DUBAI - To meet the predicted decline in available drinking water in the Middle East, the UAE should look at new ways at managing demand, a leading water expert said in an interview on Sunday.
According to the World Health Organisation, water available for consumption will decline from its current annual 1,100 cubic metres per person to 550 cubic metres by 2050.
Mahmoud Al Hindi, operations director for Palm Water, spoke last month at the Middle East Economic Digest's forum on Wastewater Treatment and Reuse in Abu Dhabi, where he called for ways to manage Dubai's increasing demand.
Because of increased development, water demand is slated to increase 12 per cent this year, according to an earlier Khaleej Times interview with Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA).
Currently, GCC countries spend an approximately $ 133 billion annually on water and wastewater management, according to Palm Water. A study by the World Wildlife fund found the UAE has the world's highest per capita ecological footprint, the measure of how much land and water area is needed to produce the energy requirements of each individual. One of the biggest contributors to the UAE's water demand is its heavy use of air-conditioning.
Many developments use district cooling systems, in which chilled water in a centrally located plant cools air for several buildings. While more efficient than central air conditioners, district cooling requires large amounts of water, according to Dr George Berbari, the CEO of DC Pro, a company which provides district cooling systems in the region. Berbari said seawater is impractical to use because it leaves salt deposits on the equipment, and water treated in desalination plants is expensive and energy intensive.
After calculating that Dubai will need approximately 700 million gallons each day for district cooling, Dewa asked companies to concentrate on using treated sewage effluent, or TSE. TSE is more efficient than salt water but much cheaper than desalinated potable water, according to Berbari.
While Palm Water has its own sewage treatment plant, there is not yet enough effluent from it to supply the district cooling system, Al Hind said. While he recognised treatment plants are costly initially, they are beneficial in the long term. "If you look at the statistics it's very difficult to put a price on reuse because it is not just an economic price," Al Hindi said. "It is an environment and social price."