Health & Environment

Digitalisation, sustainability in desalination vital to tackle water scarcity

The rapid urbanisation of cities across the world, and rising population, coupled with the effects of climate change, have placed excessive demands on fresh water, stated a new report released ahead of the World Utilities Congress 2020 in Abu Dhabi.
Only 3 percent of the world’s water is fresh water, and two-thirds of that is frozen or otherwise unavailable for use. As a result, some 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water, and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). 
In addition, climate change has brought new challenges such as droughts, floods, and storms exacerbating water scarcity, it stated. 
In such a situation water scarcity is making solutions such as desalination and wastewater recycling of critical importance, it added. 
According to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), referencing the 2019 Water Summit, in association with the World Wide Fund (WWF), BCG, Reuters, Ceres and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, there are four key areas that need to be addressed to combat the complexity of water related issues. 
These include; creating and enhancing internationally accepted reporting standards for water and sustainability related risks; integrating water and sustainability into the day to day decision making of businesses and other stakeholders; ensuring any business sustainability plan has a full understanding of the value of water; the role of government in developing a strong water governance framework and closing the funding gap to ensure its availability; and the sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.
Moreover, another solution to increased water stress is asset digitalisation, according to a report titled ‘Growth Opportunities in the Middle East Water Sector’ by Frost & Sullivan. 
Water assets equipped with advanced digital technologies can provide uninterrupted, safe, and cost-effective water supply services by optimising operational performance, and addressing critical issues in the water sector, such as aging infrastructure, high operating costs, compliance costs, process control, asset quality, and service and plant efficiency.
As governments set net zero goals and adopt decarbonisation strategies to achieve these, utility companies are following suit, looking at ways to ensure the water and wastewater sector is sustainable, with a lower carbon footprint. 
Utilities have, for example, significantly increased their investments in smart online sensors for asset monitoring and advanced artificial intelligence (AI) based data analytics platforms to optimise systems in real-time. The focus of this investment is on reducing energy consumption and improving energy efficiency, said the report.
Among the top growth opportunities in the water and wastewater sector for the Middle East are services and solutions targeting sustainability in desalination, wastewater recycling, and digitalisation. The region has already started to explore the benefits of water infrastructure digitalisation as part of efforts to enhance its ability to tackle water scarcity. 
Several initiatives, such as the UAE’s Water Security Strategy 2036, which aims to reduce water demand by 21 percent and increase the reuse of treated water by 95 percent by 2036, and the KSA’s Qatrah initiative, which aims to cut daily per-capita water consumption by nearly half, from 263 litres in 2019 to 150 litres by 2030, are expected to accelerate the adoption of digital solutions over the next 10 years.
Christopher Hudson, President of dmg events, the organisers of the World Utilities Congress, said: "The world increasingly needs clean and accessible water as we are faced with the impact of urbanisation, population growth, and global warming events."
"There are also several opportunities for the utilities sector to enhance its resilience, efficiency, and sustainability, with digitalisation being one obvious solution. We look forward to gathering industry leaders at the World Utilities Congress to discuss and chart a successful path ahead for water desalination and water management," he added.
To be held from May 9 to 11 in the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, the event will see more than 10,000 global utilities professionals gather to learn details on critical topics including the future of low carbon power and water supplies.  
How cutting-edge technology is being leveraged to manage scarce water resources will feature in the strategic programme of the World Utilities Congress, with a dedicated panel session titled ‘The role of water desalination and water recycling in tackling global water scarcity’. 
The panel of speakers include Ahmed Al Shamsi, CEO of Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company; Tavor Alon, CEO of IDE Technologies; Peter Earl, Chairman of Biwater; Amit Chakravarty, Vice President, Strategy, Governance and Systems at National Water Company; and Fatima Al Shaygi, Vice President, UAE Asset Management at Taqa, said the organisers.
The panel session will be moderated by Bjorn Ewers, Managing Director and Partner of BCG, the World Utilities Congress’s Strategic Insights Partner, they added.-TradeArabia News Service