A number of desalination plants producing 511 million litres of fresh water per day will open in the Northern Emirates in 2021.
The three plants will be built in Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah by the Federal Electricity and Water Authority and MDC Power Holding Company, which is owned by Mubadala Investment Company.
“The timing and sizing of the facilities have been determined based on the optimal technical solution and commercial attractiveness,” said Mohammad Saleh, the authority's director general. “The first phase of the project is scheduled to be completed by 2021.”
The plants will be run by reverse osmosis, which is less energy intensive than distillation.
The country’s prehistoric aquifers contain water that is 12,000 to 40,000 years old but have been drained in a few decades.
Almost all household water consumption in the UAE comes from desalination plants run on natural gas, which is costly and harmful to the environment.
Mohammed Al Huraimel, the utilities director of Mubadala, said the company’s goal is to improve water and power supply while reducing carbon dioxide emissions associated with desalination. This is in line with the country’s 2036 Water Security Strategy, he said.
Arab Gulf states make up almost two thirds of the world’s desalination capacity. The UAE is second only to Saudi Arabia for desalination in the world. Desalination in Abu Dhabi quadrupled between 1985 and 2000.
Researchers have cautioned that low tariffs on water are not reflective of supply costs or the environmental cost.