HE Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD & CEO of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), discussed a number of factors that ensure water security. The most notable of these being supporting leadership; sustainable water resource management and the development of strategies and policies to ensure their long-term sustainability, taking into account population growth; rapid urbanisation, and climate change. Al Tayer also talked about developing innovative solutions that benefit from remarkable technological developments; integrating clean energy and water production; rationalising consumption to conserve resources; and engaging the private sector in developing innovations to improve both the water supply and the efficiency and quality of water services.
Al Tayer discussed these points in his presentation on the Future of Global Water Security and Sustainability, on the 2nd day of the 7th World Government Summit. He added that the World Government Summit contributed to strengthening the UAE’s position as a global hub for exchanging best global experiences and practices. This supports the vision of the wise leadership, who are committed to the welfare of all citizens, residents and visitors, as well as providing the security and stability according to the highest international standards, supporting the UAE Centennial 2071 to make the UAE the best country in the world.
“We congratulate Dubai on the Eight Principles of Governance and the 50-Year Charter launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. We pledge to our wise leadership to abide by them in every way to build the future of Dubai. His Highness has outlined for us the road map to achieve this vision,” said Al Tayer.
Al Tayer said that water-related crises have been among the top five global threats in terms of impacts on Earth over the past few years, noting that the 6th goal of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) 2030 is to ‘ensure access to water and sanitation for all.’ Water is at the centre of economic and social development, and its security is among the top global risks. Population and economic growth have placed unprecedented pressures on water, where its scarcity affects over 40% of the world’s population.
“Over 2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, and the world is expected to face a 40% shortfall between forecast demand and available water supply by 2030. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is the most water-scarce region in the world, with over 60% of the region’s population living in areas with high or very high surface water stress, compared with a global average of about 35%,” added Al Tayer.
Al Tayer noted that managing water security in the region requires strategies and policies to increase the efficiency of water use, and integrate water resource management to ensure its sustainability. This should take into account the available resources, whether surface water, groundwater, or desalinated water. Water should also be fully recycled using available technologies. Smart metering improves the accuracy of billing. They can also evaluate consumption, and inform users about their own consumption. In addition, smart meters also help water service providers to identify leaks, reduce their operating costs, and communicate the value of water to users.
“The Arabian Gulf region, including the UAE, is one of the regions that face challenges in rainfall. The UAE produces 14% of the world’s desalinated water, and the average per capita water consumption in the UAE is 360 litres a day, which is one of the world’s highest. Water security is a national security issue for the UAE, and is one of the seven strategic sectors of the National Innovation Strategy, and one of the main pillars of UAE Vision 2021. The UAE Water Security Strategy 2036 aims to ensure sustainable access to water during both normal and emergency conditions, but in the UAE, as we have learned from our wise leadership, we transform challenges into opportunities. As HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum once observed, “Challenges and obstacles are not the end of the road, but a pathway to new and creative solutions.”
“In Dubai, we have a comprehensive approach to ensure the sustainability of water resources in line with the Dubai Integrated Water Resource Management Strategy, which focuses on enhancing water resources, rationalising water consumption, and using cutting-edge technologies and innovative solutions to reduce water consumption by 30% by 2030. Dubai has the necessary legislation to ensure water security. For example, groundwater consumption has been reduced from 100% in the 1980’s to 0.4% currently for drinking water.”
Al Tayer said that in 1992, DEWA’s installed capacity was 65 million imperial gallons per day (MIGD). Today, to keep pace with Dubai’s growing demand and prosperity, DEWA’s installed capacity is 470 MIGD.
“In Dubai, we adopt three pillars to ensure the sustainability of water production. These are based on using clean solar energy to desalinate seawater using the latest Reverse Osmosis (RO) technologies. Excess water is stored in aquifers and pumped back into the water network when needed. This integrated innovative model protects the environment and is a sustainable economic solution. It also emphasises Dubai’s ability to anticipate and shape the future. We are currently desalinating water in Dubai through Combined Cycle Co-Generation, which is efficient and depends on using waste heat created by the production of electricity for water desalination. In order to ensure continuous improvement, DEWA conducted a study to improve water production, and analysed the economic and technical feasibility of replacing Multi-Stage Flash (MSF) desalination technology with solar-powered Reverse Osmosis (RO) to produce water using cheap and clean energy. By 2030, Reverse Osmosis will help expand our production capacity to 305 million gallons of desalinated water per day, increasing desalinated water production capacity to 750 million gallons of desalinated water per day by 2030,” said Al Tayer.
