Follow up: Fresh Drinking Water From The Sea

In the previous post about Aruba’s drinking water I explained why the water is so good and pure. In this post I’m going to give you a more detailed explanation about the purification process and more information about the local water company.

Aruba has no other source of getting water other than the Caribbean Sea. It doesn’t rain enough (16.2 inches/44 centimeters per year average), there are no fresh water lakes, there are no rivers and under the ground is nothing to be found.

The water company started officially in 1932 as a very small operation. They needed to supply a population of 17.000 of fresh water. A growing economy and population made it clear that big investments were needed.

And so it happened. After long negotiations with Lago Refinery the new and improved water company was opened it’s doors at the end of 1950s. During the decades the water company stepped up its efforts and made many multi-million-dollar investments on order to guarantee water quality, reliability and purity of the water supply-chain. At the present, the water company still invests millions of dollars in the continuing expansion of the capacity of the water infrastructure in Aruba.

The purification process

Aruba’s drinking water is impeccable because of the extensive process from when the water gets pumped out of the salty Caribbean Sea until it comes out of the tap. These steps are:

1. Pump water from the sea
2. Water gets boiled until it vaporizes
3. This vapor condenses into distilled water
4. Distilled water passes through filters of coral beds
5. After coral filter, one last regular final filter
6. Water gets distributed to Aruba

When the water filter process is finished, the salt and excess water, especially for equipment cooling, is later mixed and pumped back to the sea as salty sea water.

A side note: Aruba is a coral island, so coral is available on the surface without the need to kill any life coral in the water to help this process take place.

The distribution

The distribution of the drinking water happens exclusively through underground tubes and pipes to steel tanks located strategically around the island on higher elevations. The tanks on higher elevations guarantees good water pressure out of the tap, courtesy of the gravity.

The production output and capacity

What’s the production of the water company?

* The capacity of the plant is 11 million US gallons (41.2 million liters) a day
* The average demand is 9.8 million US gallons (37.1 million liters) a day

Who consumes the 9.8 million US gallons a day?

* 86% by Aruba’s people and visitors
* 11% by Valero Refinery
* 3% by the water company internally

The average consumption per person per day is 58 US gallons (220 liters).

Disadvantage and alternative

There’s one big disadvantage with this process of purifying water and where the machinery is fueled by gas-oil (diesel). This is a major problem in light of the recent oil price hikes. Plus, what are Aruba’s options on the longer term and how about when there is no more diesel?

Aruban people are proud of their drinking water, but with the recent price hikes in the water bills people are starting to murmur. People are asking for alternatives to the diesel-run machineries. Like stated earlier, the water company invests millions of dollars in new equipment and recent investments are focused on equipment with more efficient consumption of fuel.

In recent publications the water company stated that they are exploring alternatives like wind power as an addition to fuel alone. Aruba has a trade wind with an average of 20 mph (32.2 kph).

Standby for the scans of the water process.

Fresh Drinking Water From The Sea

As mentioned in an earlier post about the rainfall in Aruba, this island is very dry. Rainfall is average 16.2 inches/44 centimeters per year. Being a volcanic island (meaning: this island came about an underwater volcanic eruption a long time ago) and also a coral island, there is no water source under the ground. A major conundrum: how do you get your fresh drinking water? The title gave it away: from the sea. The body of water that surrounds Aruba is the very salty Caribbean Sea and the only source of Aruba’s fresh drinking water.

According to international organizations, Aruba’s drinking water ranks among one of the best in the world. It can easily compete against any fancy brand of bottled water. “Tap water is pure distilled water filtered through a bed of coral rocks where it absorbs important minerals such as calcium, and oxygen,” according to Aruba’s water company’s information site.

How come it is so good? The water company: “The World Health Organization’s standard for dissolved salt is 600 parts per million (ppm). Aruba’s water contains between 5 and 15 ppm of salt which is 40 times better.” Furthermore: “The quantity of bacteria is consistently below detectable levels, in other words, a very high level of purity.”

The core machinery uses fossil fuel, namely gas-oil or better known as diesel. The desalinization process is a very extensive and expensive one. When oil prices keep rising the water bills go up, too.

I have an information booklet with drawings on how exactly the purification process works. In a later post I’m going to scan it and publish it for you. Stand by for that.