The eight water-scarce Arabian Gulf countries – the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Saudi, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq and Iran – are among the largest water consumers per capita in the world. Saudi rates 91% higher than the global individual average. Qatar and the UAE are close behind at 83% of the international average per capita.
These eight countries also account for 65% of the world’s desalinized water. Through 2010, 1,483 desalination plants were operating in the Gulf. The UAE alone has approximately 70 water desalinization plants accounting for 14% of the world’s total desalinated water.
The removal of salt and other minerals from seawater to provide drinking water for human consumption has allowed water-scarce countries to prosper. In the process, tons of brine-carrying chemicals are dumped back into the Gulf daily at the rate of one thousand-plus cubic meters per second.
The massive population explosion in the Gulf nations coupled with the expected high standard of living leaves no choice but to continue to construct desalination plants. The challenge to provide the basic sustenance of life and at the same time protect and preserve the ecosystem will continue in catch-22 perpetuity.
The readily-available and plentiful natural gas used to power the desalinization plants consumes 10-25% of each Gulf country’s energy resources. Did you know that the cost to desalinate water is approximately eight times higher than the cost to pump water from an underground source?
Reliable numbers are unavailable regarding the quantity of energy required to power the tens of millions of air conditioners in the Arabian Gulf countries, but suffice it to say that the percentage of each country’s energy resources is also double-digit huge.