Tag Archives: Desalination

Middle East Water Update: 100 Billion earmarked for water investments

GCC governments have earmarked more than $100 billion in their water sectors between 2011 and 2016 to improve desalination technologies involving solar energy, and maximise on wastewater treatments and recycling.
According to a recent report by Ventures Middle East, population growth and deterioration of water quality has prompted GCC governments to embark on major spending to combat water scarcity and ensure sustainable resources for the future.
A recent study by Booz & Company also suggests that the GCC countries are likely to invest more than $100 billion in their water sector up to 2016 even as the region faces water over-consumption with per capita higher than the global average highlights the seriousness of excess water consumption in the GCC region.
On a per capita basis, Saudi Arabia and the UAE consume 91 per cent and 83 per cent more water than the global average, and about six times more water than the UK, Booz & Company said in its report a few months back.
Qatar and Oman are also above the global average for water consumption, despite their desert climates, the Booz study shows..

According to joint research by the Euro Arab Organisation for Environment, Water and Desert Ranches and the University of Jordan, the Arab world is likely to witness a water crisis around 2025 unless effective steering mechanisms for sustainable water management and measures to reduce the agricultural consumption of water are applied.

The UAE has planned several wastewater treatment and recycling projects to improve water management practices in order to meet rising demand of this scarce and costly resource. Abu Dhabi will add more than 30 million gallons per day of desalination capacity to its water network following a green light for a power and water plant extension at Mirfa.

Abdulla Saif Al Nuaimi, director general of Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority said water is one of the scarcest resources in the Mena region and that Gulf countries are among the world’s top ten producers of desalinated water.
“Desalination currently provides two-thirds of the water requirements in Mena, and the new urgency and high priority assigned by governments to investments across the water desalination sector in the region is therefore not a surprise.”

Elsewhere in the UAE, Fewa, the electricity and water authority for Ajman, Ras Al Khaima, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah, will implement ultra-filtration as a pre-treatment step for the first time at its Al Zawrah seawater reverse osmosis plant in Ajman to produce 115 million litres per day of pre-treated seawater to feed the reverse osmosis membrane system.

Qatar is also looking to increase its capacity in both the wastewater and water areas. In doing so it is considering new technological processes through independent water and power projects, the largest being the Ras Girtas project, currently under construction in the Ras Laffan industrial complex.

Meanwhile, the Public Authority of Electricity and Water in Oman plans to build strategic water storage reservoirs in Muscat in order to overcome a crisis situation if desalination plants are disrupted, while the Kuwait Ministry of Electricity and Water will construct two reverse osmosis desalination plants in Doha, Kuwait that will produce nearly 50 million gallons of water per day.
“The water sector is a major challenge for GCC states which are among the most water scarce countries in the world,” said Anita Mathews, Exhibition Director for Power + Water Middle East. “The problems of water shortage and water security are now being addressed and the relevant factors which influence the water resources identified.”
According to Booz & Company study, desalination provides two-thirds or more of the potable water used in the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, and will continue to play a huge role in the GCC’s water development efforts.
But desalination carries enormous economic and environmental costs. Despite a more than fivefold improvement in efficiency since 1979, the $1 it costs to desalinate a cubic metre of seawater is still a relatively expensive way of producing potable water.
Seawater desalination is an energy-intensive process, consuming eight times more energy than groundwater projects, and accounting for between 10 per cent and 25 per cent of energy consumption in the GCC. This adds to the problems of energy intensity already plaguing the region. The desalination process also discharges salt back into the Arabian Gulf and other oceanic sources, jeopardising their marine life and introducing new environmental risks, the Booz & Company study said.

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Posted by on July 23, 2012 in Water


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Major water project announced in Iran to "control growing desert"

Iran has officially launched the first phase of an ambitious project valued at US$ 1 billion to pump water from the Caspian Sea to a city in its vast and expanding central desert, state media reported.

The initial phase will see a desalination plant and pipes built over the next two years to supply water to the desert city of Semnan, population 200,000, according to officials.

“The desert is growing… therefore we need to control its growth,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech in the northern city of Sari, near the Caspian shore.

