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He arrived home, went straight into the kitchen and turned on the tap. Outdoors, the heat and the sun beating down on him had left him on the verge of dehydration. The water sprang out - crystal clear, like manna. At first, he drank several sips from his cupped hands. Then he wet his face and head, letting the water drip over his shoulders, thanking his good fortune for all this cool water.This image may seem common or even banal to the people of southern Europe, accustomed as they are not only to the heat of summer but to how easily they can overcome it. However, in the humble abodes of Sidi Chahmi, in the Algerian wilaya (province) of Oran, this still seems like a miracle. No-one will forget that less than five years ago, in 2008, even to think about having water freely available on tap at any time of the day was viewed as
a pipedream. Indeed, a mere 10% of the population were able to enjoy the privilege.
But now everything has changed. Several years ago, the Algerian government resolved to completely overhaul the entire drinking water infrastructure, from how to obtain it to its treatment after use. It set up SEOR (Société de l’Eau et de l’Assanissement d’Oran), a 100% state-owned firm, with sufficient funding (a 15 billion Euro investment over five years) and operated by a private company, Agbar, to revolutionise the water supply in the province.
HIGH LEVELS OF SATISFACTION
The outcome of the initiative is revealed by the figures, especially the 8.86 out of 10 level of satisfaction with the service awarded in 2012 by the 1.6 million
inhabitants of Oran in the city itself and the 7.91 points in the province as a whole. Some figures will help to explain this high level of satisfaction. First, today, 99.3% of the population has access to water 24 hours a day. But there is much more to it than that. There are many aspects that people in the homes of Sidi Chahmi will be largely unaware of although they may imagine them by merely comparing the situation today with the water shortage of the past.
The transformation of the water supply in Oran is based on several branches supported by a common base: the efficiency achieved through the building of new infrastructure, the restoration of the old facilities and through teamwork.
Transfer of knowledge has enabled all the employees working on the day-to-day tasks of the company to
become involved. The chronic water shortages in the wilaya of Oran have been relegated to history through improvement in productivity at the desalination plant at Brédeah and the commissioning of a new plant at Chatt El Hillal. It is important to note that 80% of drinking water is sourced from the sea. Today, these two plants produce an overall volume of 900,000 m³/day.
SAFER AND CLEANER
This increased availability would have been in vain without better water quality and the improvements made to the distribution networks that channel the water to every corner of the region. Regarding the former, reforms at the SEOR central laboratory have enabled more and better water testing (for example
the number of bacteriological analyses has risen from 83 in 2008 to 4,000 in 2011), resulting in safer and cleaner water. In relation to water distribution, work has been completed on two key fronts. The entire drains and distribution network has been mapped - allowing leaks and incidents to be detected more quickly, and 550 kilometres of the old distribution network is undergoing total renovation - work that is still ongoing.
This modernisation process has also naturally been applied to wastewater treatment. The El Kerma water treatment plant, which SEOR took over management of in 2011, treats 240,000 m³ of wastewater a day. This operation, along with the work of 6 water cleaning trucks, means that water treatment now covers the entire drains network.
The new operations control centre, equipped with the latest technology, and the setting up of the Aquacis programme to manage the sales department, completes - for the moment - the transformation of the water service in the city.
A service that allows the inhabitants of Sidi Chahmi, Boutlelis, Ain El Biya and Oran itself to enjoy nothing less than on-tap water, and to cool off from the heat just as their neighbours do not so far away in southern Europe.