Up to 7.5 million inhabitants of the Casablanca region will depend on the desalination plant (you deal/Unsplash)

A consortium led by Spanish contractor Acciona has broken ground in Morocco on what will be Africa’s largest desalination plant at Lamharza Essahel, about 40km south of Casablanca.

The $650m public-private partnership scheme sees the first phase producing 200 million cubic metres of drinking water a year from 2026, rising to 300 million later.

That would be enough to serve 7.5 million inhabitants of one of the world’s most water-insecure countries.

The consortium will operate and maintain the 50hs, reverse osmosis plant under contract to the National Office of Electricity and Drinking Water.

The plant will run entirely on wind energy. Acciona has signed a power purchase agreement with a Moroccan renewable energy producer.

The consortium will also build $300m worth of ancillary works, including a storage reservoir and 130km of supply pipelines.

It will also install two, 1.85km-long seawater intake pipes, a 2.5km discharge outfall, a sludge treatment unit, and a control centre.

The project is part of a $14.3bn plan to insulate Morocco from the effects of climate change launched four years ago (see further reading).

The country had a per capita water supply of only 645 cubic metres per person per year in 2015, compared with a “poverty line” figure of 1,000 cubic metres.

The World Bank said this figure could drop to 500 cubic metres by 2050, approaching the international threshold of extreme water scarcity.

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