People, Environment

Rise in Desalination Projects Threatens Persian Gulf

Rise in Desalination Projects Threatens Persian GulfRise in Desalination Projects Threatens Persian Gulf

If desalination of Iran’s southern waters continues, the Persian Gulf will turn into a vast salt plain dotted with hills in 30 years, according to a senior scientist at the Research Institute for Oceanography and Atmospheric Sciences at Shiraz University.

“If we and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf carry on pumping water from the water body at the current pace, the Persian Gulf will soon dry up,” Mohammad Jafar Nazemosadat, director of the research institute, told Mehr News Agency.

According to the Scientific American, the proliferation of desalinization plants around the world‚ some 13,000 already supply freshwater in 120 nations, primarily in the Middle East, North Africa and Caribbean, is both a reaction to and one of the many contributors to global warming.

The majority of the world’s desalination plants are located in the Middle East and their numbers are likely to see a further increase given the region’s increasing water consumption and general water scarcity. The Persian Gulf Arab states’ demand for desalinating water has increased at a rate of 9-11% in recent years, according to Frost & Sullivan.

According to Global Water Intelligence, spending on desal projects will increase to $3.3 billion per year by 2016, representing an increase of 191% over today’s spending. The global desalination market will annually exceed $16.6 billion.

The relationship between desalinization and climate change is complex, but the general consensus is that the process of desalinization burns up more fossil fuels than sourcing the equivalent amount of water from freshwater bodies. This helps strengthen the greenhouse effect and increase the temperature of the area.

Beyond the links to climate problems, according to the US’s Environmental Protection Agency, water intake structures cause adverse environmental impact by sucking fish and shellfish or their eggs into an industrial system.

Furthermore, for every liter of freshwater produced, another liter of doubly concentrated saltwater must be released in marine ecosystems, which might result in extinction of some species.

Nazemosadat urged the Persian Gulf littoral states to more seriously consider the situation and manage their water consumption more judiciously.  

The world’s largest desalination project is Ras Al-Khair in Saudi Arabia, which produced 1,025,000 cubic meters of water per day in 2014. Nazemosadat maintained that the survival of Arab states is directly dependent on the Persian Gulf.

“So at least for their own sake, they should rethink what they’re doing and how they’re doing it,” he added.