Water expected to return this weekend as AquaGib struggles with supply
Across Gibraltar, local residents were left with dry taps, as AquaGib scrambled to supply water to gazebos and divert new pipes to their fire-damaged reverse osmosis water plant.
The tunnel fire, although brought under control, has not yet been fully extinguished, resulting in a water cut every evening between 12:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. while emergency work is carried out to repair water pipes damaged by a collapse in the Power’s Drive Tunnel.
Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia and Civil Contingencies Minister Samantha Sacramento explained how the water is expected to return within the next 48 hours once the work is complete, although the Gibraltar government initially announced that the repair work would take about five days.
As senior officials briefed the press, queues formed on roadsides around Gibraltar, with AquaGib staff handing out bottled water to affected residents.
Dr Garcia described how the tanks are held in the Beefsteak Magazine tunnel which collects water from Little Bay, the water is transferred by pipe along Power’s Drive to Governor’s Cottage and the AquaGib Reserve Osmosis plant where the water is desalinated.
The fire broke out in this system of tunnels which includes vaults used for storage.
The floor of the Gibraltar Music Festival in trunk four caught fire, leading to the collapse of the roof of the corridor, which is the size of a two-lane road, and through which the pipes leading to the factory pass from AquaGib.
AquaGib is working to replace the Beefsteak magazine hose with an external hose that will connect to Governor’s Cottage, making the Power’s Drive hallway “redundant”.
“This is expected to be completed within 48 hours,” Dr Garcia said.
He added: “Fingers crossed it will happen as soon as possible.”
Dr Garcia explained that Gibraltar’s system relies on water pressure as it works on gravity.
“There are millions of liters of water in the system,” he said.
“The problem is that you need more than millions of [litres of] water above to make it go down in the various pipes.”
Once the diverted pipe is in place, Dr. Garcia said, the reverse osmosis plant should be working again.
The North Mole plant produces 1.5 million liters of water per day, with a single pump.
“This plant was used primarily for the hospital,” Dr. Garcia said.
He added that the restrictions would continue until the system was back up and running, but more importantly the water supply was preserved for hospitals and residential services for the elderly in St Bernard.
Some 80 swimming pool owners have also been reported as heavy consumers of water and contacted to limit their consumption.
Ms Sacramento added that water was not cut off in areas of Gibraltar on Thursday afternoon, but rather the lack of water pressure saw residents’ taps go dry.
She called on the public to use water sparingly for the next two days.
Ms Sacramento added that she hoped the pipe would work again on Saturday.
Arrangements have been made to bring in water from Spain, which will facilitate supplies, and further arrangements will be made next week to catch up with supplies.
Spanish authorities have kept customs canals open for a continuous supply of water, and the government is considering bringing water by sea from Algeciras.
AquaGib also announced that it has opened a helpline for the elderly and vulnerable, advising those without access to water to call 20073659.
Learn more about water supply here.