Whilst collective imagination often depicts islands as paradisiac places with stunning beaches and palm trees, they also have some drawbacks. Geographical isolation; fresh water scarcity due to urbanisation, extensive irrigation and tourism; as well as wind-caused salt intrusion in available water sources are some of the most obvious ones, making islands and coastal areas highly dependent on expensive importations.
By bringing together river, lake and wetlands scientists with expertise in hydrology, hydrochemistry, ecology, aquatic modelling and social science, the EU-Funded REFRESH project aims to overcome the issue of water scarcity. And to achieve this, it aims to design — and bring to market — PVC and polyester containers that can be used to transport fresh drinking water to islands or coastal areas.
The newly-invented container consists of waterbags which are transported using a tugboat. According to Aimplas, the Spanish technology institute, the system is 50-75% cheaper than transporting water with tanker ships and is also more environmentally friendly.
“The modular design system of the REFRESH containers allows us to vary the capacity, make multiple downloads and maintain the integrity of the rest of the load if one of the modules gets damaged,” project manager Vicent Martínez told European Plastics News.
A prototype container measuring 20m in length and 4m in diameter and capable of containing 200m³ of water is currently being tested. In November 2012, it was successfully used to transport fresh water from Crete to the Gulf of Souda, a trip that was followed by Euronews.
Aimplas says the successful trial demonstrates the technical viability of floating flexible containers and is now asking the European Commission for a second project - REFFRESH XXL. The new project would develop a container ten times bigger to exploit this transport system on a commercial scale.