Pipeline approved to link Jerusalem to desalination plants

Mekorot will build the NIS 1.2 billion eastern section of the Fifth Water Line to Jerusalem.

The Water Authority has approved construction of Mekorot National Water Company's NIS 1.2 billion eastern section of the Fifth Water Line to Jerusalem project. This will be one of the Israel's largest infrastructure projects in the coming years.

The Fifth Water Line to Jerusalem is scheduled to open in 2018. It will enable Mekorot to quadruple its water deliveries to the capital from 414,000 cubic meters a day to 1.66 million cubic meters a day. In future, the pipeline will also be able to supply drinking water to Palestinian communities in Jerusalem's environs and also allow Israel to export water to Jordan.

Mekorot CEO Shimon Ben Hamo told "Globes" that linking Jerusalem to the seawater desalination plants on the Mediterranean is part of the company's broader strategy to build a new national water carrier running from west to east. He said, "The Fifth Line to Jerusalem is part of the revolution in the water economy; a revolution that is greater than the building of the National Water Carrier."

Jerusalem's water consumption is growing at a rapid 2.5% a year. Without the new pipeline, the city will face a water shortage by 2020. The Fifth Line to Jerusalem is classified as a national infrastructure enterprise, and the plans are almost finalized for deposit with the National Infrastructures Commission.

The eastern section of the pipeline runs from Eshtaol in the Judean Hills to the hook-up with Jerusalem's water system at Motza. Construction of the section was greatly delayed until the best route was decided on. One idea considered was to run part of the pipeline beneath Road 1 in the Shaar Hagai area as part of the project to widen the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway. The idea was dropped when it was realized that this option was little cheaper than the original route, and because of incompatibilities in the two projects' timetables.

Ben Hamo says that the project's greatest engineering challenge will be the 13-kilometer tunnel, in order to minimize the pipeline's environmental impact in the Jerusalem Hills and nature reserves in the area. The 3.5-meter diameter tunnel will be Israel's longest, and the water will be pushed to higher elevations using innovative high-pressure water technology to push it up the gradient between Kisalon and Ein Kerem.

Since Israel has no water pressure tunneling experience, Mekorot examined similar projects abroad. The tunnel will be dug with a tunnel boring machine (TBM), and Mekorot has already held the prequalifying stage to pick a contractor. The tender is due to be published in early 2013.

The 17-kilometer western section of the Fifth Line to Jerusalem, from Hulda to Eshtaol, is under construction and is due to be completed in early 2013.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 10, 2011

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2011

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