World Water Day, launched by the UN in 1993, is celebrated on March 22nd. It is an occasion to remind ourselves that 2.1 billion people around the world lack access to safe drinking water, and four in every ten people suffer from the effects of scarcity of this essential resource, according to figures from the World Health Organisation and UNICEF. Every day around 1,000 children die in the world from diarrhoeal diseases, a result of poor water quality.
Reflecting the spirit of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6, “Water and sanitation for everyone by 2030,” the theme chosen by the UN for this year’s World Water Day is “Water and Climate Change.” The aim is to show how correct water use can help to reduce flooding, drought, scarcity and pollution, as well as helping to tackle climate change.
The three key messages that the United Nations wants to convey are 1. we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of waiting, and that those responsible for climate policy must put water at the heart of their actions; 2. is that water can help to tackle climate change and that sustainable, affordable and scalable water and sanitation solutions exist; and 3. the UN reminds us that we all have a role to play, since there are infinite actions we can take in our daily lives that combined can help mitigate climate change.
Water and sustainability in ACCIONA’s DNA
ACCIONA has been committed for many years to combining the two principles that inspired this year’s World Water Day and sustainability is one of the company’s core principles and a fundamental part of all its activities. The company is also a pioneer in using the most modern technological solutions for managing this scarce resource. ACCIONA manages around 500 projects in 40 countries, including desalination plants, drinking water plants and water treatment facilities, serving more than 90 million people globally. It is also a world leader in reverse osmosis processes.
A significant part of ACCIONA’s reputation lies in its ongoing commitment to innovation. A good example of this is its involvement in actions promoted by the EU’s LIFE program, which focuses on water treatment.
ACCIONA’s water projects deliver increasingly higher levels of performance and therefore offer greater scope to benefit communities, which is largely attributable to advances in technology.
In 2019, ACCIONA launched CECOA, a technology platform capable of capturing and analyzing hundreds of thousands of pieces of data collected from its plants around the world in order to optimize their management and improve their efficiency by using advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques, with the goal of continuing to develop its innovation.
Similarly, ACCIONA is investing in digital twins for its most important projects; a digital replica of the project that enables it to analyse, optimize and improve productivity, while reducing development times and detecting failures early.
ACCIONA currently has more than 300 waste water treatment plants under construction or in operation in more than 25 countries on five continents, which together produce 25 million m³ of water per day. These include the Atotonilco wastewater treatment plant in Mexico, the largest of its kind in the world, which serves more than 10 million people and from which the treated water is reused to irrigate 80,000 hectares.
In the field of desalination, the Adelaide seawater desalination plant in Australia is a project to design, construct and operate a drinking water treatment plant under a 35 year concession. It is one of the largest desalination plants in the world and a pioneering facility in the country thanks to the use of ultra-filtration membranes and a two-phase configuration that improves energy efficiency and increases the recovery rate of the treated water.
The Ras Abu Fontas seawater desalination plant in Qatar is a milestone project because it is the first time that reverse osmosis technology is going to be used on a large-scale in this country, where until now only the evaporation method has been used to desalinate water. The Beckton plant is also a pioneering facility as the first desalination plant constructed in Great Britain. In Latin America, the Copiapó desalination plant in the Atacama Desert, Chile, is the first of its kind that ACCIONA has constructed for a mining company. Meanwhile, the Tampa desalination plant in Florida is the largest in the USA and will supply 10% of the water consumed by the entire Tampa Bay region.
North America is a priority market for ACCIONA
In North America, ACCIONA has three major water treatment projects. The North Shore wastewater treatment plant, the Saint John drinking water plant, which is currently in operation, and the Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination Plant. In Canada, new wastewater legislation means that all primary treatment plants in urban areas must become secondary treatment facilities by 2020. The change, which affects one in every four plants in the country, means using biological processes to remove dissolved and suspended organic compounds, which produces a much cleaner effluent and reduces the environmental impact.
To comply with the new regulations, Metro Vancouver, a federation comprising 21 municipalities in British Columbia, decided to construct a new wastewater treatment plant to replace the existing facility, which has provided primary treatment for Vancouver’s largest region for more than 50 years. ACCIONA has been commissioned for the project and its Construction and Water divisions will construct the plant.
The new plant, which will have a treatment capacity of 320,000 m3/day, incorporates solutions for energy efficiency and the recovery, conservation and reuse of the water, the processing of rainwater and measures to minimise waste output. The biogas generated from treating the wastewater will be used to produce electricity and heating for the plant. These measures are intended to reduce the plant’s greenhouse gas emissions by 7,200 tonnes per year.
The new drinking water treatment plant for the City of Saint John, in the province of New Brunswick, opened in June 2019. The project included the design and construction, refurbishment, financing and operation for a 30-year period, of a plant that will serve around 70,000 people. The facilities have a capacity to produce 75,000 m3 of drinking water a day and include a 33 million litre water storage reservoir. The plant’s most important innovation is a new dosing system that uses an algorithm to correctly dose the chlorine to eliminate viruses and parasites in the water for human consumption.
The North Shore wastewater treatment plant and the Saint John drinking water plant are both examples of Canada’s importance to ACCIONA.
As the UN reminds us every year on World Water Day, managing our water resources is one of the most important challenges facing the planet for the coming decades. Secure access to the supply of drinking water is a fundamental right that nobody should be deprived of, and those regions around the world that enjoy this entitlement must not forget that caring for the global environment means treating their water effectively and responsibly. This commitment must involve public administrations, businesses and citizens. ACCIONA has stood by this commitment for many years and is working to provide the most innovative solutions to manage our valuable blue gold.