Senegal mulls desalination to counter supply shortfall in capital

Senegal water utility, Senegalaise des Eaux (SDE), is planning investment in desalination to avoid repeats of last year’s severe supply shortages in the the rapidly growing capital city, Dakar, according to the firm’s chief executive Mamadou Dia.

With financing from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Senegal will build a 100,000 m³/d desalination plant by 2021 – more than five times the current shortfall Dia said. He said also that private equity-owned SDE will also bid in a tender for a second 50,000 m³/d plant with private financing. “Senegal needs to diversify its water sources to secure supply and anticipate growing demand due to rapid urbanisation,” he added.

With no large supplies of water within more than 200km of Dakar, the city’s structural water problems came to a head in September 2013, when 40% of the city went without water for two weeks after a main burst.

Senegal is short of power capacity so any desalination facility will need to have its own generator.

The water shortages of last year spurred criticism of the role of privately owned utilities like SDE which provides water to around half of Senegal’s 13 million people, mainly in urban areas. Dia, however, has asserted that most of the predominantly publicly-owned water utilities in Africa have “reached their limits.” Despite last year’s water outage, SDE’s contract was renewed for another five years in December 2013. And it aims to expand further in Africa.

The water failure caused political embarrassment coming after the country’s president Macky Sall, on his 2012 election, pledged to tackle water shortages and end the practice of women roaming the streets with buckets on their heads to collect water from mains pipes