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Cablegate: Ashkelon Desalination Plant Open for Business

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 005458

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR NEA/IPA, NEA/RA AND OES/PCI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV PREL KPAL KWBG IS ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
SUBJECT: ASHKELON DESALINATION PLANT OPEN FOR BUSINESS

Sensitive but unclassified, please handle accordingly.

1. (U) Summary: The Ashkelon desalination plant began
providing
potable water for the Israeli national water grid in
mid-August,
according to Gustavo Kronenberg, general manager of the
private
consortium that built and is operating the plant. By the end
of this year, Ashkelon, the largest reverse osmosis
desalination
plant in the world, will provide about 100 million cubic
meters (MCM) annually, approximately 15 percent of Israeli
household
consumption. The cost of the desalinated water is about US
$0.53
per cubic meter. The plant is a potential source of
supplemental
water supplies for Gaza. End summary.

2. (U) TDY Deptoff met August 29 at the Ashkelon desalination
plant
with Gustavo Kronenberg, general manager of VID Desalination
Company
Ltd. VID is a consortium of three companies: IDE
Technologies, Veolia
Water, and Elran Infrastructures. VID will operate the
Ashkelon
facility for 25 years, including the construction period,
before turning
it over to the GOI. Kronenberg said that Ashkelon consists
of two plants,
the North and the South, each with a full production capacity
of 60 million
cubic meters (MCM) per year. At the time of the visit, the
North plant
was producing 7,164 cubic meters per hour, which, if
sustained, would be
a yearly rate of almost 63 MCM. Kronenberg said that the
South plant
is scheduled to become operational in November or December.
According
to Kronenberg, the contract with the GOI is for 100 MCM per
year, at a
price of about US $0.53 per cubic meter, but production could
be expanded
to 120 MCM per year. He added that the GOI would have to
renegotiate
the price for any water over the contracted volume with VID.

3. (SBU) When asked about press reports that adding Ashkelon
water to the
more saline national grid water would cause de-scaling of the
distribution
pipes, resulting in "red water" being delivered to consumers,
Kronenberg
said the issue was more political than scientific. He
explained that
any discoloration of the water would be short-lived, "a few
hours at most",
a common occurrence when pipes are flushed, and not a health
concern.
Kronenberg said that Mekorot, the Israeli National Water
Company, raised
the issue as a way of publicly demonstrating that they had
some control over
the Ashkelon project. According to Kronenberg, once Ashkelon
was ready
to start producing water, Mekorot insisted they needed four
days to study
the red-water issue. Kronenberg agreed to pump the
desalinated water into
a holding reservoir for ground-water recharge for four days,
after which
Mekorot agreed to accept the water. (Note: There have been
no press
reports of "red water" since Mekorot began mixing the
Ashkelon water
with the national grid water two weeks ago. End note).

4. (SBU) A formal opening ceremony for the Ashkelon plant is
scheduled for
September 28. Kronenberg said he expects Israeli Prime
Minister Sharon,
Vice Premier Peres, acting Finance Minister Olmert, and
Infrastructure
Minister Ben-Eleizer to attend the ceremony. Invitations
have also been
extended to American Embassy personnel.

5. (SBU) In past conversations with Emboffs, Kronenberg has
noted that the
Ashkelon plant could be built out to its full 120 MCM
capacity to provide
supplemental water supplies for Gaza, if there were interest.

********************************************* ********************
Visit Embassy Tel Aviv's Classified Website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/telaviv

You can also access this site through the State Department's
Classified SIPRNET website.
********************************************* *****

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