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Story | Research
12 November 2019

Water security: Qatar’s consumption among highest in the world


Experts discuss innovative ways to address water security at QSTP webinar event.

Qatar’s per capita use of water is one of the highest in the world – estimated at over 500 liters per person per day, according to experts who recently spoke on the topic of Water in a dry land: Can innovation drive water security? The discussion, which formed part of a series of events for Catalyzing the Future, held at Qatar Science & Technology Park, will air on November 13 at 8pm (Arabia Standard Time), on Science Mag.

As Qatar continues its journey of self-sustenance by growing its own food, building its own industries, hiring a larger workforce, the demands on this precious resource is growing rapidly. Local agriculture production has jumped by 400 percent since 2017, and the October population statistic stands at over 2.7 million. Despite being a dry land, Qatar is expected to keep up with the rising demands of water.

The webinar was pre-recorded at Qatar Science and Technology Park, and saw a diverse set of audience that included students, researchers, and professionals working in the field of water security.

“Qatar and other Gulf states will always be dependent on desalination as the prime solution for a drought-free situation; however, this is an energy intensive process. The question remains what other alternatives can we develop in the country,” said Dr. Samer Adham, Manager, ConocoPhillips Water Solutions, Qatar.

Although 75 percent of the Earth is covered in water, only 3 percent of the water is fresh water, and less than 1 percent of this water is accessible to us. “There is enough water in the world, but it is saline; therefore, desalination should be given the highest priority in research and development,” Dr. Ahmed Abdel-Wahab, Professor of Chemical Engineering, Texas A&M University at Qatar, a Qatar Foundation (QF) partner university, said.

“Countries that depend primarily on rain can also benefit from desalination as we experience the effects of climate change in our weather patterns. A major goal of water security is to be able to produce usable water in a cost-effective manner.”

Our religious texts urge us to manage water because it is such a precious resource.

Dr. Rachael McDonnell

While the physical amount of water available on our planet is known, it is also known that economic security can influence water security. “Although Qatar has a very small natural resource base, and because it is a wealthy country, it is able to generate water. Everybody in Qatar has water 24 hours a day, seven days a week, here. We don’t think of Qatar as being water insecure,” said Dr. Rachael McDonnell, Strategic Program Director for Water, Climate Change and Resilience, International Water Management Institute.

Dr. McDonnell also highlighted the advantages of generating water resourcefully in a way that can benefit the water-energy-food nexus. “Our religious texts urge us to manage water because it is such a precious resource. It is more of a mental rather than a technological barrier when it comes to treated waste water,” she said.

With the current geo-political situation, it has become imperative for us to look at ways in self-sustenance.

Dr. Huda Al-Sulaiti

“Instead of saying treated waste water is fit to be consumed directly, let’s suggest, as a first step that, treated waste water can be used to irrigate agricultural crops. This will mitigate the backlash from members of society that can surround this issue,” Abdel-Wahab said.

Large investments are being made in the research and development of desalination and other technologies that are not only being used for Qatar, but for the rest of the world. “A few international companies are interested to demonstrate their technologies in Qatar. If these technologies work in Qatar’s harsh environment, they will most likely work elsewhere in the world,” said Dr. Huda Al-Sulaiti, Director of the Water Sciences and Technology at Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, member of QF.

“With the current geo-political situation, it has become imperative for us to look at ways in self-sustenance. Before the blockade, we would import much of the livestock feed, but now we need to grow it within the country. And to grow this, we can’t use our reserves of ground water; we must use treated waste water. We must change the way we perceive and think about water,” she said.

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