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The Middle East Embraces Desalination Plants

Updated on September 23, 2014

A human can go without food for up to two weeks or more, most die without water in seven days. While water is precious in many dry areas, the Middle East has embraced desalination technology from the West as its "savoir".

In Yemen, home of al-Qaeda and worse, the government is set to build its first desalination plant costing $300 million. They have to because their water is being rapidly depleted since its groundwater is used for everything-crops, industry and drinking. In Yemen, each person has about 140,000 gallons a year. Their underground water is now so depleted any hope of replenishment is gone and desalination is the last hope. Funding is from Saudi Arabia.

Things are better for the Saudis, but even they need to be concerned. Within the next 50 years, much of their oil will be gone. Their water is in short supply. So, they have embarked on buiding the worlds largest desalination plant at Rabigh using the reverse osmosis process. When completed, it will produce 600 million liters or 150 million gallons of water from the ocean. The cost is a whopping $12 billion dollars. They have also begun building another plant in Yanbu capable of producing 94 million liters of water. In order to support the components for desalination, the American company, DOW Chemical, will be building a manufacturing plant there to make them. It will become the central supplier for all desalination plant equipment in the region.

In the UAE, they are building a desalination plant that uses solar power to reduce the cost of producing water using fossil fuels. They have contracted out partners to work with, one such company is Trevi Systems in Petaluma, CA., a startup with 30 people. They were awarded with a contract to build their forward osmosis desalination plant because it uses 40% less energy than typical reverse osmosis plants. The UAE plans to have such a plant in operation by 2020.

In Qatar, they have begun building two desalination plants at Abu Fatas. One will produce 175 million liters of water, while the second one, 650 million liters a day.


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