Green Economy

Iceberg, Right Ahead!

Meeting demand for water in the UAE

As part of the UAE's latest creative solution to harsh climate difficulties, Umm Al Quwain is transporting icebergs from Antarctica to diversify its fresh water supply.

An aerial view of Arabian Gulf with city of Abu Dhabi is pictured through the window of an airplane of Etihad Airways, United Arab Emirates December 16, 2017. Picture taken December 16, 2017. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

The UAE is a leader in unprecedented projects: islands in the form of a palm or the world, the tallest building on earth, air-conditioned streets, an indoor sky park, the world’s largest mall, the world’s biggest Ferris wheel, underwater hotels, and more. Earlier this year another unparalleled project was unveiled; the UAE wants to tow icebergs across the Indian Ocean and anchor them along the Emirate’s coast as a source of the “purest fresh water in the world.”

As they say, desperate times call for desperate measures.

The Emirate of Umm Al Quwain in particular has an average temperature of 27 ºC by day from November to March, and this can rise to over 45ºC during summer. The average rainfall is minimal with only 42mm per year. With these weather conditions, constant investment to guarantee water and power supply is basic for the social and economic development of the Emirate.

In an exclusive interview with TBY, Saeed Nasser Al Talay, Chairman of the Umm Al Quwain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, mentioned that they are expecting, “a lot of urban development work in the coming years, with transport infrastructure expecting a boost.

“We expect this to be followed by the retail sector, which is complemented by the port of Umm Al Quwain and proximity to the northern Emirates.” This economic growth will increase the demand for fresh water and, until the iceberg or icebergs are in place, the Emirate will have to look at more conventional sources of water as well as power.

In June 2017, the government of Umm Al Quwain signed an MoU with the Federal Electricity and Water Authority (FEWA) to build a desalination plant in the Emirate. This event was also witnessed by the Crown Prince of Umm Al Quwain HH Sheikh Rashid bin Saud bin Rashid Al Mualla and the Chairman of the Umm Al Quwain Executive Council. Later in July, FEWA qualified up to 13 consortia to bid for the reverse osmosis plant that will desalinate up to 45 million gallons per day.

The need for water is a general concern and is addressed by all the players in the economy. Omar Al Ghfeli, CEO of Industrial City Authority, told TBY in an exclusive interview that they are also building, “a large waste recycling station, including a wastewater recycling station that will produce water for the trees and landscaping.”

In fact, during summer, when it is difficult to meet the demand, Umm Al Qwain calls for emergency supplies. This year FEWA had to operate a strategic water line from Ajman to Umm Al Qwain. This included a total investment of AED20 million (USD5.44 million) in 800mm diameter water pipes that were laid over 10km to secure water for over 120,000 consumers.

The rising urban population as well as industrial development will also increase the demand for power. To meet these needs, FEWA has been investing continuously in power stations. In March 2017, the authorities inaugurated the Al Hamra substation in Umm al Quwain, and it is already said that there would be further expansions to this plant. They announced in April that they plan to bid for two new power stations that should be operational in the next two months, one in Umm Al Thaub and one in Al Suwaihat areas. The estimated cost for the power stations is AED33 million (USD8.98 million) each, with a capacity of 75MVA.

Such unprecedented, sometimes over the top, projects in the UAE have not only solved problems and created economic wealth, but have also been one of the main sources for increasing tourism in the region. Icebergs at 45 ºC would definitely create an attraction.

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