Importance of desalination in the Middle East
Water reuse technology is emerging as an imperative solution to the region’s and the world’s water shortage challenges. In that context, GE’s advanced water reuse and desalination solutions have covered a lot of ground. Desalination is the process of removing excess salt and other minerals from water. Water is desalinated in order to convert salt water to fresh water to make it suitable for human consumption or irrigation.
According to the International Desalination Association, 13,080 desalination plants produce more than 12 billion gallons of water a day, worldwide. As a result of proper treatment, seawater and wastewater can be reused for useful purposes such as drinking water, agricultural irrigation, industrial processes etc, enabling communities and countries to have additional water above their limited freshwater supplies.
In recent Reuter’s article, Mohamed Daoud of the state-run Environment Agency in Abu Dhabi so rightly said: “…Water here isn’t a free resource. It’s not even a natural resource, it’s manmade. It is costly, and it has a big environmental impact.” Water scarcity is a major threat especially in the Middle East. According to the same article, per capita water use in the UAE overall is about four times that of Europe; consumption in Abu Dhabi is 550 litres of water per person per day, two to three times the world average of 180-200 litres. Also, the Middle East and North Africa region as whole has five percent of the world’s population, and less than one percent of the world’s available water supply.
The growing need for sustainable water supply has therefore made water reuse and desalination increasingly important.
Also, the Middle East boasts some of the world’s most innovative wastewater reuse facilities and some of the highest rates of water reuse. For example, the Sulaibiya facility in Kuwait built by GE and its partner Mohammed Abdul Mohsin Al Kharafi & Sons, which is the world’s largest membrane-based water reclamation facility. The plant treats 99 million US gallons per day of municipal wastewater from Kuwait City and the surrounding area. The water is used for irrigation.
To add to that, GE Energy has opened a near $10 million GE Saudi Water & Process Technology Center that is providing critical water solutions to the Kingdom. Also, GE ‘s agreement for the Marafiq Independent Water and Power Plant in Jubail Industrial City (Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province) is set to provide 2,700 megawatts of power and 800,000 cubic meters of desalinated water per day for industrial and domestic use.
It’s important to recognize that even in difficult economic times the availability of water is critical to prosper, whether for big industry, agriculture or basic human needs. Cost-effective solutions that enable them to profitably grow as well as address the challenges of water scarcity and water purity worldwide are the only way forward.