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Gulf pollution poses threat to desal industry

Experts say technology may not be able to cope with high salinity

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Waste being removed earlier this year from Iraq's Tigris river, which flows into the Arabian Gulf. Courtesy of AFP/Getty.
Waste being removed earlier this year from Iraq's Tigris river, which flows into the Arabian Gulf. Courtesy of AFP/Getty.

Pollution in the Arabian Gulf is threatening to drive up the cost of desalination for local companies significantly, according to a report in UAE newspaper The National.

The paper says that a combination of dammed rivers, brine being dumped back into the sea after desalination, the presence of untreated sewage in rivers like Iraq’s Shatt Al Arab, and the illegal washing of tankers in the Strait of Hormuz have all led to increased salinity in recent years.

In addition, the narrow opening at the Strait of Hormuz means that the Gulf’s water is only fully exchanged every eight or nine years. The sea already suffers from high salinity due to the climate and the high levels of evaporation.

Experts cited by the paper expressed their concern that salinity would soon reach such an extent that existing technology will not be able to cope with desalination.

What seems clear is that regional cooperation, on a government basis, is needed if the quality of the Gulf’s water is to be improved.

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