To ensure the proper management of water resources for the people of El Salvador, the Salvadoran Water Authority (ASA) is set to construct a new generation of wastewater treatment plants, focused on a circular economy approach. These advanced plants will not only treat wastewater but also extract valuable nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen, while simultaneously generating electricity for their own consumption, turning the production process into a sustainable model.
Jorge Castaneda, President of ASA, explained that this innovative strategy will be developed with the technical support of experts from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
“We will build wastewater treatment plants, from which we will extract nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. Additionally, we will generate electrical energy for self-consumption, making the plant self-sustainable,” announced Castaneda.
ASA has identified key locations for the first phase of this new strategy. The initial site is Izalco, where studies have revealed that untreated wastewater is contaminating pristine waterways such as the Atecozol and Chutia rivers. By constructing such plants, not only will sanitation be guaranteed for local communities, but it will also prevent further pollution of water bodies. Furthermore, farmers will have access to higher-quality water for their vegetable and crop production.
Another point of interest is Metapán, where there is an existing plant. ASA aims to retrofit this infrastructure to produce energy and capture valuable nutrients. “We are also exploring the possibility of implementing a new wastewater treatment approach in the Surf City area,” added the official.
Prior to the construction of these new treatment plants, ASA will launch a pilot project next year in Izalco (Sonsonate), Metapán (Santa Ana), Surf City (La Libertad), and Suchitoto (Cuscatlán). This pilot project will involve equipping the plants with the necessary technology to extract nutrients and generate energy while providing valuable insights into the feasibility of full-scale construction.
For this initial phase, the government will invest $5 million. “In Izalco, we are collaborating with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, while in Surf City, we are working closely with ANDA, a key operator in the country,” stated the ASA’s head.
At present, nearly 90% of wastewater in El Salvador goes untreated, being directly discharged into water bodies. Implementing a circular economy approach in the treatment plants is expected to significantly reduce pollution.
The ASA President also noted that previous administrations had constructed some wastewater treatment plants, but these were eventually abandoned due to their lack of sustainability, primarily because of high electricity, labor, and chemical costs. “We have a graveyard of wastewater treatment plants in the country; the infrastructure is there, but it doesn’t function,” he emphasized.
Therefore, ASA is committed to innovation through harnessing the energy and valuable nutrients present in wastewater, ensuring a more sustainable and effective approach to wastewater treatment for the future.