Decarbonising infrastructure developments and more efficient use of precious water resources are needed to reduce carbon emissions and develop a greener economy, a top government official told the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week conference.
“Today, as we rebuild our world in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, we recognise more than ever the need to decarbonise our infrastructures, to promote sustainable consumption and production of essential resources, and to enhance our resilience to climate change,” Awaidha Murshed Al Marar, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy, said during an opening keynote address to this year's conference.
Mr Al Marar said water use, specifically, is something that needs to be addressed to improve sustainability. "By improving water management and water production efficiencies, we can improve resilience to climate change and maximise the provision of a sufficient supply of potable water on a global scale," he said.
Global water use has increased six-fold over the past century and global water demand is rising by about 1 per cent each year, Mr Al Marar said, citing the 2020 UN World Water Development Report. This trend is expected to continue until 2050, he added.
The UAE and other GCC countries mainly rely on desalination plants to meet water demand. The Emirates is the second-largest producer of desalinated water globally after Saudi Arabia, producing about 14 per cent of the world’s desalinated water, he said.
“While we continue to expand our water infrastructure and build new desalination plants, we recognise the environmental impact of desalination and, therefore, we capitalise on continued innovation in desalination technologies, brine reduction techniques and new water demand management strategies.”
Abu Dhabi has nine desalination plants with a total capacity of up to 960 million imperial gallons per day.
“Four of our current desalination plants in Abu Dhabi utilise Reverse Osmosis technology and represent around 15 per cent of the emirate’s desalinated water production. This share is expected to grow to 30 per cent by 2022, when the new Dh2 billion RO desalination facility at the Al Taweelah Power Complex comes online.”
Reverse osmosis is a process where water flows through a membrane that separates out heavier sediments and salts. Desired minerals like calcium and magnesium are also added to the filtered water before packaging or transporting it for consumption. Many Gulf nations have switched to this process over the past decade as it is less energy intensive than traditional methods.