The 3rd MENA Desalination Projects Forum, taking place at Conrad Etihad Towers Abu Dhabi from March 15-16, 2022, will examine the depth of the situation in water scarcity and desalination projects and discuss way forward – in line with the climate change target and reduction in emissions by 2030 and 2050
The annual cost of demand gap for clean or desalinated water in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region could go as high as US$300 – US$400 billion from the current US$104 billion per year, according to a World Bank report.
The rising demand for desalinated water, growing investment and increasing number of desalination projects will come under focus at the 3rd MENA Desalination Projects Forum that takes place from March 15-16, 2022 at the Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers, UAE. It is the largest government-endorsed regional desalination conference that will bring together over 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.
More than 150 C-Suite Executives (CEOs and MDs) including more than 30 speakers, panelists will participate at the conference and exhibition where more than 30 Exhibitors and Sponsors will display the latest innovation and technologies at the two-day event.
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 is one of the most water-stressed parts of 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, that citizen has a little over 1,000 cubic metres for their 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.
“Our analysis shows that the water demand gap will quintuple by 2050, from today’s 42 cubic kilometres per annum to approximately 200 cubic kilometres per annum.” World Bank said in the report.
“According to our analysis, even if all viable demand and supply management measures are implemented, the total cost of closing the water demand gap will be approximately US$104 billion per year. This cost easily could go as high as US$300 billion – 400 billion a year if none of the demand management options is adopted.”
Even though the 2020s have started off with an unprecedented heightening of awareness regarding global environmental issues, no-one can change the inviable laws of supply and demand. In the MENA region, demand for fresh water is increasing while supplies dwindle at an alarming rate. The two sides of this coin combine to create somewhat critical reading in 2021.
The MENA region contains more than 6.3 percent of the world’s population, but less than 1 percent 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 percent of the entire region’s GDP each year.
While these numbers are not encouraging, there are changes, opportunities and advancements in the MENA desalination industry that provide hope for a sea-change in the region’s water security prospects. Saudi Arabia and the UAE now use desalination to supply over 50 percent of their national water needs. These countries are world leaders in attracting, supporting and leveraging desalination technology.
The Arab Water Council (AWC) 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) including enhanced policy framework, legal and institutional enabling environment, technical capacity building, social consideration and economic and financial measures towards sustainable use of NCWR development and management in the Arab region.
Dr. Hussein El-Atfy, Secretary General of AWC, says, “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.
In Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Water Partnership Company (SWPC) has announced that commercial operations on the Jubail 3A independent water producer (IWP) project will commence in the last quarter of 2022.
Eng. Khaled Al Qureshi – CEO of SWPC, says, “The resolution of the Council of Ministers No. 494 dated 5/8/1438H extended the scope of the work of the Company as the principal offtaker of water to include the purchase of desalinated, purification, treated and untreated water, water transmission lines and Strategic Reservoir Tanks in addition to co-generation.
“The Minister of Finance provides the credit support to the Company to support its financial solvency of the signing of long-term purchase contracts within the framework of the principles stated in the Council of Ministers Resolution No. (181) dated 9/6/1425H, in accordance with the terms and conditions set by the Minister of Finance, the transfer of ownership of the company in full to the Government, with the agreement on corporate governance and contracted projects.
“The Ministry of Finance owns fully (100%) the Saudi Water Partnership Company and the Company’s capital is SR100,000,000, and here we are work on water issues in the region.”
Through technological innovation, on current state the cost of producing desalinated water has fallen to below $0.50 per cubic metre – in the 1960s it cost over $10 per cubic metre. In parallel the specific electrical energy consumption for producing desalinated water have also fallen from highs of 7-8 kwh per cubic metre to current averages of 2.5-3 kwh. This makes desalination sustainable from an energy perspective, especially when powered via renewables.
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.
Around 48 percent of the world’s water desalination projects are taking place in the MENA region, pushing investments to a predicted $4.3 billion by 2022.
Corrado Sommariva, CEO of Sustainable Water and Power Consultants, said, “The conference will be able to focus on the water contribution towards zero net 2050 and how the water sector not only can accomplish but even surpass net zero 2050 target. Technology has generally been developing at an unprecedent pace in the past decade, this conference will indicate how the industry benefited from this development and what are the key innovations in desalination which is key to achieve a sustainable water supply.
“The decoupling of power and water production across the region has resulted in a growing trend to adopt captive solar photovoltaic (PV) plants, which is expected to drive water production costs down further. Can public sector take advantage of these opportunities to find new synergies between an electric grid increasingly fed by solar energy and the desalination system to control peak loads?”
This shows that 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.
Leila Masinaei, Managing Partner, Great Mind Events Management and organizer of the 3rd MENA Desalination Projects Forum, says, “All these facts underline the depth of the water scarcity situation and the growing importance of the desalinated water. That way, the Middle East Desalination Projects Forum is one of the most important industry conferences that highlights the challenges as well as opportunities.
“We are happy to be able to bring all the major stakeholders in this important conference where senior government officials, private businesses, contracting companies, project consultants and water experts will discuss key issues such as new technology, reducing the cost of desalination, sustainability and energy efficiency at the two-day conference.
“Great Minds Event Management brings some of the most important industry events that are crucial for the future development of economy and society of the MENA region.”
The 3rd MENA Desalination Projects Forum is supported by Saudi Water Partnership Company, Saudi National Water Company, Fujairah Asia and Power Company, Water Authority of Jordan, Moroccan National Company of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Palestinian Water Authority, Water Alliance, International Water Management Institute, Sustainable Water Power Consultants, among others.