Long-term sustainability of water services is one of the biggest challenges

Friday, August 12, 2011

Argentina's Córdoba province opened economic offers for a US$113mn project to enclose a section of the Los Molinos-Córdoba canal on August 2. The project is one of many the province is undertaking to improve its use of water resources.

Local company Benito Roggio e Hijos is the likely winner of the project with its bid of 488mn pesos (US$118mn), while compatriot firm JCR bid 490mn pesos.

BNamericas asked the province's deputy secretary of water resources, Luis Salamone, about the project and what else the department has is the pipeline.

BNamericas: When will you be awarding the Los Molinos-Córdoba canal tender?

Salamone: We should be awarding the project in about 30 days and beginning construction in the first days of October.

We opened the [economic] bids on August 2, after receiving technical, economic and financial offers.

Six copies of the bidding rules were sold and two firms presented bids.

Failing any serious issue with our analysis of the expenses, at this stage we are only evaluating the cost of the project, as both firms qualified in terms of economic, technical and financing [requirements].

BNamericas: Can you tell us a bit about the project?

Salamone: The canal currently has problems with sinking in its last section, the final 30km, due to the quality of the soil. So we decided to replace this traditional canal with one that's completely encased.

BNamericas: The canal feeds a potable water plant, are there any plans for work on that facility?

Salamone: The plant is working perfectly right now. We're thinking that in the future it may be modernized and its production capacity expanded.

BNamericas: President Cristina Fernández was in Córdoba in April to open a wastewater treatment plant, can you tell us about that?

Salamone: That project was for the municipality of Córdoba, which is in charge of sewerage service for the city.

The president also inaugurated another very important project, the Etruria-Laboulaye pipeline, which will provide potable water service to an area that has a very heavy presence of arsenic in the local water supply.

These projects were carried out by the city and the province.

BNamericas: What other types of projects does the province manage?

Salamone: In regard to water resources, we basically manage four types of projects. Firstly, those that are designed for potable water, which are uptakes, treatment plants, pipelines and distribution networks. Then sewerage projects, which is work on sewerage collection systems, treatment plants or both in the case of comprehensive projects.

We also manage work to regulate excess water, which includes channeling, erosion control, retention ponds or lagoons and drainage works.

Then we have smaller types of projects that are of less importance.

BNamericas: What sort of budget does the water resource department have?

Salamone: The annual budget is around 60mn pesos from the province, to which you have to add external financing, both national and international. The amount of external financing depends on need and the province's capacity to take on debt.

BNamericas: Last year the province signed a contract with Aguas Cordobesas, what does that involve?

Salamone: The contract is to expand the service area in the city of Córdoba. There are 48 neighborhoods or sectors and we've advanced the work about 80%.

By the end of the year, the whole city of Córdoba will have a potable water distribution network, achieving the goals and objectives of the contract.

I'd estimate we're incorporating some 30,000 users [into the potable water network].

BNamericas: What was the investment required for this project?

Salamone: It cost 42mn pesos and was financed by the province.

BNamericas: What are the main projects the province is working on for the rest of the year?

Salamone: Fundamentally, it's the Las Molinas-Córdoba canal which will take some 24 months and includes regulating the Suquía river that crosses the city. The initiative will add value to the whole river area through the addition of sidewalks, lighting and channeling.

Then we have some drainage works in the [provincial] capital city and the interior. Those are the main projects.

BNamericas: What challenges does the province face in terms of water?

Salamone: I think the biggest challenges are the fight against water pollution, long-term sustainability of water services and the reusing treated water for irrigation.

BNamericas: What projects is the province working on to clean up polluted water?

Salamone: Basically, it's to complete the remediation of the San Roque river basin. Work has already been completed on the upper basin and the lower Carlos Paz basin. The middle basin is left to clean up and we've already got the project designs completed.

The San Roque lake supplies water for Córdoba city. Like all lakes, it's surrounded by tourist sites and these end up contaminating the lake.

So we've carried out sanitation works including sewerage systems completed in the lower and upper basins and now we're looking for financing for the middle basin project.

BNamericas: Where are you looking for funds?

Salamone: The Inter-American Development Bank. At this stage we're putting together documentation to present to the national organizations that will manage the loan application.

BNamericas: When do you expect the funds to be approved?

Salamone: It's very difficult to know because it depends on a whole series of factors external to the government.