IDA to form Gulf desalination environmental task force

The International Desalination Association (IDA) plans to form a task force to explore the environmental effects of desalination on the Arabian Gulf and recommend strategies to mitigate potential impacts.

Now being formed, the task force will convene at the upcoming IDA World Congress on Desalination & Water Reuse, which takes place in Dubai on 7-12 November 2009. It will be composed of leading scientists, environmental experts, government representatives and members of the desalination community.

In a related development, IDA also announced on 1 October 2009 plans to hold a symposium on Desalination & the Environment in 2010 in the Gulf region. The task force’s findings and recommendations will be presented during this event. Details about the date and location will be released soon.

According to Patricia Burke, secretary-general of the IDA, the task force is part of a larger initiative that IDA is organizing to examine best practices, as well as available and future technologies, to address environmentally-related aspects of desalination such as energy consumption, safeguarding of marine life, and concentrate disposal, and promote ways to mitigate potential environmental impacts of desalination around the world.

“In many regions, including the Arabian Gulf, desalination is the only way to supply fresh, clean water to growing populations and economies. IDA is committed to environmentally responsible practices in desalination, which has become an increasingly important part of the solution to water issues around the world,” she said.

Desalination is especially important to countries on the Arabian Gulf. Together, these countries, including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Iraq and Iran, account for approximately 40% of the world’s desalination capacity.

For example, IDA estimates that 95% of Dubai’s water supply is produced through desalination. At the same time, the unique configuration of the Arabian Gulf – a semi-closed water body with limited fresh water inflow from rivers – requires diligent attention to potential effects of the process.

“Seawater desalination is the only way to provide adequate fresh water to the Gulf region. It is not going to go away. Therefore, we need to work together with colleagues from science, industry and government to study its potential effects and recommend methods to utilize the technology in the most environmentally responsible manner,” Burke noted.