Cayman Water is scrambling to stay ahead of Grand Cayman’s unquenchable thirst for potable water.
The private utility company has begun construction on a new water tank and a new desalination plant at its Abel Castillo Water Works facility in order to meet the demands posed by Grand Cayman’s growing population.
The tank is nearly completed and will be operational by June, but the new desalination plant will not be up and running until December. At that point, Cayman Water will be capable of producing 4.65 million gallons of potable water a day (with the potential capacity to produce one million gallons more per day in the future), and it will be able to store up to three days’ worth of water.
“We decided to go ahead with this about a year and a half ago,” said Manuel Thomaz, the general manager of Cayman Water. “We’ve done all the designs, and our plan was to have it ready by the end of this year so we can have more water for the next high season, which is January of next year.”
The new desalination plant will be capable of producing two million gallons of potable water per day, but Cayman Water will not push it to that point immediately. It will produce one million gallons a day for a year or two, and then Cayman Water will add the equipment to increase its functionality.
Construction began on the plant last week, and workers sank 32 piles deep into the ground to support the edifice. Mr. Thomaz said that Cayman’s ground is soft and porous, and the piles are required to make sure the plant is on a solid footing and will not shift around in the years to come.
“Because of this soil, and because it’s going to be heavy equipment in there, we have to find the bedrock,” he said. “These are concrete piles with metal framing inside. The piles will be sitting on the bedrock, and if you did not have them, over time, the building would just sink a little bit.”
Cayman’s three existing desalination plants are able to produce 3.65 million gallons a day, and its seven water tanks have a capacity of 6.75 million gallons. The new tank will add two million gallons of storage.
Mr. Thomaz said that Cayman’s peak demand for water in 2017 was three million gallons a day.
The Abel Castillo Water Works facility currently has three water tanks that can each store one million gallons, and the West Bay facility has the same capacity. The Britannia site can hold 750,000 gallons.
Mr. Thomaz said it is important to always be one step ahead of demand. “We need to be thinking one or two years ahead of what’s going on,” he said. “What can’t happen on this island is that suddenly you need water and you don’t have the water. That can never happen. This plant is absolutely crucial to cope with the growing demand that’s going on with this island.”
Mr. Thomaz said the construction workers will toil six days a week to get the plant running by December, and he said the next step is to pour concrete, flooring, walls and roofs. Cayman Water hopes to begin installing its desalination equipment inside the facility by October.
Initially, the plant will only have one train of semipermeable membranes. But as demand ramps up, Cayman Water will have the ability to double the equipment and the plant’s capacity.
“We’re investing in the future,” said Mr. Thomaz. “There is no development anywhere in the world that develops without potable water at the right quantity and the right pressure. That’s absolutely crucial. And one of the reasons this island is developing so well is because it has very good infrastructure.”