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This resort in Fujairah, UAE is recycling water to save money

Le Méridien Al Aqah in Fujairah's GM says the resort's STP is more than a 'good PR story' and proves that going green pays

Treated sewage effluent is used to water all of the hotel’s green spaces.
Treated sewage effluent is used to water all of the hotel’s green spaces.

Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort in Fujairah was the first five-star resort built on the eastern coast of the UAE, and it has pioneered several firsts as it addresses critical on-site infrastructure utility gaps. For instance, the property was one of the first in the region to have its own sewage treatment plant (STP) on site when it opened in 2003.

“It was on a much smaller scale compared to the one we have today, and we did not have as much capacity,” Patrick Antaki, complex general manager at Le Méridien Al Aqah; Al Maha Desert Resort; and the Tennis and Country Club, Fujairah, tells Construction Week's sister title facilities management Middle East.

“We had to send some effluent away through tankers on a nearly daily basis when the hotel was running at full occupancy. It was not sustainable enough.”

Four years ago, the resort was able to refurbish its STP and, thanks to advancements in technology, the plant is now more efficient.

“Sewage treatment technology had evolved and we could now use the same pans, or containers, but treat more effluent,” explains Antaki.

“This was made possible by aerating the pans from the bottom instead of from the top. In layman’s terms, they fitted massive shower heads with hundreds of tiny holes and these aerate the flow,” he explains.

The reverse osmosis plant has a daily capacity of 600m3.

“This allowed the plant to process effluent more quickly, making it able to process more sewage than before. More importantly, the quality of treated effluent was better compared to the old system,” he adds.

Thanks to the new system, foul odours were reduced to almost zero, whereas with the previous system, even a tiny mistake would have been detrimental.

“This is something we cannot afford, because we have guests on one side [of the plant] and staff accommodation right next to it,” says Antaki.

“We took it to the next level and covered the sewage plant, which we could not do with the old technology, because it relied on fresh air. The new plant is more efficient and goes through all the waste product we generate. In fact, we have spare capacity, as well,” he adds.

The treated water from the STP is used to irrigate the gardens and landscaped areas of the hotel’s grounds.

Our owner is Emirates Airlines, which is serious about sustainability. Today, we generate too much waste, in general, and are not nearly as sustainable as we need to be. This hotel is not going to change the world, but if everybody does their bit, it will benefit us all eventually.

“After having been in operation for many years, we planned to build our own reverse osmosis (RO) plant for water, because good-quality water was a challenge to get at a fair price,” notes Antaki.

 “After studying it thoroughly, we came to the conclusion that an RO plant on site would be a lot cheaper than to buy per gallon. The quality of the water would be excellent, and it would be environmentally friendly, as well. We commissioned the water treatment plant four years ago, around the same time that we revamped the STP.”

The process started with the hotel digging bore wells in the beach to provide a natural layer of filtration. “Drilling the bore wells in the beach means we can use the sand on the bank as a filter, giving us slightly less to do in the plant,” Antaki says.

The plant has a capacity of 600m3 per day, but the resort currently uses only two-thirds of this capacity, leaving it in a position to be able to sell excess water. The water from the RO plant supplies all public areas and guest rooms, where it is used in the toilets and bathrooms.

In addition to the operational RO plant, there is an additional unit. Once commissioned, it will also supply fresh water, Antaki explains.

The on-site STP was part of the early hotel design plans.

“When we had [the second RO plant] installed, we were certain about our plans – we wanted to eliminate all single-use plastics. Eventually, we would like to stop buying plastic bottles and have our own drinking water produced on site. It is just a matter of licensing.”

Antaki is convinced that the resort’s sustainable practices are far more than a “good PR story”. “We are well aware of the different things going on in the world with regards to climate change and damage to the environment,” he says.

“We have to be careful and keep an eye out for future generations. Each and every one of us needs to play our part to save the environment.”

He continues: “Our owner is Emirates Airlines, which is serious about sustainability. Today, we generate too much waste, in general, and are not nearly as sustainable as we need to be. This hotel is not going to change the world, but if everybody does their bit, it will benefit us all eventually.

“All this can be recoverable in dollars, and there are tangible results and savings to everything. We make our water, and the more efficient we become, the less power we end up using. Overall, it starts reflecting in our utility bills.”  

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