The first phase would see water for drinking, irrigation and industrial use taken from the Caspian, treated to rid it of salt, and pumped to Semnan, 150 kilometers (90 miles) away to the south.

Related article:  Dying Lake Gives New Life To Iran’s Antigovernment Protests

The first desalination plant to be built would have a capacity of 200 million cubic meters per year, or 548 million liters a day, according to Energy Minister Majid Namjou.

Khatam Al-Anbiya group, the industrial arm of Iran’s military Revolutionary Guards which has interests in key economic sectors, is handling work on the project.

Later, two other phases are planned that would pump more water into desert areas from the Caspian Sea and from the Gulf, the state media said.

Iran has operated several other desalination plants for decades for other regions. Such seawater treatment facilities are also in use in other wealthy and arid Middle East countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Israel, to augment scarce water supplies. –

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Today’s level of water usage in the Gulf region is not sustainable.

A recent World Bank study urged governments in the Middle East and North Africa to invest now if they want to avoid severe water shortages in the future.   “With about 5 per cent of the world’s population, the MENA region has less than one per cent of the world’s renewable freshwater,” said Antoine Khalife, Regional Project Sales Manager, Grohe Middle East and Africa. Given the region’s rapid population growth, within the next 30 years, water resources in the region are expected to fall by another 50 per cent. “But we have seen considerable progress in recent years made by some governments to tackle this issue. A good example is the Estidama rating introduced by the Abu Dhabi government in addition to a number of LEED compliant projects across the region,” he added. “Unfortunately, with the current pace of conservation measures, regional demand will, however, soon outpace supply in some countries.”

Up to 91 per cent higher water usage than the global average
This view was echoed in a Booz & Company January report, which noted that on a per capita basis, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates consume 91 per cent and 83 per cent more water than the global average, and about six times more water than the UK. Qatar and Oman are also above the global average for water consumption, despite their desert climates, it said. “GCC residents and businesses have disregarded the consequences of their water usage to enjoy benefits more common in countries with ample rain and overflowing aquifers. But with the population of the GCC increasing in excess of two per cent a year, and with rapid expansion in the region’s economies, there is a growing recognition within many GCC governments that current water consumption patterns are unsustainable.” Agriculture reform, education of consumers, tariff structure reforms, wastewater reuse and investments in desalination and other technologies were some of the recommendations put forth by the report.

Desalination provides two-thirds or more of the potable water used in the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, and will continue to play a huge role in the GCC’s water development efforts, it added. But desalination carries enormous economic and environmental costs. GCC countries will likely invest more than $100 billion in their water sectors between 2011 and 2016. Some of these investments will be in improved desalination technologies, which could involve solar energy or new ways of filtering out salt or making it evaporate, added the report.

Solar desalination plants
In January, in the same, month, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) announced the completion of the construction of 22 solar desalination plants as part of the agency project to construct 30 solar desalination plants in different locations across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. EAD is still testing this new solar desalination technique and working on perfecting the efficiency of this method through its pilot project launched in Umm Al Zamool. Each of the plant produces around 1,100 gallons of clean water per hour – approximately 6,600 gallons on an average day.

Ralf Stahl, Managing Partner, Zeoplant said that certain key processes can be inculcated across board to achieve sustainable reduction of water usage across projects. He has been part of the landscaping industry for the last nine years. “Many regulations are still slow to address the issues governing the existing projects market, which constitute 90 per cent of the market and hold greater potential business for us. Especially, if you look at it in light of the current slowdown of new projects,” said Stahl.

Overconsumption of water in the GCC is a problem that can no longer be ignored, as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates respectively consume 91% and 83% more water per capita than the global average. Governments need to take a variety of steps to reduce the demand for, and increase the supply of, potable water. Some steps, such as tariff reforms, will involve educating consumers. Others will involve limiting agricultural usage and

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UAE Desalination Industry – Water, at a cost

Abu Dhabi, UAE (CNN) — During the summer months, in the arid, subtropical coastal plains of the United Arab Emirates, temperatures rise to 40 Celsius plus — while average rainfall is a desolate four inches a year.

