Abu Dhabi: Nine per cent of the world’s total desalinated water is being produced at desalination plants in Abu Dhabi, a senior Abu Dhabi government official told delegates at the two-day 3rd Mena Desalination Projects Forum 2022 that got underway at the Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers Hotel today.
Khadija Bin Braik, Director of Water Pricing and Tariffs at Abu Dhabi Department of Energy, said in her keynote address: “The Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region represents about 48 per cent of the total desalinated water output in the world. The UAE — the second largest desalination market in the world after Saudi Arabia — generates about 14 per cent of the total desalination water output. The emirate of Abu Dhabi represents about 9 per cent of the world’s total desalinated water production, making it one of the largest producers of desalinated water in the world.”
Bin Braik noted “Abu Dhabi has an installed capacity of 960 million imperial gallons of water production capacity per day (MIGD), while its peak demand is 833 MIGD — leaving enough spare capacity”. She added: “As much as 60 per cent of Abu Dhabi’s water supply comes from ground water, 30 per cent from desalination and 10 per cent from recycling. More than 70 per cent of Abu Dhabi’s water is spent on forestry and agriculture, 16.5 per cent consumed by residential sector while 1 per cent goes into industrial sector.”
Bin Braik further said: “The water and energy sectors are changing at an unprecedented speed. With the global Net Zero Target by 2050, we now have a real momentum to achieve carbon neutrality target. Abu Dhabi is a real change-maker in delivering a low-carbon economy. We have nine desalination plants, of which, four run on Reverse Osmosis (RO) technology, providing 24 per cent of the desalinated water. With new technology and investment, we are going to raise RO desalination capacity to 40 per cent. This is energy and cost-efficient and will reduce the cost of desalination and ensure great savings.”
According to reports, investment in the desalination projects in the Middle East and North Africa (Men) has increased substantially in recent years and accounts for 48 per cent of global desalination projects, with further investments expected to spur the market to $4.3 billion (Dh15.81 billion) by 2022, according to the Mena Desalination Market report by Ventures Onsite, which tracks construction projects in the region.
Seawater desalination now contributes to more than 90 per cent of all daily water requirements in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region that hosts the highest global water desalination capacity of 81 per cent, producing approximately 40 per cent of the total desalinated water in the world, the report states.
Seawater desalination capacity of GCC countries is expected to grow further by approximately 37 per cent during the next five years, with investments of up to $100 billion, according to reports. The global desalination market is predicted to grow from $17.7 billion in 2020 to $32.1 billion by 2027.
The rising demand for desalinated water, growing investment and increasing number of desalination projects come under focus at the two-day forum that also focuses on the widening current annual desalination demand gap of $104 billion — that could jump to $300 billion to $400 billion per year in a few years’ time.
It is the largest government-endorsed regional desalination conference that brings together more than 400 regional and international stakeholders from the government, consulting, contracting and technology sectors to discuss the way forward for the region’s desalination industry, key upcoming mega projects, and national sustainability visions driving the region’s 2030 water agendas.
Fighting water scarcity
Authorities are addressing the situation of the Mena region as being one of the most water-stressed areas in the world. In just over 25 years, between 1975 and 2001, the amount of fresh water available to a citizen of Mena was cut in half — from 3,000 cubic metres per person to 1,500 cubic metres per person — largely due to rapid population growth. Today, a resident has a little over 1,000 cubic metres for use, compared to a global average of over 7,000 cubic metres. By another measure, 14 of the world’s top 20 water-scarce countries are situated in Mena region.
Water scarcity in the Mena region has already become a challenge to development. This scarcity will only grow over time due to increasing population, expected economic growth, and the likely impacts of climate change on water availability and demand, says World Bank.
The Mena region has more than 6.3 per cent of the world’s population, but less than 1 per cent of global water resources. Making up the predicted Mena water deficit in 2025 will require the production of an additional 237 billion cubic metres of potable water. By 2050, water scarcity could cost Mena between 6-14 per cent of the entire region’s GDP each year.
The Arab Water Council (AWC) has developed six policy briefs in the field of Non-Conventional Water Resources (NCWR) with its different components (desalinated water, treated wastewater, agricultural drainage water, brackish groundwater, rainwater harvesting).
Dr Hussein El-Atfy, Secretary-General of AWC, said: “The future of Arab water security will largely depend on the development of the NCWR as a strategic perspective which is no longer an option but a must to face the escalating water scarcity crisis.
Countries within the Mena region will add an estimated 20GW of solar capacity and 5-6GW of wind by 2025. The global desalination market is predicted to grow from $17.7 billion in 2020 to $32.1 billion by 2027.
Industry leaders said: “Mena is ready to capitalise on the strength of its existing desalination industry as well as its abundant potential for producing renewable energy. As the monetary and energy-related costs of producing desalinated water continue to fall, capacity will steadily rise across the region.”