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Page added on August 30, 2009

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Desalination threat to the growing Gulf

Desalination is vital in providing the region’s cities with supplies of potable water. But the process itself is pouring more and more brine back into the sea, raising the question of whether the technology will one day cease to be economically feasible.

Never mind peak oil, or even peak water: Some experts are pondering the possibility of the UAE’s development being limited by “peak salt” – the notional point at which the Arabian Gulf becomes so salty that relying on it for fresh water stops being economically feasible.
There is cause for concern, says Dr Shawki Barghouti, director-general of the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) in Dubai.

“Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE all have their desalination plants along the Gulf’s shores,” he said. “The brine that these desalination plants produce is being dumped back into the ocean.”

In addition, damming of rivers has cut the flow of fresh water into the Gulf – and the water that does flow in is increasingly polluted.

“All fresh water in the Gulf has been minimised significantly,” said Dr Mohammed Dawoud, manager of the water resources department at the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD). “The pollution load has increased dramatically.”

The implications of this, says Dr Barghouti of the ICBA, are exacerbated by the Gulf’s small size, relative shallowness and slow circulation.

The National

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