And yet, in the years since the discovery of vast oil reserves in the late 1950s, a forest of skyscrapers, luxury apartments, verdant green gardens and golf courses has risen from the sand.

It’s been made possible only with recourse to unimaginably large amounts of water. Indeed, at 550 liters a day per person, Emiratis consume more per head of population than anyone else on earth.

“It just evaporates very, very quickly,” explains Ivano Iannelli, CEO of the Dubai Carbon Center of Excellence. “Then when you add the lifestyle requirements — the giant swimming pools; the cooling systems; the big gardens that need irrigating four times a day … it goes some way to explain why the water consumption is so high.”

With scarce native freshwater supplies, Iannelli says the oil-rich nation spends hundreds of million of dollars a year purifying coastal seawater. For a country that, according to OPEC, boasted over $74 billion crude-oil export revenue in 2010, the financial burden may seem relatively light. But the cost to the climate, says Iannelli, is certainly not.

“Desalination requires a lot of power … we estimate that about four tonnes of carbon are emitted per million gallons of freshwater produced here,” he says, with reference to the energy-intensive process of removing salt from seawater.

To put that figure in context, Iannelli says that the energy required to pump freshwater from underground (which, he says, is the most common source of drinking water in the West) typically produces just over 1.5 tonnes of CO2 per million gallons.

While large-scale desalination is not uncommon in those parts of the world where natural water resources are scarce — such as Texas and Australia — the UAE is by some margin, according to Iannelli, the industry’s most active player. In fact, 50% of all the world’s desalination takes place in the Gulf.

The Fujairah desalination plant in Abu Dhabi has a freshwater generation capacity of 492 million liters a day, making it the biggest single producer on the planet, according to Iannelli, who notes that it “totally dwarfs anything found in the West.”

For Dr Mohammad Dawoud, of the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency, this spells trouble for the future. “If we don’t conserve our water … I fear about our resources in the future for the next generation,” he says.

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Posted by on May 7, 2012 in Solar, Water


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Conserving Fresh Water Will Require Global Collaboration

By Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Chief Executive Officer, Masdar, Abu Dhabi

A great irony of living on the ‘Blue Planet’ is that while over 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, humans can only use less than one percent of it easily. As the world continues to develop economically, demand will increase for reliable access to energy and water. Countries increasingly recognise the need for energy security. However, the connection between energy and water is not as well understood or appreciated. The reality is that both energy and water are critical to human development and are strongly interrelated.Turning on the tap at home takes vastly more energy than a flick of the wrist. Water cannot be collected, purified, transported, heated, or treated without energy.In water-scarce California, where water is literally moved over mountains, producing usable water consumes a fifth of the state’s total electricity consumption.

In the United Arab Emirates, which obtains most of its usable water from purifying seawater, the costs of desalination are expected to increase by 300% between 2010 and 2016. Desalination also requires about ten times more energy than surface freshwater production and is rapidly increasing the demand for fossil fuels.Energy cannot be generated and distributed without water. 19% of global electricity is produced by hydroelectric facilities, whose generators are powered by water’s enormous kinetic energy.

In the US, the power sector is the largest user of water, withdrawing billions of gallons per day to cool nuclear, coal, natural gas, and biomass power plants. While most of this water is eventually returned to its source, power plant cooling still comprises 40% of all freshwater withdrawals, about the same as agricultural use. And though oil and water may not mix, the oil extraction and refining processes, on average, requires between three and six gallons of net water use for every one gallon of gasoline produced.

Global fresh water supplies are also impacted by rising income levels and population growth. Already about a billion people worldwide – one in six – lack reliable access to fresh water. Increasing affluence typically results in increased personal energy and water consumption. Water demand in the US has tripled over the last three decades and global water usage has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase. Water consumption will only be compounded by continued population growth, especially in the developing world.

Extreme weather events will only exacerbate the challenge. More frequent and more severe droughts and floods can lead to shortages in water and energy in both developing and developed countries. Droughts lower dam levels and reduce output from hydro facilities. At the same time, floods can overwhelm water systems and prevent the treatment and distribution of clean water.

