A discussion, a part of a series of events for Catalysing the Future, held at Qatar Science & Technology Park, part of Qatar Foundation (QF) Research, Development, and Innovation, will air today on Science Mag. The streaming will be on https://www.sciencemag.org/custom-publishing/webinars/water-dry-land-can-innovation-drive-water-security from 8pm.
Qatar’s per capita use of water is one of the highest in the world – estimated at over 500 litres per person per day, according to experts who recently spoke on the topic of ‘Water in a dry land: Can innovation drive water security?’
As Qatar continues its journey of self-sustenance by growing its own food, building its own industries, hiring a larger workforce, the demands on this precious resource is growing rapidly.
Local agriculture production has jumped by 400% since 2017, and the October population statistic stands at over 2.7mn.
Despite being a dry land, Qatar is expected to keep up with the rising demands of water.
“Qatar and other Gulf states will always be dependent on desalination as the prime solution for a drought-free situation; however, this is an energy intensive process. The question remains what other alternatives can we develop in the country,” said Dr Samer Adham, manager, ConocoPhillips Water Solutions, Qatar.
Although 75% of the earth is covered in water, only 3% of the water is fresh water, and less than 1% of this water is accessible for human use.
“There is enough water in the world, but it is saline; therefore, desalination should be given the highest priority in research and development,” Dr Ahmed Abdel-Wahab, professor, Chemical Engineering, Texas A&M University at Qatar, a QF partner university, said.
“Countries that depend primarily on rain can also benefit from desalination as we experience the effects of climate change in our weather patterns. A major goal of water security is to be able to produce usable water in a cost-effective manner.”
While the physical amount of water available on our planet is known, it is also known that economic security can influence water security.
“Although Qatar has a very small natural resource base, and because it is a wealthy country, it is able to generate water. Everybody in Qatar has water 24 hours a day, seven days a week, here. We don’t think of Qatar as being water insecure,” said Dr Rachael McDonnell, strategic programme director, Water, Climate Change and Resilience, International Water Management Institute.
Dr McDonnell also highlighted the advantages of generating water resourcefully in a way that can benefit the water-energy-food nexus.
“Our religious texts urge us to manage water because it is such a precious resource. It is more of a mental rather than a technological barrier when it comes to treated waste water,” she said.
“Instead of saying treated waste water is fit to be consumed directly, let’s suggest, as a first step that, treated waste water can be used to irrigate agricultural crops. This will mitigate the backlash from members of society that can surround this issue,” Abdel-Wahab said.
“A few international companies are interested to demonstrate their technologies in Qatar. If these technologies work in Qatar’s harsh environment, they will most likely work elsewhere in the world,” said Dr Huda al-Sulaiti, director, Water Sciences and Technology at Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute, Hamad Bin Khalifa University.
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