Abu Dhabi will need to double its current investment in desalination by 2030 to avoid a water deficit, according to a senior official from Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD). Mohamed Dawoud, the manager of water resources at EAD, said that rising urbanisation will be the main catalyst to increase provision of clean drinking water.
He was speaking at a press conference to announce the Liwa International Water Technology Conference, to be held in the capital in May. The conference will highlight the need to address the region’s critical water supply.
He said desalination investment in the emirate will at least double from the current amount by 2030, without providing a figure. “Abu Dhabi will need to double the production of existing desalination because of the increase in development and population,” he said.
The GCC has committed more than US$300 billion for water and desalination projects between 2012 and 2022.
The UAE has the second largest desalination market, only after Saudi Arabia. Nearly half of the emirate’s consumed drinking water comes from desalination, according to a report from the EAD. Freshwater demand is only expected to grow throughout the country by 30 per cent by 2030 as the population and development increases.
And for Abu Dhabi, the removal of salt from seawater is the largest source of potable water. Desalination plants in the region, including Abu Dhabi’s, are typically built alongside power plants. The steam turbines that produce the power are powered by evaporated seawater, which produces the potable water.
But the energy-intensive process typically requires 10 times more energy than extracting and producing freshwater from the ground. And with more electricity required, this also means more capital expenditure.
Abu Dhabi-based Masdar launched a project in Abu Dhabi’s Ghantoot to produce 1,500 cubic metres a day of potable water using renewable energy sources. The company said that this project could reduce up to 40 per cent of the power required to make seawater drinkable.
Masdar said that the emirate could save about $94 million annually after 2020 if 15 per cent of Abu Dhabi’s new desalination capacity is met by energy-efficient technologies.
“Water is essential, important and critical not only for the UAE, but for the region,” said Mohammed Al Ramahi, the acting chief executive of Masdar. He said that the Abu Dhabi-based company was focused on assessing the different technologies to determine what is best for the emirate.