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