UAE’s Safi water treatment plant boosts water recycling

Safi distributes commercialised ‘recycled water’ which is used in industries that require large amounts of it, while maintaining a high quality, good salinity and TDS levels.

Safi water treatment plant in Ajman
Safi water treatment plant in Ajman

The Safi Water treatment plant has built a strong reputation for itself in Ajman. Located in the Industrial Zone, the plant has undergone a revamp from ground up and now resembles a commercial fuel station with 24 filling bays of which 16 bays are currently in operation.

“This makes it easier for drivers to come in and fill up their tankers, as the visual familiarity makes for a good experience overall,” says Gurvan Dersel, general manager of Safi Ajman.

Safi distributes commercialised ‘recycled water’ which is used in industries that require large amounts of it, while maintaining a high quality, good salinity and TDS levels. “One of our major clients is Tabreed, the Ajman municipality’s incinerator facility and Star Cements, for whom we have built a pipe to supply water directly to the plant here in Ajman,” Dersel adds.

Safi is a joint venture between Ajman Municipality, Besix, Six Construct and Veolia, and the water treatment plant receives its tertiary treated water directly from Ajman Sewerage. After undergoing ultra-filtration and reverse osmosis filtration processes, it is then pumped. The total capacity of the plant is 2.2 million imperial gallons of water.

Dersel says prior to the revamp Safi Ajman had a different look and feel. The growing demand for treated effluent (TE) prompted its stakeholders to take it up a notch. “We had 12 filling points prior to the reinvention of this plant. It was a simple facility with a few filing points — a storage tank and building to process the water. Today, we are the first company in the region to bring the concept of commercialised ‘recycled water’ into practice,” Dersel notes.

A minor change in the diameter of the pipe has allowed larger outputs. “Our pumps are now 50% faster than before, which means we are able to pump double the amount of water as compared to our capacity at launch,” he adds.

A 10,000 gallon tanker which would take an hour to fill up, now takes just 35 minutes after the change.

This means the frequency of trucks will increase as more tankers are able to fill up in a shorter amount of time. For a tanker to remain stationary, either at a filling station or otherwise, translates in loss of revenue [for its company],” Dersel says.

The fully rebranded premises was inaugurated on November 20, 2017, at the hands of HH Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ajman.

Dersel adds: “As a private company we are in it to make profit and the authority [Ajman Municipality] comes in with the legalities to govern the project, and they have been extremely cooperative from the outset.”

The success of this water treatment and distribution plant has prompted neighbouring emirates to visit the facility. “Fujairah is now looking at replicating the system we have, along with several other authorities and bodies who have visited our premises. Local governments hold the key to success in the public-private business model,” he states.

Dersel confidently adds that the revamped Safi Ajman plant faces no competition in the UAE and the future is looking bright as well. Dersel informs: “We will build two new facilities in 2018, one will be located in the industrial area and the other will be on the Al Zorah Beachfront [both in Ajman]. Building a new plant from scratch costs approximately AED30m ($8.2m).”

Safi receives TE water from Ajman Sewerage (turn to p.44 to read about the process) located in close proximity. Its general manager Elias Sfeir gives us a rundown of the multiple stage process, from receiving the sewage water to its purification. “The Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) has two systems running in parallel — called the WWTP Phase 1 and WWTP Phase 2. Although both utilise similar processes, each uses distinct technologies to treat the wastewater,” he says.

The average daily capacity at the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) is around 135,000m3. “These flows are expected to increase to meet the increasing demands based on planned future developments in Ajman,” Elias says.

Safi receives an average of between 10,000m3 and 14,000m3 of TE per day

As the primary supplier to Safi, the WWTP’s supply of TE varies depending on the season and the demands of the various off-takers. “Safi receives an average of between 10,000m3 and 14,000m3 of TE per day,” Elias informs.

One of the main challenges, Elias says, is to ensure the quality of the discharged wastewater complies with municipal regulations and does not contain chemicals, biocides, pesticides or other products in such quantities that could be toxic or inhibitory to the biological treatment process.

Elias says: “This is achieved, to the extent possible, by continuous monitoring of the wastewater discharged to the sewerage network; campaigns to educate the customers on the proper use of the sewerage system; and continuous monitoring of the performance of the facilities.

It’s also important to accurately assess the population growth on a medium to long-term basis to ensure that sewerage facilities are planned sufficiently in advance to meet the demands of a rapidly increasing population, whilst also ensuring that the best use is made of the funds available for investment in new facilities,” Elias says.

Hence, monitoring population trends and master-planning to anticipate the needs for additional sewerage infrastructure, and robust procurement process are pivotal.

APSCL — the firm tasked with managing the day-to-day operations of the site — is also providing expertise and financial assistance to help Ajman Municipality expand the range and improve the efficiency of its irrigation network, all while increasing the volume of re-use TE.

“Maximising the re-use of the processed tertiary effluent, biogas and sludge will promote sustainability, protect the environment and [if possible] obtain financial benefit. ASPCL also expects to award a contract in the near future to procure facilities to convert biogas into ‘green’ electricity, which will reduce emissions to the atmosphere and reduce the company’s operating costs,” Elias concludes.


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