Globally, 780 million people do not have access to clean water and with a fast-growing global population, this remains one of the most challenging development goals.
Plumbing tube is one of the oldest uses of copper and therefore plays an important role in terms of water supply. While other technologies have replaced copper in some markets, copper is a proven, safe technology for the transportation and delivery of drinking water to home and businesses.
The importance of the right materials in drinking water systems is exemplified in the unfortunate situation in Flint, Michigan, U.S.A. There, leaching of lead from old service lines is having significant, negative impacts on human health. Copper is being considered by local officials to replace the lead service lines, as copper offers significant performance and environmental benefits.
Flint is raising awareness for the need to inspect and potentially replace old water service lines that could pose health risks over time.
Meeting the challenge of a sustainable water supply
In 2013, BHP Billiton approved an investment of US$1,972 million to sustain operations at Escondida in Chile, by constructing a new 2,500 litre per second sea-water desalination facility.
The aim of the project was to ensure continued water supply to Escondida, as water use increased with the completion of the 152,000 tonnes per day OGP1 copper concentrator. Construction of the new desalination facility commenced in July 2013 and includes the development of two pipelines, four high-pressure pump stations, a reservoir at the mine site and high voltage infrastructure to support the system. The new facility opened in 2017 and won “Industrial Desalination Plant of the Year” by Global Water Intelligence.
Securing a sustainable water supply in the Atacama Desert is a major priority for all Chilean copper producers, so the approval of the Escondida Water Supply (EWS) project is a significant milestone. The new desalination facility will minimise reliance on the region’s aquifers, which will help to meet environmental commitments.
More information on EWS can be found here.
Source: UN Water, 2013 World Water Day, International Year of Water Cooperation