JERSEY Water is planning to increase the capacity of its desalination plant to safeguard supplies during extreme droughts.
The plant can currently produce just over ten million litres of drinking water a day – roughly half of the Island’s average daily usage. The company now plans to increase capacity by five million litres per day – enough to fill two Olympic-sized swimming pools – to meet a projected rise in demand caused by climate change and a growing population.
Separately, Jersey Water has confirmed that the facility – which converts sea water into drinking water – will be used to top up Val de la Mare reservoir during the coming weeks.
Water is to be run into the reservoir – Jersey’s second-biggest behind Queen’s Valley – while the plant is turned on to test new parts.
The company has stressed that although usage has surged during the recent hot and dry weather, the facility is not currently needed to bolster reserves, and that the firm is simply making use of the water during the testing period.
The need to shore up future reserves was laid bare in the utility’s Water Resources Management Plan in 2018, which stated that in dry conditions demand was expected to increase by 15% by 2045. It set out various measures to safeguard reserves, including increasing the height of Val de la Mare’s dam wall, creating a new reservoir or increasing capacity at the desalination plant near Corbière.
Jersey Water said that if no action was taken, demand would exceed supply by 8.2 million litres a day during severe drought conditions from 2045.
Last year the firm dropped its ambitions to create a reservoir at La Gigoulande Quarry in St Peter’s Valley after it was determined in the Bridging Island Plan that the site would not be set aside for water storage.
Mark Manton, head of production operations at Jersey Water, said that increasing capacity at the desalination plant was now the firm’s best option.
‘We have done a lot of work on reducing leaks and this is now the best it has ever been. It is also highly likely that we will be expanding the desalination plant. It would only be a drought measure. We don’t like to use it a lot because it is expensive and we really don’t want to pass those costs on to the customer.
‘We hope to undertake a number of tests and move into detailed engineering work on this next year. However, until we have the final engineering scheme selected and the necessary funding approvals agreed we are unable to provide a definite construction start date at present.’
Commenting on the plans to use the plant this summer, he said: ‘We need to pressure-test the system because we have had some assemblies changed. So we will take advantage of this to run some water into Val de la Mare.
‘We are a way off using it for water-resources purposes, but we have met recently and it does look like it is going to be dry over the longer term.’
It is likely that the plant, which was last used in 2019, will operate for about two weeks, or possibly longer if it remains dry.