Looking for Water


Economic News

22 Jul 2010
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A pilot scheme for treated sewage effluent (TSE) will allow Qatar to explore possible solutions for the country's limited water supply. While the plant may help to alleviate the supply strain caused by growing consumption, the project will not be online for the Asian Games later this year.

At the beginning of July, UAE-based Metito, a company specialising in wastewater treatment, announced plans to set up a TSE plant 35 km from Doha. The project will examine the use of TSE within the context of Qatar's water supply and is valued at over QR8m ($2.2m).

The plant will utilise four different pre-treatment schemes, three of which will be based on membrane technologies - using reverse osmosis to get rid of unwanted residue in the water.

The use of TSE technology will be an experiment for Qatar. Currently, the country's water supply comes from desalination plants.

The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) contain over half of all the desalination plants in the world. It has been estimated by energy services groups that these countries will need to invest over $100bn in desalination over the next 10 years in order to keep pace with demand on water supplies. Demand for desalinated water in the GCC area is expected to grow at an average of 6% per year.

Qatar itself consumes around 132m gallons of water a day, according to Ali Saif al-Malki, director of the Operations and Maintenance Department of Kahramaa, the Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation.

Currently, however, Kahramaa is unable to guarantee 24-hour water supply to all areas of the country. Interruptions in supply are blamed on an old network of pipes - a situation that Kahramaa is slowly rectifying.

For its part, Kahramaa has signed six contracts, worth over QR1bn ($275m), for the development of its water transmission networks, including the replacement of 67 km of the old pipes in Doha. The projects also see the expansion of new water networks at al-Shamal, Kaban, Jaryan and Um Salal Ali with a total length of 160 km of pipes.

However, Kahramaa is acutely aware that it will come under even more pressure during the Asian Games in December, when the country will host 10,000 athletes from 45 different countries.

During the games water consumption is expected to increase to 135m gallons a day. To compensate Kahramaa has stated its intention to increase water supply by 23%, as well as to set aside 250m gallons of surplus water for emergency needs.

"We are expecting to see a rise in demand during the games, but as for a shortage... it could happen but I think the planning is such that it won't be allowed to happen," Calum Wood, managing director of Ras Laffan Power Company, which supplies both water and electricity to Kahramaa, told OBG.

"Our plant has the capacity to produce 756 MW of electricity and 40m gallons of water per day. Although we don't run at those levels all the time, everything we produce goes to Kahramaa and the amount we produce depends on their requirements," He said.

Water supply is not the only area of the country's infrastructure that will come under pressure during the Asian Games. Qatar is rushing to complete essential roadwork and during the games the country's fledgling public transport system will be tested to the limit.

Preparations for the Asian Games have cost the country over QR2.8bn ($769m).

The torch relay will pass through 13 different countries and the TV advertising campaign was unveiled in January this year. Hosting the games has promoted Qatar and the country is making every effort to ensure that the event is a success. Advertising spans Doha's buildings, water towers and is seen on the tail fins of the national carrier's airplanes.

The games will benefit the future economic development of Qatar, as well as a major boost to the country's tourism industry. However, the influx of people during the games - with the increased consumption and strain on services - will highlight concerns about Qatar's infrastructure needs and put pressure on the government to more thoroughly keep services in pace with its economic expansion.

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