EDS urges knowledge sharing at Rome conference

The European Desalination Society (EDS) conference opened on Monday (23 May) with calls for greater collaboration among desalination professionals to address the rising gap between water supply and demand worldwide.

The biennial event was welcomed in Rome by a letter from Pope Francis, which said: “His Holiness is especially appreciative of your efforts to discuss ways in which technology and science improve the quality and accessibility of water throughout the world. For access to safe drinking water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights.”

Greeting delegates, Ursula Annunziata, EDS president and sales director at Genesys International, quoted Water Resources Institute figures that demand for water globally is expected to rise by 40 percent in the next 20 years. “The aim of this event is to share knowledge and to foster collaboration between professionals,” said Annunziata. The EDS conference will host Water Across Borders, a joint session between desalination professionals from Israel, Jordan, and Palestine, to address water stress in the region; and will also welcome delegates from North Korea.

Speaking of water scarcity in the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates), Dr Abdulmajeed Ali Alawadhi, advisory board member of the Water Sciences and Technology Association of Bahrain, said that in 2015 the GCC Secretariat General signed off a landmark programme of inter-state cooperation known as the Unified Water Sector Strategy and Implementation Plan up to 2035 for GCC Member States. “The water situation in our region is continuing to get worse with current consumption. Now, this unified GCC strategy will need to be translated at country level,” said Ali Alawadhi.

Professor Diego Barba of University Bio-Medico of Rome, echoed concerns about water scarcity, and warned that control of water resources by large, multi-national corporations could conceivably become “a major source of conflict in this century. In sub-Saharan Africa, about 330 million people now have virtually no access to drinking water, and 80 per cent live in decentralised areas. It is essential to introduce technological solutions to cope with this dramatic shortage of water, with an emphasis on low-tech for small and rural communities,” he said.