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Solar energy may hold key to water shortage

By a staff reporter / 2 February 2006

ABU DHABI — International experts have called for the use of solar energy to resolve the problem of water shortage in the region.

Winding up a two-day seminar on Sustainable GCC Environment and Water Resoruces (EWR 2006), the experts underlined the need to chalk out strategies to address the acute water problem in the region as well as ways of protecting the environment.

The event was jointly organised by the Research Affairs department at UAE University and the Japan Cooperation Center for Petroleum (JCCP).

On the water issue, they said the region is rich in solar energy with high intensity so that solar desalination may be an ideal solution.

Solar distillation is the simplest desalination technique, compared to others such as multiple-effect distillation, multi-stage flash, reverse osmosis, electro-dialysis and biological treatment. A basin-type solar still is the most popular method of solar distillation but has undergone very little advances due to low distillate productivity and the difficulty of rapid and easy removal of salt accumulation in the basin.

More studies are needed to overcome design problems and efficiency, experts said adding, other techniques such as "tubular solar still" should be looked at.

They also called for soil moisture enhancement, use of oily treated water in agriculture, soil solarisation for direct thermal inactivation of soil borne-pests and utilisation of adopted indigenous forage species to combat drought during vegetative and reproductive stages in the field.

At the smaller level of Abu Dhabi emirate, the experts said the solution to most of the issues and problems related to the water problem is the requirement for the establishment of a central, independent authority for water management in Abu Dhabi emirate.

Groundwater recharge projects are considered necessary for meeting present and future demands on limited water resources. Continued growth in arid regions will require the development of a sustainable water supply, which will no doubt include improvement of our ability to store and utilise reclaimed wastewater, the participants suggested.

They also suggested solutions to the problem of groundwater contamination and management as well as the issues of concern pertaining to environmental impact assessment and risk management of polluted sites and sustainable development.

On the issue of global warming, they expressed hope that industrial countries will effectively introduce measures for the rationalisation of energy use and the production of environmentally compatible products by oil factories throughout the world in order to achieve the current goal of reducing greenhouse gases.

They also urged individual initiatives from GCC member states. Individual initiatives are very important if the Gulf region is to become a strong and recognisable entity in the development of sustainable GCC environment and water resources, they said. These initiatives can be better vectorised by the creation of identifiable units which can act to the common advantage of the environment and water resources communities in this region. These can include the creation of a research fund, they added.
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