EU to support saline-aquifer desalination in Djibouti

A 22,500 m³/d brackish-water desalination plant, expandable to double that size and powered by renewable energy, is to be built in the East African state of Djibouti with support from the European Union (EU).

The announcement was made on 19 December 2012 by EU development commissioner Andris Piebalgs, during the visit to Brussels of the Djiboutian prime minister, Dileita Mohamed Dileita.

Current demand for water in the capital Djibouti City (where around 75% of the population lives) is estimated at 80,000 m³/d, but only 36,000 m³/d is currently being supplied. A prolonged drought has led to a serious food crisis, with recent fighting and riots in the country.

Project PEPER (Producing Safe Drinking Water with Renewable Energy) involves setting up a desalination plant in the capital to provide water to 200,000 inhabitants, one-fourth of the country’s population, in some of Djibouti’s poorest areas. Almost half of the 560,000 inhabitants of the city of Djibouti live in Balbala, which has a poverty rate in excess of 70%.

The water will be taken from the local aquifer, the only source of potable water for the city, which has reached its physical limit. Its quality is poor due to seawater intrusion.

A wind farm is planned as part of the second stage of the PEPER project.

The EU will provide € 40.5 million out of the total estimated budget of € 46 million for the new water desalination plant. The remaining € 5.5 million will be financed from Djibouti.