Water in the GCC – A Blessing

Water in the GCC – A Blessing

May 12, 2015

Perusing the booths at WETEX 2015, the Middle East region’s largest exhibition for the water, energy, and environmental technology industries held in Dubai 21-23 April, one could not help but feel that water is a topic on everyone’s minds.

Indeed, the exhibition showcased a variety of local and foreign water technologies and solutions for water and wastewater treatment, desalination, pumps, valves, irrigation, agriculture and more.

However, beyond the technology hype and excitement about new solutions, an underlying concern could be perceived in the faces, screens and printed words present in the complex.

The Gulf Cooperation Council`s (GCC) water sector currently faces large challenges: extreme water demand, insufficient water supplies and inefficient institutional frameworks through which to manage the water.

According to a recent report by analysts at Price Waterhouse Coopers-owned Strategy& (formerly a Booz company), when examining water usage on an annual per capita basis, GCC countries consume about 65% more water (816m³) than the world average (500 m³). Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are the most excessive users, exhausting between 10 and 39 times the amount of renewable water available to them. Rapid population growth and wasteful water consumption habits contribute to high water demand.

Clearly, the region’s arid climate and lack of rainfall is the largest constraint to maintaining a reasonable water supply. At the same time, technical problems with water supply systems and ineffective management and regulation of water resources contribute to hardships. For example, 22% of domestic water is either lost to leakage or not metered, such that it cannot be reused or translated into revenue. Meanwhile, although agriculture contributes under 2% of each GCC country’s GDP, more than 80% of the water in the region is devoted to agriculture.

That being said, the GCC is taking strides to address the situation. Firstly, seawater desalination technology is employed more heavily in the GCC than in any other region. On an average day, GCC countries produce more than 12 million cubic meters (m³) of desalinated seawater, accounting for about 25% of all water consumed in the region and 70% of the water utilized for domestic. These countries are also beginning to turn to treated wastewater reuse for agriculture and other needs such as toilet, gardens and recharging aquifers. A recent report on GCC water resources by NCB Capital estimates that treated wastewater now accounts for around 16% of total municipal demand and 2% of total demand.

Major water projects are being initiated in each GCC country to ensure water security. For example, Qatar General Electricity & Water Corporation (KAHRAMAA) recently launched the Water Security Mega Reservoirs Project to provide 7 days of strategic water storage within its system. Similarly, the Saudi Arabia state-owned National Water Co. is spending as much as $480 million on only part of the first phase of a mega project designed to secure the country’s water supply.

Beyond these measures, the GCC countries are increasingly seeking new technologies and methods to boost their water capacity and to ensure a steady supply of water for their growing populations. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai sums up the situation best: “In our country, water is great blessing… a huge part of our financial resources is allocated to water purposes.”

EDI represents the trade and investment interests of the State of Illinois in the Middle East region. For WETEX 2015, EDI coordinated and administered the Illinois booth. EDI assisted the six Illinois companies that exhibited through the arranging of one-on-one meetings with local firms and on-site support at the exhibition.


Michael Platt

VP Strategy & Business Development

Michael, EDI's VP Strategy & Business Development, is responsible for business development and inward investment promotion for EDI’s clients. His primary tasks include targeting potential leads, business development consulting, conducting market research, writing feasibility studies and facilitating communication between companies.