MOST residents of Gibraltar will again be able to ‘enjoy supply from their taps’ this week, said the local water company after an Eastside fire disrupted freshwater production for nearly two weeks.
AquaGib said its fourth reverse osmosis unit, which is located at the Governor’s Cottage site near Europa Point, is now up and running.
“This means we are back to 100% production capability, enabling us to build stock levels at the waterworks reservoirs,” the company said in a statement.
“As stock levels have begun to rise over recent days, pressure fluctuations and lack of supply are now beginning to reduce,” it said.
But Gibraltar’s water company warned customers there could still be water supply issues, urging users to report them on the 24-hour fault report number, 2007 3659.
The government said it was hoping to stop nightly water restrictions on August 10.
Freshwater reached an all-time low in Gibraltar after a fire at Powers Drive Tunnel on the east side of the Rock broke out on Tuesday July 26.
It took 20 fire officers several days to fully extinguish the blaze during July’s heatwave.
Putting out the fire was made all the harder by intense heat, toxic smoke, zero visibility and occasional rockfalls, the Gibraltar Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS) said in a statement.
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo commended their ‘incredible efforts’ in a tweet on July 30.
He said his government would ‘move the Freedom of the city for the [Fire] Brigade this year.’
The GFRS said on July 26 that rock falls resulting from the blaze damaged the power and water supply of the reverse osmosis plants located in the Rock tunnels.
AquaGib switched them off while they were repaired.
Gibraltar takes saltwater from the sea, pumps it up the Rock before converting it to potable water and piping it around the British territory.
The system uses gravity to create water pressure for distribution to homes and businesses.
AquaGib quickly enforced night-time water cuts and halted non-essential usage throughout the territory.
The Department of the Environment arranged two bowsers of non-potable water for cleaning and watering plants.
Residents can still collect the water at Morrisons car park and the lower level of New Harbours industrial Park during the daytime hours.
Areas worst hit by loss of supply and poor pressure included the Upper Town and South district.
The government set up a Strategic Coordinating Group which met regularly to manage the whole crisis.
It imported potable water from Spain, distributing it to affected areas with six tanker trucks.
The cuts and water importation allowed freshwater supplies to build up inside football pitch-sized reservoirs inside the Rock itself.
Authorities distributed water bottles and created a helpline for the vulnerable, elderly or those with disabilities.
They opened showering facilities at Eastern Beach, Bayside Sports Complex, the GSLA pool and Europa Sports Centre.
By August 2, the work had allowed most homes to receive freshwater apart from The Sanctuary luxury development and the upper area of Gardiner’s Road.
Residents have expressed concern on social media about the water having a strong taste of chlorine and an odd colour since supply was restored.
It assured the public in an August 5 statement that ‘chlorine levels within the water remain fit for human consumption.’
Daily testing also allayed fears that water coming from Spain had bacterial issues
“The potentially low risk of contamination of the truck water was anticipated and planned for in advance through increasing chlorine levels in the water. Reservoir testing and all tap water testing to date has been clear,” said Dr Helen Carter, Director of Public Health Gibraltar.
The water company said the brown colour of the water was ‘due to sediment in the water network.
It advised customers to solve this problem by ‘running taps for a short while’ but not to overdo it so as to waste water.
AquaGib said on August 8 that water supply could go back to normal faster ‘if people do their utmost to reduce their water usage.’
“Please consider this every time that you turn on the tap and be responsible with the use of water wherever possible,” the water company said.
All restrictions on water use could now be lifted by August 15, the Gibraltar Government said in a statement.