Afar Region, Ethiopia -- At 110 meters below sea level in the Dallol depression, the Afdera Woreda (district) in the Afar Region is located in one of the deepest inhabited places on the planet. Afdera’s ground water is saline. Geo-physical and hydrological investigations show that there is virtually no chance of getting fresh water in the area. Water for local communities is trucked 220 kilometers from Logya with Afdera residents paying 20 birr (approximately $1.05) for a 20-liter jeri-can of water. Sometimes, it is impossible to get water at this price because the water supply and transportation is unreliable. Hence, local communities in the area are forced to use water from an open and salty source for domestic use.
Working with the Afar Region Water Bureau, USAID and its implementing partners introduced a new desalination technology in the Afdera Woreda through its Water, sanitation and hygiene Transformation for Enhanced Resilience (WATER) activity and on January 15, 2014, USAID Ethiopia Mission Director Dennis Weller and Awel Wittika, representing the office of the Afar Regional State president, inaugurated the desalination plant. The Afdera plant has a capacity to refine 120,000 liters/day and can supply fresh water for about 7,000 people. At a cost of 4 birr per 20-liter jeri-can, water from the desalination plant is substantially cheaper than residents are currently paying for water.
The $250,000 desalination plant works through reverse osmosis—a process where untreated water moves gradually from one part of the desalination plant to another through a membrane to produce fresh water. Studies show that source water has 6,000 ppm (parts per million) of dissolved salt, which is very dangerous
for health. This desalination technology has the potential to reduce the salt to less than 500 ppm which is within the range of WHO standard for safe domestic water.
Local government staffs were trained on management and maintenance and a committee was established and trained on routine operation of the facility. Moreover, the local water bureau was linked with the company that constructed the facility for spare parts supply and support to run the facility smoothly.
The desalination technology is a solution for environments with a high salt content and can be replicated in other similar salt affected areas of Ethiopia.
Pastoralist communities in Ethiopia exhibit some of the lowest water and sanitation coverage rates in the world. The WATER activity, implemented by International Rescue Committee and CARE Ethiopia, seeks to enhance resilience of local communities through improved and sustainable access to safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene behaviors and environmentally sustainable natural resources management.
Last updated: September 16, 2014