Food and water production in arid regions
Dubai-based Sanctum Consult’s CEO Craig Beeson talks about a long-term solution for water and food production in the GCC
Over the coming 30 years, food and energy demands are expected to increase dramatically, yet we will depend on the same finite and vulnerable water resource as today for sustaining life, economic growth and our environment.
About 8% of global energy generation ($6tr) is used for pumping, treating and transporting water to various consumers. Another substantial amount of energy is used for water desalination, which is expected to increase.
GCC countries are suffering from a huge deficit in their water resources reaching more than 20 billion cubic metres, which is being met mainly by an intensive over-drafting of renewable and non-renewable groundwater resources for the agricultural sector, and by the extensive installation of highly expensive desalination plants for the municipal sector. In addition, a small percentage of treated wastewater is reused in the agricultural and municipal sectors. Furthermore, conflict between the agricultural and domestic sectors on the limited water resources in the region is rising, and as a result, groundwater over-exploitation and mining is expected to continue in order to meet the growing demand in these two sectors.
With the current population growth rates, annual water demand may reach more than 50 billion cubic metres by the year 2030. With limited desalination capacity and wastewater reuse, this demand will have to be met mainly by the further mining of groundwater reserves. In addition, the negative impacts of fast depletion and loss of aquifer reserves will result in the deterioration of water quality and salinisation of agricultural lands.
A long-term solution for water and food production
Swedish-based company United Science & Capital strives for a swift implementation of two technological solutions called Desert to Green and Aqua Tower. According to Kujtim Huyseni, CEO of United Science & Capital, the solutions have the potential to solve the fresh water and food production in a long term way.
Desert to Green is a package of technologies where modified natural zeolites play the central role. The zeolites act as the water and nutrient carriers for soil and plants. The use of modified zeolites reduces the need for irrigation and increases the microbial life in soil, which makes it possible to grow and transform arid areas into forest and agricultural land using less water compared to what is otherwise required.
Aqua Tower is a system for the production of desalinated water and electricity. It is a patent pending technology that utilises hot air from the atmosphere or various waste heat sources. It will have an annual water desalination capacity of up to 1 billion cubic metres of water.
Huyseni claims that in countries with acute water shortages, the implementation of Desert to Green and Aqua Tower will not only solve the problem of water desalination for current use but will make many of these countries self-sufficient in food production.
The interest for both Desert to Green and Aqua Tower will be reportedly far reaching in many countries and regions with prevailing freshwater shortage.
United Science & Capital is currently negotiating with relevant institutions in several countries for a smooth and efficient implementation its projects.
Market opportunities related to the water sector are expected to reach $1tr by 2025. Companies that are early to respond and take steps to exploit the market opportunities associated with these water-related challenges are more likely to gain a competitive advantage and achieve commercial success.