Private Initiative Steps Forward to Bring Arsenic Levels down in Uruguayan Water

By Diogo Augusto

11 Nov 2022 by The Water Diplomat

A Uruguayan company, Taficor, has seen its bid approved by the government to install water purification systems to bring the country’s water arsenic levels down to international standards. Levels of arsenic in Uruguay's water have been historically high and, in 2010, the country adhered to an international norm that establishes a maximum level of 10 micrograms per litre, bringing it down from a maximum of 50.

Despite being given, originally, a 10 year period to comply, the country asked for two more and now has until November 2023 to comply with the new maximum levels allowed. While the National Administration of State Sanitary Works (OSE) was debating whether to implement reverse osmosis, water purification or filter absorption systems, the private company put forward a proposal to invest US$ 10mn in water purification units.

On top of this, a US $900 thousand maintenance cost needs to be factored in for a project that will install 190 water purification units over 15 years.OSE data indicate that 136.000 people in Uruguay have access to water with arsenic levels of more than 20 micrograms per litre.

780 State-authorised boreholes are known to exist from which 28% of the country’s needs are met, however, 37% of them show levels of arsenic higher that will be allowed after November 2023.

Inorganic arsenic, the kind that can be found in groundwater can have adverse health effects. According to the WHO, “Intake of inorganic arsenic over a long period can lead to chronic arsenic poisoning (arsenicosis). Effects (…) include skin lesions, peripheral neuropathy, gastrointestinal symptoms, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, developmental toxicity, and cancer of the skin and internal organs.’