Another Hot Water Shortage in Reykjanes a Possibility

Reykjanes peninsula eruptions

After a volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula on February 8 disrupted the hot water supply in Suðurnes, a town hall meeting was held to discuss the risk posed by future eruptions to the hot water supply. A representative from HS Orka stated that although the primary hot water conduit to Suðurnes had been fortified, the possibility of another hot water shortage could not be discounted.

Town hall meeting in Reykjanesbær

Following a volcanic eruption that began on the Reykjanes peninsula on the morning of February 8, lava flowed over and breached the Njarðvíkur conduit, a pipeline that transports hot water from the Svartsengi geothermal power plant to the towns in Suðurnes: Vogar, Reykjanesbær, Garður, Sandgerði, and Grindavík.

Shortly after noon that same day, the utility company HS Veitur reported a hot-water outage in the upper areas of the Reykjanesbær municipality and the towns of Sandgerði and Garður. The rest of Suðurnes soon followed. It took five days for the authorities to restore hot water.

Given that another eruption seems to be imminent, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management (DCPEM) held a town hall meeting at the Stapi conference hall in Reykjanesbær last night. The meeting was attended by representatives of the DCPEM, the Icelandic Meteorological Office, and the utility companies HS Orka and HS Veitur, alongside the Minister of Justice, Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir.

Another hot water shortage a possibility

According to Kristinn Harðarson, Executive Vice President of Operations at HS Orka, the possibility of another hot water shortage in the Suðurnes region cannot be discounted if an eruption occurs again on the Reykjanes Peninsula, reports.

Kristinn was asked whether there was still a possibility that residents in the Suðurnes region would once again be without hot water if lava flowed over the Grindavík road again. He answered affirmatively but pointed out that a long section of the Njarðvík pipeline, where lava is most likely to flow over, had been fortified. “This is a method that was tested at Fagradalsfjall. We are hopeful that this could work. Of course, we are in somewhat uncharted territories,” Kristinn observed.

“We are, at least, in a much better position, although it is never possible to rule anything out,” Kristinn continued. “If an eruption occurs somewhere else and lava flows over that section of the pipeline that is unprotected, there could be a disruption in delivery. But, in that case, we are prepared to respond, with materials on hand, and will do everything possible to ensure that any interruption is as short as possible.”

According to calculations by the Icelandic Meteorological Office, about 8.5 to 9 million cubic metres of magma have accumulated under Svartsengi. In previous eruptions on the Reykjanes Peninsula, eruptions have occurred when the volume of magma reached 8 to 13 million cubic metres. The lead-up to an eruption can be very short, according to geologists.

As noted by RÚV, it was also revealed during the town hall meeting that backup power has been secured for the distribution system, alternative water sources have been secured, and drilling for hot water in low-temperature areas has begun.

Efforts Shift to Alternative Solution for Grindavík Water Leak

The search for a leak in the Grindavík hot water pipeline, buried under lava from a January eruption, has been abandoned. An auxiliary pipeline is being planned, with efforts underway to complete the project as swiftly and efficiently as possible.

Search for leak abandoned

As reported last week, the pressure in the hot water pipeline leading to Grindavík has been low due to significant leaks both in the main conduit to Grindavík and in the town’s distribution system. The pipeline was buried underneath lava originating from an eruption that occurred on January 14. After the leak was discovered, a search for the source of the malfunction began, and efforts were made to repair the pipeline as soon as possible.

The search for the leak has now been abandoned due to difficult conditions, Sigrún Inga Ævarsdóttir, Communications and Marketing Manager with the utility company HS Veitur, told this morning: “We were unable to locate the leak under the lava. The conditions were such that it was impossible to dig down to the pipeline to locate the leak,” Sigrún stated.

Auxiliary pipeline to be installed

Sigrún added that preparations were underway to install an auxiliary pipeline over the lava in consultation with civil defence authorities: “This is essentially the same strategy that was adopted after lava from the eruption on February 8 damaged the so-called Njarðvíkur conduit,” she observed.

When asked, Sigrún could not specify when the pipeline would be ready but mentioned it would take several days. A detailed timeline will be announced in the coming days: “Work is being carried out day and night, with great effort to complete this quickly and efficiently,” Sigrún remarked.

As reported this morning, the Chairman of the Grindavík Workers’ Union has criticised the reopening of Grindavík, citing, among other things, inadequate infrastructure, such as the unsteady flow of hot and cold water into town.