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Being Wise With Our Water

The Middle East needs to adopt a multifaceted approach to tackle water scarcity

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Omar Al-Ayoubi
Omar Al-Ayoubi

By Omar Al-Ayoubi, director, industry business unit, Schneider Electric, Saudi Araba

As the largest arid country in the MENA region, Saudi Arabia has limited water resources to meet the growing population’s demands. The country has no rivers, and surface water is very limited due to low rainfall and high evaporation rates.

Since the discovery of oil, the Kingdom’s various industries have flourished, showing remarkable growth and innovation. Simultaneously, the country underwent population expansion and urbanisation, which resulted in rising water consumption levels in the agricultural, municipal and industrial sectors.

However, the water shortage challenge I am referring to is not merely a Saudi problem, but a grave global threat. Lack of access to clean water has become one of the most pressing issues of today, and guaranteeing this access is a critical challenge faced by governments, the private sector and research institutions.

According to a study conducted by the Arabian Journal for Science and Engineering in 2013, the impact of climate change may result in a 15% rise in water demand from the agricultural sector. Considering that agriculture alone accounts for around 83% of all water consumed in Saudi Arabia, this will likely put tremendous pressure on other sectors of the economy seeing similar demand.

Water demand management (WDM) is an essential step towards saving limited water resources. WDM includes any initiative that results in reduction of water usage, such as offering incentives and increasing awareness about water scarcity. This can achieve a reduction of water demand by up to 30-50%.

The solution is a multifaceted approach to solve the water shortage problem. It must work on the climate change part, manage the water used in agriculture, spread public awareness about the scarcity of water and apply cutting edge technology to help achieve this goal.

Smart solutions can help secure maximised output and minimal operational costs. Solutions related to water management are based on an integrated methodology that connects knowledge from all sectors, gets feedback from all entities, and connect all available data from water facilities. They are also based on implementing comprehensive plans in order to implement efficient and sustainable mechanisms to increase growth in output in a balanced way without damaging the natural water cycle.

Solutions including UPS protection, dependable power architecture and intelligent power monitoring systems, are necessary to assure reliability and optimisation. Having these systems in place protects power-critical applications such as ultraviolet disinfection, valve pulsing in the membrane system, and operation of controllers on remote panels.

Keeping these applications operating during a power outage ensures critical data and equipment are secure. Secure power solutions deliver continual power availability, high efficiency for optimised equipment operation, increased safety and security, energy savings and reduced cost of operation.

On the other hand, non-technical measures are also crucial to achieving a sustainable level of water consumption. Involving the public in the quest to combat water shortage can be achieved through media campaigns, school activities, and community engagement activities.

In addition, sensible water pricing mechanisms are a necessary economic instrument to accomplish the goal of water conservation.

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