The continuously queuing water tankers in the road servicing the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre and its four adjacent hotels leave visitors in no doubt that Jordan is one of the most water-scarce countries in the world.

Relying in the past on the Jordan river and groundwater wells, the country has watched the wells get ever deeper and the Jordan reduced to a relative trickle.

Hence the staging of the fifth EuroMed international desalination conference on the shores of the Dead Sea by the European Desalination Society, which attracted 280 delegates, many from the home country, and 16 companies in the accompanying exhibition.

Desalination “unavoidable”
Prof Mousa Mohsen from The Hashemite University, Jordan, told the conference that desalination was “an unavoidable option” for Jordan, when he spoke at the opening ceremony on 10 November. Among his listeners was the Jordanian king’s brother, Prince Faisal bin Al Hussein, with members of the cabinet.

Prof Mohsen pointed out that Jordan had one of the lowest per-capital water availability in the world at 175 m³/y, coupled with an “alarming” rate of population increase. He also made a call for regional cooperation to overcome the problem of water scarcity, which he said threatened Jordan’s development.

The long-term solution for this parched and growing country, with its many thousands of expatriates from Palestine and Iraq, some now into the third generation, is seen to be the proposed Red-Dead Canal. This mighty project aims to bring around 850 million m³/y of desalinated Red Sea water to prevent any further diminution of the Dead Sea, which is sinking by 100 cm/y, and provide a source of fresh water at a cost of around US$ 5 billion.

Mohsen told D&WR later that, even if the Israelis decided not to take part, Jordan would have to carry out the project on its own because it had no alternative. Michael Beyth, from Israel’s Geological Institute, who gave a more detailed presentation about the project, showed alarming pictures of sinkholes and a collapsed road bridge caused by the drawdown of the Dead Sea, now at 440 m below sea level.

Jordan’s desalination
Rateb Al-Adwan, desalination chief for Jordan’s Ministry of Water & Irrigation, who took a lot of the organisational load for the conference, told D&WR that Jordan already had 19 reverse-osmosis plants, as well as the 27,000m³/d plant just announced for Aqaba. The country also has a 24,000 m³/d UF/MF plant in Amman and a smaller one in Zarqa.

One interesting project on the horizon is desalination of the surface water contained by the Karamah dam, which will initially produce 1 million m³/y rising to 4 million m³/y.

Desalination and energy
Newly elected EDS president Lute Broens coupled water with energy in his opening address, observing that energy demand in Jordan was rising by 10%/y and would be up by 50% in 20 years. He tasked his audience with taking up the challenges posed by the new era of water and energy that was just beginning. This had not been done in the previous era stemming from the Industrial Revolution, he said.

As usual at EDS conferences, alternative energies were very much in evidence in the presentations, but, for once, there seemed to be more of an impression that all that European Union funding was not going into a bottomless pit and that viable systems for desalination were just around the corner.

Jürgen Kern from the German solar power company kernenergien, for instance, gave a most positive presentation based on the concept of concentrated solar power as part of a mix producing, energy, desalination and cooling.

Rick Stover of Energy Recovery Inc (ERI) told the conference that the PX Titan 1200 pressure-exchanger, designed for 16 in systems, is being tested at the Cabo San Lucascabo San Lucas in Mexico. ERI is working on two new PX devices, tentatively titled Comp PX and Optimised PX containing features developed for the Titan.

Exhibition newcomers
In the exhibition, too, there were new things to see. Victaulic was showing its couplings at a desalination exhibition for the first time in many a year.

Danfoss had a very smart-looking small domestic seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) unit intended for large villas or small hotels. The WaterCube 2, which uses custom-made Hydranautics membranes, takes up little more room than a fridge-freezer (500 x 550 mm x 950 mm high) and pumps out up to 5,300 L/d.

Also exhibiting enthusiastically was local RO-maker AquaTreat, whose technical manager, Yara Sharouri, told D&WR that the company, which started in 1995, now works in Jordan, Palestine and the UAE with plants up to 36,000 m³/d. They had also recently taken on their first BOT contract in the Jordan valley for a 2,400 m³/d plant.

Robin Wiseman, Editor D&WR