The Water Beneath Our Feet: Tapping Recycled Wastewater, Not Ice Age Water

The Water Beneath Our Feet: Tapping Recycled Wastewater, Not Ice Age Water

March 11, 2014 at 03:03pm

Here’s how “non-renewable” Abu Dhabi’s groundwater is. According to the head of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, the emirate’s groundwater was laid down as long as 10,000 years ago during the last Ice Age. So with population growth, agricultural requirements and industrial development pushing water consumption to new records, where do Abu Dhabi, the UAE and other countries in the Gulf find water? Perhaps a better way to put the question is to ask how we in the region can access water in a manner that is both economically and environmentally sustainable.

One of the best solutions is right beneath our feet, and I don’t mean the Ice Age aquifers. I’m talking about the wastewater flowing down our drains and into the pipes lying beneath the streets and sidewalks. Of course, this wastewater needs to be treated and with the right treatment we can recycle it for use in agriculture, landscaping, district cooling and industrial applications.

The most promising wastewater treatment technology in terms of producing recycled water in an efficient way is the membrane bioreactor (MBR). While conventional wastewater involves systems that rely on having waste settle in tanks and using sand filters and purification to produce recycled water, MBR systems use a biological process and ultrafiltration membranes to “strain out” reusable water from the effluent.

To share information on LEAPmbr, GE’s industry-leading MBR technology, GE Water & Process Technologies Middle East recently led a workshop for more than 70 UAE-based industry professionals. They discussed how LEAPmbr has a 20% smaller physical footprint, consumes 30% less electricity and boosts productivity by 15% when using the ecomagination-certified ZeeWeed* hollow-fiber ultrafiltration membranes. Regional examples include more than 50 MBR plants across the GCC that use ZeeWeed membranes to treat municipal and industrial wastewater. An example is Lusail in Qatar which treats 61,000 cubic meters per day of municipal wastewater and another is the BAPCO Refinery that treats 24,000 cubic meters per day of industrial wastewater.

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