From the sea to the glass, our commitment for water

Giorgio Pratofiorito, a Fisia Italimpianti research and development engineer

Water is a precious resource, not to be taken for granted. Climate change, which has brought about opposing yet equally dramatic events like drought and floods, is making this resource ever less accessible. Billions of people live in a condition of water scarcity, and even rich societies are asking themselves how to avoid wasting this blu gold. Fisia Italimpianti, part of the Webuild group, is on the frontline of this battle, a technological frontline that hinges on the construction of plants capable of treating sea water to make it potable. That’s the role of Giorgio Pratofiorito, Water Treatment & Desalination Technologist at Fisia Italimpianti, one of the engineers of the company’s Research and Development area.

How important is water in everyday life?

“To grasp the importance of water in our daily life you just need to look at the dining table. Then you realize that everything that is consumed in terms of food, fundamentally, is tied to a hydro currency, because to produce a kilo of that good, of that dish, took a certain number of liters of water. You just need to realize that if we were to lose our water, we would’t loose just the means to quench our thirst but also the means to feed ourselves. Transforming sea water into drinking water is important especially if we consider that in the last few years we are facing a significant water crisis that is plain to see for everyone.”

How bad is the water crisis the world must face?

“The gravity of this water crisis has already been established by international institutions such as the United Nations and Unesco, which have estimated that currently 2 billion people around the world suffer a water crisis. These 2 billion people don’t have access to drinking water.”

What can be done to stop this crisis?

“To invert this trend, the current policy is to invest more in traditional water sources and not to ensure an adequate water supply. And in this field desalinization plays a fundamental role because, having little water from rivers, lakes or surface sources, the sea remains an important kind of compensation.”

And that is where Fisia comes in?

Fisia’s core business is water treatment, and this is something that immediately attracted me because I knew it was my vocation and that it was what I wanted to do. Fisia operates mainly abroad, specifically in the Middle East, so in areas like Oman, Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf countries, and in part of Latin America, but desalinization is concentrated mostly in the Middle East.  In terms of the people served by Fisia each day, we are around 20 million people that each day can drink desalinized water thanks to about 40 plants that Fisia built around the world.”

What is a desalinization plant?

“It’s a plant that transforms salty water into sweet water, that is with a low salt content. They can be of two types: thermal or with membranes. The first work with the evaporation principle, producing distilled water that is later made potable. Today thermal plants, given their high energy consumption, are more rare. The membrane desalinization plants work essentially with a filtration system that allows to eliminate the suspended substances as well as the salt in the water. The water thus obtained, being almost salt free, is then made drinkable by adding some salts and being sanitized.”

 What do you do at Fisia?

“I work in Research and Development and I’m working on making the desalinization processes more efficient. Specifically, I’m now trying to optimize the phase of making the water potable.”

How important is sustainability in this field?

“It is fundamental, because water treatment plants consume a lot of energy. Therefore we are studying ways to fuel the plants with renewable sources, able to make the plants more sustainable from the every point of view as well.”

Why did you choose Fisia Italimpianti?

“Working at Fisia Italimpianti is giving me the opportunity to connect with many professionals in the desalinization field and to better get to know the world water market. It’s a stimulating experience that allows me to grow professionally in the field that most interests me. The fact that Fisia Italimpianti is part of Webuild, a group with operations in five continents, makes me understand the importance of having a global view when facing challenges.”

Why are you passionate about this job?

“Simply because knowing that I am doing something as banal and as indispensable as cleaning water makes me feel good. And when they ask me if in ten years I see myself in the same field or in another, I have no doubts and I say: I’ll stay here, always in water treatment.”