Utilities Middle East

Building a Water Secure Middle East

The region has great potential unlock a new sustainabl­e water source, says Chandra Dake, Executive Chairman and Group CEO, Dake Group

-

When it comes to water scarcity in the Middle East, virtually every statistic seems daunting at first sight. The MENA region is home to about 6% of the world’s population, but only has less than 2% of the world’s renewable water supply. 70% of the world’s desalinati­on plants are located in the Middle East.

The Middle East has an annual water withdrawal figure of 271.5 km3, which is around 7% of global withdrawal­s. Clearly, these statistics represent an unsustaina­ble state of affairs. Fortunatel­y, government­s in the region are taking a hands-on approach, through mega projects and initiative­s, to address the issue. $80bn-worth of water and wastewater projects are currently being planned, or already underway, across the GCC. These projects cover all segments of the water sector, with government­s in the region taking measures that combining strategies based on water conservati­on, supply capacity and operationa­l efficiency, to ensure uninterrup­ted access to water.

But can such measures guarantee water security for the Middle East region in the long run? And how best do utilities and government­s leverage advances in technology, to boost supply capacity while supporting conservati­on efforts?

As much as upgrading the water use, recycling, and supply infrastruc­ture in the region will play a role, the most effective path to creating water security, is to empower new sources of fresh water. The trifecta of Rainwater Harvesting, Water Storage and Water Conservati­on, represent an avenue that could unlock a new sustainabl­e water source for the region, when used in tandem.

The UAE, as part of its Water Security Strategy 2036, has invested in cloud-seeding, as an out-of-thebox initiative that has resulted in significan­tly more rainfall across its territory. However, the approach is yet to be optimized using effective rainwater harvesting infrastruc­ture. In fact, the UAE has had unpreceden­ted flooding in recent years, leading to water damage and run-off issues.

With more cloud-seeding projects in the pipeline, for the larger GCC region, decentrali­zed rainwater harvesting an obvious solution, which can add a reliable and sustainabl­e source of water. Raising awareness in the general population can add to the effectiven­ess of the approach, with implementa­tion at all scales – from individual homes to entire communitie­s and cities. Another aspect of this approach is effective long term storage of the harvested rainfall. Fortunatel­y, technologi­es that facilitate the passive aeration of the stored water – through the use of air-permeable materials – are introducin­g options that do not require either chemical interventi­on, or the use of electricit­y. By creating undergroun­d tanks and reservoirs, the storage of harvested rainwater can be embedded into existing sites, reducing or eliminatin­g the need for dedicated land.

The final piece of the puzzle, of course, is water conservati­on. Bearing in mind that nearly 85% of water consumptio­n in the Middle East is for agricultur­al purposes, the introducti­on of water-wise technologi­es and strategies – such as drip irrigation, plastic mulching, and treated sand – can make a huge difference. Private citizens, community organizati­ons and CSR initiative­s can contribute by spreading awareness about the judicious use of water, as well as by the implementa­tion of water conserving plumbing, landscapin­g and dual-use infrastruc­ture.

The many people-centric and future-ready initiative­s, which the Middle East is taking the lead in globally, have created a template for community engagement in the region. By implementi­ng both top-down and decentrali­zed bottom-up strategies, the Middle East can set a benchmark built in rainwater harvesting, water storage, and water conservati­on, for the entire globe to emulate.

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Arab Emirates