Germany Offers Environmental Solutions in Saudi Water Sector

by shariff mohammed | Nov 08, 2016

Germany is seeking to cooperate with Saudi Arabia to help the Kingdom develop potential solutions to the environmental problems in its water sector. In a workshop organized recently at Asharqia Chamber, experts discussed   core issues of water conservation, waste water treatment and water desalination with a special focus on the use of cutting-edge technology and expertise for the protection of environment and economical use of the fast depleting water sources.      

The workshop entitled “Solutions to Environmental Problems in the Saudi Arabian Water Sector” was organized by the German-Saudi Arabian Liaison Office for Economic Affairs (GESALO) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety in cooperation with Asharqia Chamber. Present during the opening were, among others, Mrs. Nilgün Parker, Head of Division for Economy, Innovation, Employment, Sustainable Business Management of the German Environment Ministry and the GESALO Delegate Mr. Oliver Oehms. Also present were renowned experts and representatives of a number of leading companies like Siemens, Alfanar, the National Water Company, the Advanced Water Technology, the National Power Company and Dornier.

Mrs. Nilgün Parker introduced Germany’s “Green Infrastructures- Export Initiative 2016” which was launched based on the guiding principle that innovations in environmental protection, climate action and resource efficiency offer growth opportunities. “Advanced environmental policy is the driver of innovation and skills in green transformation, offering competitive opportunities and significant potential for alleviating environmental burdens now and in the future,” she observed.  

 

Mrs. Parker noted that the German  government has not only established some of the most ambitious climate protection and energy goals in the world, it has also set up effective and innovative measures to encourage citizens, businesses and even international partners to help meet those goals.

Water conservation is a key issue in Saudi Arabia, said Dr. Omar K M Ouda of the Prince Mohamed Bin Fahd University in his presentation pointing to the fact that the Kingdom is situated in an extreme desert environment, hence it does not have any natural surface water courses such as rivers or lakes. He noted that Saudi Arabia currently utilizes two conventional and two non-conventional water resources. The conventional water resources include groundwater and surface water and the non-conventional water resources are treated wastewater and desalinated seawater.

Dr. K W Ouda stressed the importance of evolving an effective water conservation program which must be locally tailored to comply with the Saudi culture and socio-economic characteristics saying that simply saving 1 cubic meter of water saves SR3.2. He said that there is a general lack of awareness about the water conservation and it is attributed to the heavy subsidies, he noted revealing the fact that the current water rate in Saudi Arabia only covers less than 10% of the actual water cost. He advocated strict regulations for the utilization of water conservation tools and expansion of awareness program to the school levels.

Dr. Mohammad M M Al-Khider Al Qadi of the Saudi National Water Company (NWC) talked about private sector’s involvement in the water sector and their business opportunities with the NWC. He pointed out that private sector has the potential to get it engaged in water supply projects, rehabilitation and reconstruction of sewage treatment plants (STPs) and treated sewage effluent (TSE) projects.

NWC is assessing the private sector’s involvement in large water supply projects through drilling water fields, establishing water treatment plants and the development of other infrastructure facilities. The national company is also exploring opportunities for the private sector companies in the rehabilitation of the existing STPs and construction of new ones. To maximize water re-use according to the Kingdom’s water strategy, NWC is developing a market for TSE as a product by investing heavily in infrastructure and these is scope for private sector participation in it. The national company is also looking for the private sector to assume greater operational and commercial responsibilities in water management in different cities. NWC currently manages water & waste water value chains in 4 cities of Riyadh, Jeddah, Makkah and Taif.

Dr. Al Qadi  called for developing a holistic approach for proper TSE utilization in order to maximize the value from TSE saying that only 15% of Kingdom’s TSE produced is reused and out of which only 50% is invoiced. The main reasons for low TSE utilization, he said, are low cost of ground water, absence of legislations and inadequate infrastructure development.

Dr. Sérgio Casimiro, R&D Engineer of the Advanced Water Technology highlighted the use of solar energy in the production of desalinated water since sunlight is abundantly available in the Kingdom almost throughout the year. He noted that desalination processes are very energy intensive and Saudi Arabia is currently using one quarter of its oil production internally which is highly subsidized. Solar desalination is an attractive option and the Kingdom is moving toward that direction, he said referring to the establishment of the King Abdullah’s Initiative for Solar Water Desalination under the supervision of the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST).

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