JEDDAH – There are tremendous opportunities in the water desalination sector in the Gulf region amid continued economic development, said Khaldoun Tabari, CEO of Drake & Scull International (DSI).
In an interview with the Saudi Gazette, he said Drake & Scull Water and Power L.L.C (DSWP) - a well-diversified and specialist contractor in the infrastructure field, especially in the areas of waste water and water solutions, along with its mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) and civil engineering portfolio - are strategically positioned to undertake high-quality water desalination projects.
The demand for water in the region is continually increasing due to population and industry growth coupled with the demand for better standards of living, all of which will drive the construction of more desalination plants, he said.
Over the next decade, as the GCC population sets to soar by 30 percent to over 50 million people, the region will see an increasing strain on its supplies of electricity, food and water. The ways in which the region faces up to these demands and growth will have a major impact on its prosperity and quality of life, not only toward 2020 but for decades to come.
Many of these demands are well known to the region’s governments, which have already started to take the necessary steps.
Around 70 percent of the GCC’s infrastructure investments are being channeled toward sewage and wastewater treatment plants, as the region is highly dependent on desalinated water - its major clean water source - which is very expensive to process, he added.
Aside from bolstering its water treatment and management capabilities, the region will also need to focus more intensively on conserving its scarce supplies of water, as growing populations and wasteful uses of water increasingly strain supplies, he noted.
On the brighter side, water shortages do create opportunities to develop new water-producing technologies and industries, including new and more energy-efficient desalination technologies, the CEO of DSI added.
Against this backdrop, Tabari said DSWP possesses the core technological elements and a solid experience to cater for such competitive and technical sectors, and will significantly contribute to the profitability of DSI in the future.
"Water shortage is an ongoing threat to this region, which has to provide for a growing population and its sanitary needs while meeting the growing water requirements of its various high-growth industries. Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE and Saudi Arabia yield annual per-capita freshwater resources of approximately 100 cubic meters, falling far short of the internationally-recognized minimum amount of 1,000 cubic meters water per person per year. Water and wastewater treatment infrastructure thus rank high in the development agendas of GCC countries," he said.
The use of advanced treatment technologies allowing the re-use of water is only one of the steps possible to overcome this scarcity. In general, an increased social awareness is required to understand the real value of water. This will help in the proper utilization of this resource, thus reducing over-use as exemplified by the Gulf having some of the largest per capita consumption rates of water in the world. This in turn would automatically lead to less demand for treatment of already scarce water sources, which are becoming increasingly more difficult and more expensive to treat and consequently deliver to end-users, he emphasized.
In the coming decade, Tabari forecast that GCC countries will face pressure to use their energy resources more efficiently, in order to supply their rapidly growing populations, free up resources for export, and address concerns about climate change and pollution.
He added though that the region already has good incentives to improve the management of its natural resources, extracting more benefit from its energy endowments, improving the efficiency of its energy and energy-intensive water usage.
In the wider perspective, he said the Middle East and North Africa’s key challenge stems from water scarcity. The lack of clean water and the remoteness of locations within the MENA region from treatable water sources, let alone clean water, are two of the biggest problems faced by communities.
“Overall there is substantial demand for DSWP’s services in the region, which we intend to meet through a systematic and comprehensive plan that identifies these lucrative opportunities and allocates the right resources accordingly.”
He noted that last year, the company was involved in a number of projects that affirmed the high levels of activity in water treatment and desalination development across the country and throughout the region.
DSWP is capable of delivering a host of integrated solutions, Tabari noted. – SG