Soak The Casbah: GE Technology Brings Fresh Water to Millions in Algiers
Water barrels and storage tanks had for years dominated roofs in the Casbah and other neighborhoods spread over the crescent of hills ringing the Algerian capital and the blue half-moon of Bay of Algiers. “There was a big water shortage in this country,” says Ali Nouioua, a GE Power & Water manager based in Algeria. “Some areas would lose water every two or three days. People would have to buy it from water tankers on the street and store it on the roof.”
Today, the four million people living in the capital can take a shower or fill up a pot around the clock. In 2008, GE built the first desalination plant in Africa, in the Hamma neighborhood in the port of Algiers. The plant now employs 70 local workers and supplies Algiers with 53 million gallons of clean, fresh water every day, a quarter of the city’s needs. GE supplied the desalination technology, holds a 70 percent stake in the plant, and Nouioua serves as the plant’s manager.
Hamma has since become a model for a dozen other such plants strung along the Algerian coast where a third of country’s population lives. “Hamma is something that links us to the society,” Nouioua says. “People don’t see just water, they see GE.”
GE is hard to miss in Algeria. Some 400 GE gas turbines and dozens of power generators produce 55 percent of the country’s electricity. “GE is a leader in the power generation sector in Algeria, but we are not finished,” Nouioua says. He says that the country wants to double its electricity generation capacity.
There is also more work in the water business as Algeria steps up its sewage management. “Before long, all wastewater will have to be processed rather than going into the sea,” Nouioua says. “There is a big opportunity.”