How desalination is being is used to tackle water scarcity
11:09 AM EDT, Mon September 12, 2022
Water scarcity is a growing problem in many parts of the world. One solution is to remove salt from seawater in a process called desalination. Abu Dhabi-based startup Manhat has created a floating device that captures water evaporated from the ocean's surface and condenses and collects it as freshwater. Manhat envisages the devices eventually being used to irrigate floating farms, as shown in this rendering.
The Middle East and North Africa is home to just 1% of the world's freshwater resources. Countries in the region are withdrawing water from underground reservoirs faster than it can be replenished. This is mainly to irrigate farmland: agriculture accounts for nearly 80% of water usage in MENA, according to a report from the World Bank. Pictured here: Crop circles in Saudi Arabia draw on groundwater for irrigation.
To overcome water scarcity and meet increasing demand, MENA countries have long been producing their own water, using large-scale desalination plants -- such as this one in in Tel Aviv, Israel.
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According to World Bank calculations, MENA accounts for nearly half of the world's desalination capacity, making it the largest desalination market in the world. Desalination is widely practiced in the oil-rich nations of the Gulf, at plants like this one in Qatar.
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But desalination in the Middle East has a significant environmental costbecause it relies on energy-intensive thermal desalination plants. Waste left over from the process is often discharged into the sea and can damage marine ecosystems. Here, discharge from a plant in Kuwait flows into the Persian Gulf.
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Cloud seeding —
The United Arab Emirates has invested in another solution to tackle the water problem -- rainfall-enhancing technology called cloud seeding. During cloud seeding missions, aircraft eject salt crystals from flares mounted on their wings to stimulate condensation and the growth of water droplets.
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Rainwater harvesting —
Rainwater harvesting is another low-cost solution in the region whereby rainwater runoff is collected, filtered and stored for use. Such measures have been used for millenia in the region, according to the World Bank. Tanks and cisterns -- such as this one in Yemen -- provide important supply sources for many rural and urban communities.