Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Most Precious Resource in the GULF: Water

The UAE being one of the richest countries in the GULF, thanks to the oil, is also one of the countries that severely struggles from fresh water shortages. From year to year the water consumption is going higher and it takes more and more efforts to reach for the fresh water. The government spends billions of dirhams bearing the actual cost of water desalination and subsidizing the consumption. While average water consumption per person is one of the highest in the world, the UAE still does not recycle water on an individual level or allow septic tanks, despite its globally recognized technological leadership.

The results of several researches by Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency and Regulation and Supervision Bureau show that the underground waters being the main source (up to 79% in Abu Dhabi), have been significantly affected for the past 20 years and if we don’t do something about it we might face a catastrophe in the next 30 to 50 years.

Many governments implemented programs to stimulate people to use treated effluent for irrigation and preserve natural water resources. In the UAE the effluent is used for irrigation in parks, city landscape, golf courses and even for farming but the government cannot reach to all places. In areas where there is no sewage network people still use septic tanks and simply dump the sewage into the ground. Why not recycle it?

The use of septic tanks (which are not allowed all over the world) causes a double negative effect. Untreated sewage penetrates through the soil and pollutes the underground waters. People waste huge amounts of water that they could otherwise reuse with high benefits. If the average water consumption in the UAE (for the UAE Nationals) is 550 liters per person per day, the consumption in villas goes up to 1710 liters per person daily. In general, 70% of this precious desalinated potable water is used for watering the garden. Most people are still unaware that there are affordable technologies that allow for water recycling on their own villa or other property.

A successful example of solving this problem is through the installation of a small sewage treatment plant (STP) with capacity of 2 cubic meters per day in a private villa (6-8 people) in Bureirat, R.A.K. performed by Union Biotal L.L.C. With low electricity consumption (2,3 kW per day only) this STP is able to process all water used in the house into irrigation water for the garden. The calculations for individual villas in average show that within less than one year such STPs become cheaper than similar septic tanks and after 5-6 years they will cover the costs and start saving money on water bills and sewage discharge. The same calculations for villa compounds, communities, hotels and other residencies with bigger number of people make it even more efficient with full return of investments in 2-3 years. The main advantage of Biotal STP, author of technology – Dr. Alexandr Teterja, is that with very low operational cost it can effectively (without any bad odor) treat domestic sewage in small volumes from 2 up to 500 cubic meters per day and produce high quality effluent. And at the same time the technology allows use of domestic detergents without any harmful effect on biological process of treatment.

For the last 12 years Biotal STPs have been installed in 16 countries for individual houses, communities, villages, hotels, hospitals, schools, offices, administrative buildings, labor camps, petrol stations and other sites with domestic sewage systems.

In the UAE, there are a lot of remote areas not covered by the sewage network where sewage tankers cannot complete even one trip per day going from one village to another as they are too far from the sewage treatment plants. The government has to spend a lot of money on transportation of both portable water and sewage. Small STPs, however, can recycle sewage water right on site efficiently and economically.