Image used for illustrative purpose only. Photo by Marcelo Bassi on Unsplash
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Chile to launch its first desalination concession at end of 2024

Chile is aiming to launch a tender for its first desalination concession around the end of this year as authorities finetune details of the bidding rules for the US$286mn plant in Coquimbo region. 

“A few things have yet to be defined, such as the business model,” Óscar Vásquez, project manager at state water services concessionaire Econssa, said when answering a BNamericas question at the Desalination Latin America 2024 congress in Santiago.

The project entails a plant with capacity of 1,200l/s that is expected to benefit 540,000 residents in the north-central cities of Coquimbo and La Serena.

Vásquez added that tariff models are being discussed, as well as how they will be updated every five years like other water service concessions.

“[Water regulator] SISS is required by law to seek out the most economic scheme, not the most efficient,” Vásquez said.

Econssa opened Chile’s first fully state-funded desalination plant in 2022, which involved a US$250mn investment in northern Atacama region.

Vásquez highlighted that nearly half of the construction phase was carried out after the eruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the project obtained broad support from the local community, saying that information meetings and a commitment to employ locals were key.

He said projects should not only offer a service but also make people in the areas of influence part of their development.

When asked by BNamericas, Vásquez said Econssa rules out planning any desalination plants for other regions, adding that Atacama was a special case in which it was decided only the state-owned concessionaire could have developed such a project at the time.

He said projects should not only offer a service but also make people in the areas of influence part of their development.

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