Solar makes water possible on remote island


A small island in Papua New Guinea is benefitting from a new source of clean potable water, thanks to a project powered by the sun.

With a population of about 20,000, the tiny island of Daru previously imported water from a diesel-powered pumping station located on the mainland. Supply was expensive and unreliable, with islanders often left stranded without potable water for months on end.

Lacking water independence and facing potential fuel shortages and other logistic challenges, the island needed a solution to provide a reliable clean water supply, not only for communities, but also for agricultural and aquaculture development.

A new plant now treats brackish water pumped from groundwater boreholes to provide Daru’s inhabitants with nearly two million litres of high-quality drinking water per day, or 100 cubic metres per hour. It was delivered in a record two months, despite the challenging logistics, including transporting materials and equipment to a remote Island.

By linking to a nearby photovoltaic solar farm, which includes battery storage capability, the project eliminated the high cost of diesel, previously used to pump the water.

Reverse osmosis membranes treat water to a high standard

Innovative flow-reversal reverse osmosis (FR-RO) technology means the low quality groundwater can be treated to a very high standard of water quality. Some 80-90% of water entering the plant is recovered for use, while using near-zero chemicals are required, minimising impact on the marine environment.

The facility was provided via a partnership between the PNG Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP) and Innovative Agro Industry (IAI), an affiliate of the international development company LR Group, and delivered by engineering company ROTEC.

As well as supply for the islanders, the Fly Agro-Industrial Centre, established by PNGSDP and IAI, needed a reliable water source. The centre includes a vanilla farm and aquaculture, creating jobs and revenue-generating opportunities for the local communities.

The water treatment plant on Daru

Chief executive of Rotec, Boaz Shitzer, said, “Daru was facing a big challenge around water stability and safety. Together with PNGSDP and IAI, we overcame logistical challenges during construction to create a sustainable and very resilient water supply for both the local communities and agriculture development, on the remote island.

"We hope this can serve as a model for bringing local, clean, and resilient drinking water infrastructure and operation to other remote and developing communities around the world.”

Following success in Daru, the partners are now pursuing together joint projects, combining water, agriculture and wastewater across Africa, Asia and Australasia.