Israel gets three bidders for huge desalination plant

FILE PHOTO: Flamingos stand in a water reservoir on the Israeli side of the border fence between Israel and Jordan, north to Eilat, June 13, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel has received bids from three groups interested in building and operating a desalination plant that will supply more than a fifth of the country’s household water and help battle shortages that could arise from climate change.

The plant will be the biggest in the world to use reverse osmosis technology, Israel’s Finance Ministry said on Thursday, and will join an unrivaled array of five desalination plants that already dot the country’s Mediterranean coast.

The state issued the tender last November when it said five years of low rainfall overtaxed its system. A seventh plant is also being planned.

The head of Israel’s water authority said the addition will help ensure Israel’s “ability to supply water in light of climate changes that are impacting our region.”

Bids were received from Israel’s IDE Technology, Hutchison Water, whose main investor is Hong Kong’s CK Hutchison Holdings, and a partnership of Afcon, Acciona and Allied Investments.

The European Investment Bank has already said it would provide up to 150 million euros to help finance the project, the finance ministry said.

The facility will produce about 200 million cubic meters of water a year in the area of Soreq in central Israel. Once online, 85 percent of total household and municipal water will come from desalination.

The tender also includes the option to build a private 150 MW power plant.

The Finance Ministry did not say when a final choice would be made, but it expects construction to begin in 2020 and take three years. The tender was to finance, build and operate the plant for 25 years.

Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Steven Scheer and Alexandra Hudson