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'Rising costs hamper desal market': Saudi minister

New technologies offset by higher prices for materials and labour

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HE Abdullah Al Hussayen, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Water and Electricity. Courtesy of AFP/Getty.
HE Abdullah Al Hussayen, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Water and Electricity. Courtesy of AFP/Getty.

The reduction of costs offered by new technologies in the desalination market has been offset by rocketing prices, argued a Saudi minister at the launch of the International Desalination Association’s World Congress, which is taking place in Dubai this week.

Abdullah Al Hussayen, the Saudi minister of water and electricity, told delegates that while the international desalination market was expanding by as much as 15% a year, increased material and labour costs were preventing the sector from reaching out to poorer sections of the world’s population.

“The proliferation of statistics on the current water situation worldwide belies the notion that we have a firm grasp of the extent and impact of the shortfall in potable water and sanitation,” Al Hussayen indicated.

“Reducing per capita consumption in municipal use is key; some GCC nations use up to 1,000 litres per capita per day. If Munich, one of the most prosperous cities in a prosperous nation, can make do with only 90 litres per day, then so can we.”

Al Hussayen used the recent tender for the Ras Al Zour megaproject as an example for how rising costs are undercutting technologies that can provide a cheaper product.

“In a recent tender for Ras Al Zour, the lowest tendered price was US$1.2 dollars per cubic metre – the highest ever offered. This compares with 90 cents per cubic metre in a similar plant only three years ago.”

“Of course, the financial crisis has played its role, but the trend is not a downwards one,” Al Hussayen added.

The Saudi minister also stated that the desalination industry was the world’s only realistic hope of saving its water future.

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