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Water restrictions after tunnel fire damages critical infrastructure

Photo vis GFRS/Gibraltar Government

The supply of potable water will be restricted for at least five days after the fire in the east side tunnel caused a collapse that damaged critical infrastructure belonging to AquaGib and GibElec.

Parts of Gibraltar including the Upper Town and areas of the South District were without water on Thursday afternoon and there was a rush to buy bottled water at shops and supermarkets, some of which capped the amount that an individual could purchase.

AquaGib confirmed that its reverse osmosis plant had not been operational since Tuesday due to lack of power and that the risk of damage to infrastructure had been a priority in planning to safeguard water supply as much as possible.

Work is under way to restore normal operations to the plant as soon as power is restored which is expected later on Thursday night.

But the tunnel collapse inside Powers Drive Tunnel, which according to AquaGib came to light on Thursday after firefighters managed to get the blaze under control, has damaged pipework and cabling associated to the nearby plant.

The plant itself has not been damaged by the fire but the full extent of the damage to pipes and cables in the tunnel will not be known until power is restored and water can be pumped through.

AquaGib is working with the GFRS, whose crews are providing safe access to investigate and assess any damage.

In the event that the pipework is damaged, AquaGib estmates it could take up to five days before normal production can resume.

That means reserves will have to be carefully managed, hence the restrictions on usage to ensure supply to essential services and to the public.

The Government has issued instructions for the immediate implementation of the following temporary measures in order to conserve the existing potable water reserve and maintain water pressure:

• All fresh water supply to non-essential premises will be restricted from 23:00 tonight until 07:00 tomorrow morning.

• All street flushing with fresh water stopped

• All watering of all non-lawn plants in parks, in town, on roundabouts and in road barriers stopped

• Watering of lawns in Government parks reduced by 100% or switched to using an alternative brown water supply
• Supply stopped to the GSLA Hockey pitch and GASA indoor swimming pool

• Construction activity stopped

• Supply for the production of cement stopped

“These measures are temporary and designed to ensure normal potable water supply to the public in the event that there is damage to the AquaGib pipes within Power’s Drive Tunnel,” AquaGib said in a statement.

“If there is no damage to pipework or repairs take less than five days, these restrictions will be lifted as soon as possible.”

AquaGib said it was working together with the Gibraltar Government to prepare contingency routes if there is damage to the pipework in the tunnel

One of the areas where supply has been affected is the Upper Town, where water pressure is produced by gravity.

AquaGib is deploying potable water bowsers and look at ways to top up existing reserves, including importing water by road and sea, and engaging temporary portable desalination equipment to produce water in Gibraltar.

The AquaGib plant at North Mole is still fully operational and is producing water as normal.

“AquaGib hopes to resume normal services as soon as possible in the coming days and asks the general public to cooperate in by reducing water consumption as far as possible,” the company said.

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