Al Tayer said that DEWA adopts a clear strategy to ensure that by 2030, 100% of desalinated water will be produced by a mix of clean energy that uses both renewable energy and waste heat. This will allow Dubai to exceed global targets for using clean energy to desalinate water. Increasing the operational efficiency in decoupling desalination from electricity production will save around AED 13 billion and reduce 43 million tonnes of carbon emissions by 2030. In order to achieve further integration, DEWA launched a geophysical and hydro-geological field study and digging exploration and monitoring wells to study the possibility of injecting and storing desalinated water from solar-powered reverse osmosis plants into aquifers and pumping it back into the water network when needed.
“Currently, DEWA is building a subterranean water basin to store 6,000 million gallons of water that can be retrieved when needed. This will provide the Emirate with a strategic reserve of over 50 million gallons of water per day in emergencies, while ensuring the quality of the stored water remains unaffected by external factors. These two integrated initiatives have managed to raise the level of efficiency and effectiveness in the production of water by adopting the latest techniques to achieve sustainable development. They have also achieved substantial savings without affecting the quantity or quality of the water. These initiatives will help to integrate the considerable electricity generated by solar power,” added Al Tayer.
“In line with the directives of the wise leadership, DEWA seeks to make Dubai a global model for clean energy and green economy by adopting the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and disruptive technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), energy storage, blockchain, and the Internet of Things (IoT) among others.”
Al Tayer said that DEWA’s R&D investments amount to AED 500 million until 2020. The R&D Centre at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the largest single-site solar project in the world, focuses on four major operational areas: electricity generation from solar energy, integration of smart grids, energy efficiency, and water. Through Digital DEWA, the digital arm of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, DEWA is implementing a pioneering model for utilities that is based on innovation in renewable energy, energy storage, artificial intelligence, and digital services. DEWA will disrupt the entire business of public utilities by becoming the world’s first digital utility to use autonomous systems for renewable energy and storage as well as expanding the use of artificial intelligence and digital services.
DEWA’s efforts in R&D and use of the latest global technologies reduced losses in its water transmission and distribution networks from 42% in 1988 to 6.5%. This is one of the lowest worldwide, compared to 15% in North America. As part of its efforts to provide state-of-the-art infrastructure and manage all facilities and services in the Emirate through smart and connected systems to make Dubai the smartest and happiest city in the world, DEWA is working to convert all water meters across Dubai to smart meters by year’s end. In addition to their role in the smart transformation, operational efficiency, and reducing water losses, smart meters provide many benefits to customers and help them monitor their consumption accurately and instantaneously, anytime, anywhere. This contributes to promoting the responsible use and sustainability of resources. DEWA’s advanced smart water meter infrastructure has so far identified 37,000 water leakage cases, 5,000 faults, and 1,700 high-demand cases. This reduced water losses as well as made considerable financial savings. The High Water Usage Alert system by DEWA’s Green Dubai helps customers to discover possible leaks in their water connections. It sends instant notifications to the customer if there is any unusual increase in usage, so they can check their internal plumbing and repair any leaks. This helps reduce incurred costs by limiting water wastage. Throughout the year, DEWA will launch a comprehensive set of conservation initiatives, programmes, and awards make electricity and water conservation a way of life in the residential, commercial, industrial, government, and educational sectors. Between 2009 and 2017, DEWA’s customers saved over 1.677 terawatt hours of electricity and 6.66 billion gallons of water: totalling over AED 1 billion. The savings offsetted around 900,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. DEWA’s efforts helped reduce water consumption by 27% in the residential sector, 29% in the commercial sector, 29% in the industrial sector, 24% in educational institutions, and 21% in government and semi-governmental organisations.
“His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum once said, “Every challenge is an opportunity for learning, a chance to test our capabilities and knowledge.” In Dubai, we have learnt important lessons from the challenges we faced over the past years in our journey towards excellence. This contributed to DEWA achieving 95% in the 2018 Happiness Index for large government entities in Dubai. We are part of a government that wants to make people happy,” said Al Tayer.
Al Tayer concluded by listing some of the lessons learned related to water security during DEWA’s journey. These include support of the leadership; the sustainable water resource management and the development and implementing of strategies and policies to ensure their long-term sustainability, taking into account the population growth, rapid urbanisation, and climate change factors; developing innovative solutions that benefit from remarkable technological developments; integration of clean energy and water production; the rational consumption to conserve resources; and engaging the private sector in developing innovations to enhance water supply and improve the efficiency and quality of water services.