To advertise on this website,
please write to
The International Desalination Association’s President, Corrado Sommariva, discusses strategies for implementing sustainable solutions to keep supply ahead of demand
For nearly half century, desalination has provided a reliable source of fresh water to the growing population and economies in the Gulf region. No real development in society or industry in the area would have been possible without the parallel implementation and development of desalination.
Clearly desalination is a critical component of sustaining life and economy in the Gulf region: some countries in the Gulf rely on desalination to produce 90 per cent or more of their drinking water, and the overall capacity installed in this region amounts to about 40 per cent of the world’s desalinated water capacity.
Desalination plants are strategic assets requiring large investments, and with an often abrupt growth pattern, desalination planning is very difficult.
The planning of a desalination project is extremely delicate process. Generally, the period between the initial inception of a project – covering the feasibility, technical specification, tendering, etc. – and the first water production requires a minimum of three to a maximum of eight years.
In this scenario, increasing capacity is a process that needs to be explored well in advance, and proper master planning is essential.
As for the power generation industry, development of a desalination plant needs to consider parallel requirements. For example, long trunk lines are often required to transport and distribute the product water to the various utilities.
The commercial lifetime of a desalination plant can be very long – from 20 to 40 years depending on the technology – but generally, concessions aim at amortizing the investment cost over the time span of 20 to 25 years. The emphasis here is on predicting the right technical solution for such long lifecycle in a fast technological development scenario.
This imposes a great responsibility on all strategy planners. Desalination technology is rapidly changing, and many technical parameters that may have an influence on today’s decisions can drastically change during the asset’s lifetime. These include the cost of energy, cost of chemicals, availability of steam and power, and level of O&M expenditures.
Furthermore, in addition to the quantifiable parameters in the decision-making process, there are also important non quantifiable aspects that that are going to be extremely sensitive in the lifecycle terms and need to be given serious consideration.
A typical example is the level of impact on the environment. Impact levels are going to be perceived differently during the long lifetime of the assets, and some solutions that are taken today may be superseded by more advanced environmental solutions before the end of the project’s lifetime.
Generally speaking, the desalination industry is committed to improving its environmental stewardship, and the IDA is indeed playing an important role in the matter.
In December 2010, IDA held the first Environmental Symposium on the relationship between meeting the growing water needs in the Gulf region while at the same time safeguarding the environmental wellbeing of this unique and critically important body of water.
Article continues on next page ...