“It’s deliverance, Rogliano is coming back to life,” Patrice Quilici, mayor of this village located at the tip of Cap Corse, which includes the Macinaggio marina, very popular with tourists, told AFP.
Still on heightened drought alert after a record hot and dry summer, as in France, the town received “only 2 mm of rain in September”, points out the city councilor of Rogliano, which “passes from 650 inhabitants the winter to 6,000” in summer, at the peak of the tourist season.
Since April 1, restrictions on watering, washing or filling swimming pools have punctuated life in the village, where a race against time has begun, with eyes riveted on the level of drinking water in the communal reservoir of 48,000 cubic meters which also supplies the neighboring village of Tomino and its 200 inhabitants.
“Almost dry” Monday, the reservoir was emptied and cleaned and “since Tuesday morning 10:00 the station has been running and produces 25 m3 of fresh water per hour, 500 m3 per day”, enthused Mr. Quilici.
Set up by the Marseille company Nomado, this desalination unit represents a total cost of “1.2 million euros”, partly borne by the State and the Community of Corsica, according to the mayor.
“Faced with the problematic degradation of the level of drinking water”, the prefecture of Haute-Corse told AFP that it had activated an “emergency procedure” to authorize the commissioning of the unit “by derogation”. , in parallel with a longer “normal procedure”, to check the conformity of the device.
“The first water analyzes are compliant” for food use, the Regional Health Agency (ARS) told AFP on Monday, adding that “weekly samples” will continue.
– Marine protected area –
For François Orlandi, the mayor of Tomino, desalination “is the least natural device” for obtaining fresh water, but the choices were lacking: “Eight billion m3 of water fall each year in Corsica and go to the sea , and we only recover between 80 and 100 million m3, or 1%”, he estimated to AFP.
But what to do while waiting for new infrastructure: “Pray to the sky for rain, or live in unacceptable conditions in the 21st century?”, he wondered.
“40 minutes from the port of Macinaggio, the Italian island of Capraia has been operating for ten years with a desalination plant, they are autonomous all year round and no longer have any problems”, argued Mr. Quilici.
On the French Atlantic coast, the islands of Sein, Molène (Finistère) and Groix (Morbihan) have also undergone desalination.
Desalination plants are on the rise worldwide, with 1.5 to 2 billion men and women living in areas where water is scarce for at least part of the year, according to the UN .
And climate change promises to worsen the situation: with each additional degree gained, half a billion people will lose 20% of their fresh water, predicts the group of UN experts on climate (IPCC).
But a study by UN University researchers in Canada, the Netherlands and South Korea, published in 2019, showed that the 16,000 desalination plants installed around the world create more toxic discharges than water.
On average, for every liter of fresh water generated, 1.5 liters of saline mud or brine is released, usually into the ocean, affecting ecosystems.
A subject of concern for the Cap Corse marine park, a protected marine area which includes Rogliano and which “has not yet been seized by the State services of any opinion on this unit”, indicated to the AFP the director of the park, Madeleine Cancemi, specifying that she called on the project leaders to “limit the impacts as much as possible” on the ecosystem.
“We are going to discharge the brine where there is no posidonia”, promised Mr. Quilici, Mr. Orlandi assuring him that on the neighboring Italian island, the desalination plant “has had no impact on the herbarium” of this endemic Mediterranean plant used as a nursery by fish.