Overconsumption of water remains a key problem for Qatar as it moves forward, Dr. Adel Sharif of the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI) has said during a speech at this week’s Qatar Foundation Annual Research Forum.
According to Sharif, Qatar’s residents use an average of 500 liters of water every day, making the country one of the world’s biggest consumers of water. Quality of life, lifestyle and the country’s harsh climate as the major reasons for the high usage – four times as much as many European countries, and 10 times more than many others, he added.
The UK, for example, averages 150 liters; Australia 290 liters; France 164 liters. However, Qatar’s neighbors also have extremely high usage – in the UAE, per capita water consumption is 550 liters. The global average is 250.
Qatar, which is thought to have only a 48-hour emergency water supply, has attempted to decrease consumption with awareness campaigns. But changes in behavior would only have a limited affect, Sharif argues.
Instead, he added, Qatar should focus on developing solar-powered desalination technologies to help it produce more water without having an adverse effect on the environment. Gulf Times reports him as saying:
“Our vision is to solve tomorrow’s problems today through innovation. We need to adopt ‘step changes’ such as thinking out of the box, using new processes, novel technologies and new materials. This will help us find new solutions that will help not only Qatar but the entire world to come out of the water crisis.”
He also told the conference that Qatar aims to reuse 30 percent of its water by 2020. As part of this effort, Qatar University and Exxon Mobil are currently researching the best ways to treat industrial waste water so that it can be safely used for irrigation and park use.
Water security in Qatar – one of the world’s only true desert states, with no surface water – is a major challenge that requires significant scientific research, former first lady Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, chairperson of Qatar Foundation, also told the conference this week.
In her speech, Sheikha Moza stated her support for scientific research to improve desalination technologies.
Solar-powered desalination has been in Qatar’s plan for some time. Last year, the nation announced plans to build a solar-powered plant with the aim of producing 80 percent of its water needs through solar energy.
Fahad bin Mohammed Al Attiya, Chairman of the Organizing Sub-Committee for COP18/CMP8, told journalists that these plans were “at the final design stage,” and that it could begin operation in 2014, but thus far, no further details of the plan has emerged.
Last month, however, a deal was signed for a new desalination plant at Ras Abu Fontas, due to enter service in 2015. Media reports do not suggest it will be solar powered.
Qatar is also planning to build five “mega” reservoirs on the outskirts of Doha by 2016, a $2.7 billion plan that would increase the emergency water supply to seven days.
Why isn’t solar energy being used?