Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority will build a water desalination plant with a 60 million Imperial gallons per day (MIGD) capacity by 2022, as it looks to meet rising water demand in the emirate, according to a senior official.
"We’re talking about 60 MIGD to meet our demand and part of it will be to replace the old generation plants,” Asam Al Mulla, water department manager at Sewa told reporters in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
Sharjah, which desalination capacity of 115 MIGD presently, will tender the project in 2020, he added.
Sharjah will see its population rise to almost two million by 2020 making it the second most populous emirate and placing increasing stress on the utilities regulator to keep up with rising power and water demand. Its current population stands at 1.4 million and is overwhelmingly expatriate - most of whom employed in neighbouring Dubai but live in Sharjah because of its relatively low cost of living.
The regulator is currently evaluating whether to develop the desalination plant on the basis of an independent water producer model, which would involve private sector investment, or an engineering procurement and construction contract.
The plant will function on the basis of reverse osmosis technology, a less energy-intensive method of desalinating seawater. The Middle East accounts for nearly half of all desalination capacity globally, according to International Water Association, with newer projects being added in Saudi Arabia and the UAE to keep up with demand for potable water.
Sewa would also look to add more renewable energy power capacity to support future desalination schemes.
"Renewable energy [will be] a major contributor to this, and how to incorporate this into mega projects [especially] for the solar power,” said Mr Al Mulla.
Sharjah’s plans for desalination follow the recent announcement of a Dh5.8 billion scheme by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, UAE Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, for new energy and water projects to serve the northern emirates.
New water dams will be built at a cost of Dh2.4bn and a scheme is underway to create a federal water network linking the northern emirates to Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Plans are also in the works for the development of a Dh1.2bn solar power station and a water desalination plant in Umm Al Quwain, with both schemes to be completed in the next two years.