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$300 billion investment in GCC water projects

JEDDAH – Spurred by a buoyant economy and population growth, over $300 billion will be invested in the GCC water and desalination projects, between 2012 – 2022 periods, reported Friday.

Subsequent to its revolutionary discovery of hydrocarbons about three decades back, the GCC economies have come a long way into establishing themselves as a fast developing region boasting modern amenities and facilitating high standards of living.

It said the GCC have increased spending on job creation and infrastructure expansion and are opening up utilities to greater private sector involvement.

While privatization occupies centre stage in the overhauling process of the power and water sector, the initiatives toward alternative energy sources in the form of solar and nuclear power, as alternatives to the heavy dependence on the hydrocarbons sector, particularly to replace natural gas as a primary fuel in power generation, has been considered a highlight of the regional power reforms

The emergence of alternative power sources will enable GCC nations to successfully diversify their economic growth from a predominantly oil based economy thus bracing themselves against future adversities arising from oil fluctuations, the report noted. Renewable energies are about to capture a considerable segment of the global energy mix. This segment is only likely to grow given rising demand for energy, supply worries with regard to fossil fuels and environmental concerns. In particular solar energy offer huge potential for the GCC countries.

Rising domestic energy needs for power generation and desalination, favorable conditions for solar energy production and interest in acquiring technological know-how make a perfect argument for renewable energy in the Gulf.

All six nations of the GCC have either embarked upon or committed to investments in solar projects, with projects split between solar photovoltaic and solar thermal applications.

The GCC region also has considerable wind resources, even though these vary widely across the countries and wind installations are at a less developed stage than their solar counterparts.

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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in Solar, Water, Wind


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Water Security: Oil producing Middle East and North African countries dominate Maplecroft water security risk list

Lack of stable supplies may lead to future oil price hikes and regional unrest

Extreme water security risks across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) may lead to further increases in global oil prices and heightened political tensions in the future, according to a new study, which rates the region as having the least secure water supplies in the world.

The Water Security Risk Index and map, developed by risk analysis and mapping firm Maplecroft, rates 18 countries at ‘extreme risk’ with 15 located in the troubled MENA region. These include: Mauritania (1), Kuwait (2), Jordan (3), Egypt (4), Israel (5), Niger (6), Iraq (7), Oman (8), United Arab Emirates (9), Syria (10), Saudi Arabia (11), Libya (14), Djibouti (16), Tunisia (17) and Algeria (18).

The index and map has been developed to enable business and investors to identify the countries where water supply will be limited or interrupted in the future. Maplecroft calculates water security by measuring countries’ water stress; population rates; reliance on external water supplies; sustainability of water use; intensity of water use in the economy; government effectiveness; and virtual water use, which is a unique assessment of the water intensity of imported goods, such as food and oil.

Of the 12 Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members, six – Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are in the highest risk category, whilst a further two – Iran and Qatar – are rated ‘high risk.’ Collectively, these countries produced approximately 30% of global oil production in 2009, whilst the countries at extreme and high risk collectively produced 45% of global oil in 2009.

A lack of access to water can have a great number of direct and indirect effects and the repercussions can reverberate globally. Of particular importance to the global and local economy is the use of large quantities of water in the production of oil. “Lift water,” which some companies source from aquifers, is used to force oil out of the well that would not rise under its own pressure from the geology. This process is undertaken to prolong the economic lifespan of the well, and allow a greater volume of oil to be extracted. If sufficient water is not available productivity will decrease and operations will be interrupted, which could significantly affect global oil supply and prices.

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“Technological innovations, including the desalination of salt water, may however alleviate some of these risks. The annual volume of desalinated water in Saudi Arabia is planned to double from 1.05bn m3 to 2.07m3 between 2010 and 2015 under a 5 year infrastructure spending plan. As part of these plans the world’s largest solar power desalination plant is planned to provide 10million m3 per year. Desalination accounts for about 50% of the country’s drinking water, with 40% coming from ground water, 9% from surface water and 1% from waste water.”

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Posted by on March 23, 2011 in Policy, Water


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