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Gulf states to spend $100b on water production by 2016

Tapping traditional sources a cheaper alternative to desalination, study says

Gulf News

Dubai: Parched Gulf countries are set to spend $100 billion by 2016 to boost water production for a regional population that is growing by more than 2 per cent a year, suggests consulting firm Booz & Company in a new report released on Monday.

The study found that per capita, "Saudi Arabia and the UAE consume 91 per cent and 83 per cent [respectively] more water than the global average and about six times more water than the UK."

Changes needed

Dr Walid Fayad, Booz & Company partner, energy, chemicals and utilities, said in a statement: "Water scarcity is a reality in just about every Arab country. If they don't make changes, these countries will find themselves in serious trouble."

In its report, the company said desalination plants provide more than two-thirds of potable water in UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, but costs remain higher than tapping other traditional water sources.

The study noted that "desalination carries enormous economic and environmental costs. Despite a more than five-fold improvement in efficiency since 1979, the $1 cost to desalinate a cubic metre of seawater is a relatively expensive way of producing potable water."

Research also found that "seawater 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."