements in Rosarito and Tijuana, and could also serve to fulfill demand in Ensenada.

Baja California depends almost completely on the Río Colorado-Tijuana aqueduct to satisfy its water needs. With a carrying capacity of 5.3 cubic meters per second, the aqueduct is falling short in supplying water to the four coastal municipalities where 71% of the state’s population lives.

The Rosarito desalination plant is being built by a Mexican subsidiary of Cayman Islands-based Consolidated Water Co. Ltd, which will operate the facility for a period of 37 years, after which it will become property of the state.

Groundbreaking on a Lifesaving Local Project

Written by Sandra Dibble

Saying desalination will guarantee the drinking water supply for future generations of Baja California residents, Gov. Francisco Vega de Lamadrid on Friday celebrated a groundbreaking ceremony for a desalination plant envisioned as the largest in the Western Hemisphere.

“On our peninsula, the best option is desalinated sea water,” Vega said at a ceremony held beneath a tent at the site of the future plant, adjacent to the President Juarez Thermoelectric Plant in Rosarito Beach. He called the planned facility “one of the great works” of the state, akin to the channeling of the Tijuana River or the construction of the Colorado River aqueduct that crosses the state.

The planned reverse osmosis facility is a project developed and financed by an international consortium in a public-private partnership with the Baja California government. At full capacity, the plant would convert up to 100 million gallons of seawater a day.

Like San Diego, Baja California is heavily dependent on the Colorado River, which reaches Tijuana and Rosarito Beach through an aqueduct that crosses the state. The governor said the planned project would reduce the dependence of the state’s coastal regions on water from the aqueduct, and attract investment to the region. But the project has been fiercely opposed by critics who question its size, saying Tijuana needs to make better use of the water that it does have, and invest in water re-use, before embarking on such a large commitment that they say would raise water rates. While authorities from three levels of government celebrated the project, a few dozen protesters were kept blocks away.

Despite the groundbreaking ceremony, the project’s developers say they still have several steps before they can start construction. The state still needs a federal permit for the use of sea water. And the private developer, Aguas de Rosarito, needs a federal permit for concentrated discharge of residual water from the plant, according to a filing earlier this month with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The future facility is being envisioned in two phases. The first $491-million phase is set to launch operations three years from now and produce 50 million gallons a day, the governor said. At full build-out, the plant would be twice the size of the Poseidon Plant in Carlsbad, and supply drinking water for some 2 million people.

The project is being developed through a public-private-partnership that in 2016 won the bid to design and build the plant and operate it for 37 years. The water would be sold to the state of Baja California, which would be in charge of its distribution.

The project has been spearheaded by NSC Agua, a Mexican company that is the subsidiary of Cayman Islands-based Consolidated Water, which develops and operates seawater desalination plants. Earlier this month, Consolidated Water announced that NSC Agua had reached agreement for the equity funding required to build and operate the project. Aguas de Rosarito is the special purpose company formed to own the project.
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