According to a report by BNC Intelligence, approximately 48 percent of the world’s daily production of desalinated water is done in the regions of Middle East and North Africa. Desalination is defined as the process of removing salt and contaminants from sea water to produce fresh water. This infographic mentions some of the countries who invest the most heavily in the industry, as water stress continues to grow.
The 4th MENA Desalination Projects 2023 Report details how a total of $39.3 billion is currently being spent on desalination projects across the region, whether planned or already in progress. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are countries known to be the countries investing the most, with a total of $10.28 billion and $14.58 billion worth of projects, respectively. According to the U.S.-Saudi Council, as much as 60 percent of the Kingdom’s water came from desalination in 2019, the majority of which was produced by the government-run Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC).
As oil rich nations with access to sea water and the resources to invest, both countries have projects in the pipeline, with Saudi Arabia having $7.56 billion worth of projects currently in concept, design and tender, while the UAE has $7.88 billion worth of projects approaching, as reported by BNC Intelligence.
So the question arises, as droughts become more commonplace and the need to restock supplies more urgent, why other countries are not investing as much in desalination?
Firstly, some other countries are investing, at least to some degree. According to the Updated and Extended Survey of U.S. Municipal Desalination Plants, the United States had 167 plants in Florida, 52 in Texas and 58 in California as of 2018, and made an announcement in 2021that it would be investing $5 million in desalination technologies. Australia and the United Kingdom are also among other wealthy countries to own and use them, even though none of these to the same scale of the plants in countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Israel.
Right now, desalination technologies have major limitations though, such as the fact the plants are really expensive to build and use, requiring a huge amount of energy to run them. At the same time, they produce toxic chemicals and large amounts of waste brine which is harmful to marine life and the environment, as well as greenhouse gas emissions if they run on diesel.
Infographic by: statista