WA director attends WHO meeting on desalination

Water Authority Director Dr. Gelia Frederick-van Genderen recently attended a World Health Organization meeting aimed at preparing guidelines on desalination for safe water supply.

The meeting was hosted by the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences and met in the KFAS headquarters in Kuwait City.

The desalination of seawater or brackish water is a major and rapidly growing source of drinking water in many parts of the world. Advances in the technology and economics of desalination are rapidly making this process one of the most desirable options for providing high quality safe drinking water in regions all over the world, said a Water Authority press release.

This is particularly the case where fresh water supplies are insufficient to support the health and welfare needs of the current population, as well as provide a stimulus for enhanced economic growth and improved quality of life.

It is with this rationale that WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office embarked on the development of the Desalination Guidance Document following the unanimous endorsement of the WHO Guidelines Drinking Water Quality Committee in Berlin, Germany in June 2000, the release said.

Water Authority Board Chairman, Mr. Brainard Watler, commented: ‘We are delighted that although a small country, we have representation on the World Health Organisation’s committee for developing guidance for desalination which has become so important to the success of our development of the Cayman Islands. We are very proud that our Water Authority Director’s expertise and skills have been recognised globally and look forward to possibly hosting the next year’s meeting of this prestigious group.’

The Steering Committee is comprised of six other international experts from Australia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Spain and the United States as well as members from a WHO Oversight Committee. Dr. Houssain Abouzaid of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office in Egypt is Chairman of the Committee.

The committee is responsible to oversee the operations and progress of the project, to provide overall guidance to the five Technical Committees, and to oversee the final Report and Guidance Document.

While in Kuwait, Dr. Frederick-van Genderen was able to visit the largest wastewater reclamation facility in the world. The Sulaibiya Wastewater Treatment and Reclamation Plant treats 375,000 cubic metres (82.5 million imperial gallons) of wastewater daily using activated sludge, ultra filtration and reverse osmosis, producing water that is better than WHO Drinking Water Guidelines for irrigation.

‘In view of the Authority’s plans to treat effluent from our Grand Cayman Wastewater Treatment Works for use as irrigation water, this was a great opportunity to see a plant of this magnitude in operation and discuss operational issues with the facility’s management,’ explained Dr. Frederick-van Genderen.

‘I was impressed with the entire operations and how spic and span the entire facility was.’

Dr. Frederick-van Genderen was selected last year as a member of the WHO’s Steering Committee. She attended the first meeting in Manama, Bahrain in May 2004.

The Water Authority Director is expected to attend at least two more meetings before the completion of the final report in late 2006.