Water worries

As the region's waste hits an all time high, Budoor Hunnoon, corporate communications manager, Metito discusses waste management strategies, waste water and public private partnerships (PPPs).

Metito (Overseas) LTD., ANALYSIS, Facilities Management

As the region's waste hits an all time high, Budoor Hunnoon, corporate communications manager, Metito discuss waste management strategies, waste water and public private partnerships (PPPs).

Water is one of the most precious commodities and everyone's immediate concern is how to conserve and reduce its waste.

Many countries in the west have already introduced strict mandatory requirements which govern the usage of water and why should the Middle East be left behind, especially considering the fact that the region is one of the driest in the world?

The amount of available fresh water in the world is fixed and of that, nearly 70% of it is inaccessible held in the polar ice caps, glaciers and the permafrost (soil at or below the freezing point of water).

 

PPPs should be promoted as an efficient way of handling the water industry growth.

Of the 10.7 million km3, which is accessible, the vast majority (10.5 million km3) is underground. The remaining 135,000km3 is contained in rivers, lakes and wetlands.

These accessible freshwater resources are distributed unequally around the world exacerbating the challenge of water scarcity in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Water leaks

Metito has already warned the region of another arising problem, which is water wastage from leakages and that the costs connected to it are on the rise.

The main reason for this is the lack of efficient infrastructure which is adding more pressure on the region's already stretched demand for fresh water.

Global Water Intelligence has published information indicating that the percentage losses in the water system in the United Arab Emirates are 13% and in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) it is reported to have reached 50%.

This means that in KSA, half the water produced does not reach the public resulting in a waste of a regionally scarce resource.

The Saudi government has considered this problem as a priority and is now aiming to make savings of US $11bn from its water network in the latest phase of an efficiency drive. This could include raising tariffs and investing billions of dollars in stopping water leaking from the network.

Public private partnership (PPP)

The water industry in the Middle East is facing rapid expansion due to the exponential growth in the demand for water. The efficient way of handling this growth is by encouraging more public private partnerships (PPP) in the water industry.

Cost savings, efficient facility management, comprehensive environment stewardship as well as government ownership of assets, are a few advantages of promoting PPP in the region.

Over the last few years PPPs have started to take shape across a wide range of industries in several GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman and Egypt.

Water and waste water investment in the region is expected to reach a staggering US $120bn over the next decade thereby providing a substantial expansion platform for PPP in the Middle East.

Water must be managed as a social good and supported with sound economics. A lack in an appropriate tariff to cover basic production and investment costs will lead to a huge misuse of water.

Inappropriate cost recovery, limited use of targeted subsidies and lack of sound investment planning, are a few issues which can be addressed by establishing complementary relationships on the strengths of both public and private sector in the Middle East.

Speaking at the Waste Water Treatment and Reuse conference in Abu Dhabi, Hani Tarazi, technical manager, Metito, helped establish the perfect model for privatisation which could benefit all, the masses and government as well as private companies.

In this model the private sector would provide the management of operations including investing in additional assets while keeping the water strategies, policies, planning, assets and raw water sources in government's control.

Hani also stressed on the impact of water tariffs, where an appropriate tariff could lead to an efficient consumption of water as compared to providing water free of cost.

Recent tariff reviews has shown that water tariffs need to be cost recovery driven and local governments need to establish enough regulations that can convert the existing tariffs into cost recovery based tariffs.

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