Mexico awards $477m desalination plant

The Baja California facility, a project of unprecedented scale for the state, is also a test of the PPP law adopted in 2014.

Consolidated Water, a project developer based in the Cayman Islands, has signed a PPP contract with project company Aguas de Rosarito for the design, build and operation of a MXN9 billion ($447 million; €429 million) desalination plant in Mexico’s Playas de Rosarito, in Baja California.

Aguas de Rosarito is a joint venture formed by Degremont, a business belonging to France’s Suez Environmental, as well as UK developer NuWater and NSC Agua, a subsidiary of Consolidated Water.

The concession contract requires the team to design, construct, finance and operate a seawater desalination plant in two phases – the first with a capacity of 50 million gallons per day and an aqueduct to the Mexican potable water system in Tijuana, Baja California; and the second phase with a capacity of 50 million gallons per day and an aqueduct to a second delivery point in the city.

The plant is a project of unprecedented scale for the state and a test run of the PPP law it adopted in 2014. It is set to increase Tijuana’s water supply and alleviate its near-total dependence on water deliveries from the Colorado River.

Although Baja California officials argue the plant’s purpose is to meet the state’s needs, water exports are not out of question. A four-mile-long potable water pipeline that would transport water from the Rosarito Desalination plant across the US-Mexico border to Otay Water District in San Diego County is under consideration.

A permit was issued for such a pipeline in July, with a metering station, a disinfection facility, an outfall structure and a potential pump station also part of the accompanying infrastructure.

The first phase of the Rosarito plant must be operational within 36 months of starting construction, with the second phase due to be completed by the end of 2024.  The contract also requires the project company to operate and maintain the plant and aqueducts for a period of 37 years.