The GCC region is among the highest consumers of water in the world and is seeing a continual surge in demand, aligned with population boom, water management and consumption approaches, and steady socio-economic growth, according to a Orient Planet Research report.
The report - ‘Water Management and Sustainability in the Gulf Cooperation Council: Addressing Scarcity and Consumption in the Region - stated that freshwater supply shortage could be near approaching if the current trend of water consumption level in the region continues.
In addition to the GCC’s growing population and economic strength, low levels of water reuse and recycling are putting intense pressure on the region’s water industry.
The report draws on an industry study which predicts that the GCC’s future average consumption is expected to hit 33,733 million cubic meters by 2050. The region’s projected future storage is below the average consumption figure, at 25,855 million cubic meters, creating a need for an additional 77% of water for 30 years from now.
Desalination and wastewater treatment are among the GCC’s main water sources.
Around 57% of the world’s desalination plants are found in the GCC, as per a report by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, with more than 50% of the world’s total desalination output from the GCC states, making them among the world leaders in the field.
The combined desalination capacity of GCC countries is expected to see a 40% increase in the next five years. The process could cost from $1,000 to $2,000 per cubic metre to operate and maintain desalination plants ranges, the report stated.
In addition, it is energy-intensive and can contribute to environmental degradation.
Factoring in the risks, GCC governments have been seeking and implementing sustainable alternative sources of water to reduce their heavy reliance on desalination plants.
Commenting on the state of water consumption and management approaches in the region, managing director at Orient Planet Group, Nidal Abou Zaki, said: “There are more than 50 million inhabitants across the GCC today and the figures could climb to approximately 14 million by 2050.
"The water-intensive lifestyle in Gulf countries as well as the steady economic progress are going to further widen the demand-supply gap in the future. We expect to see the governments doubling their current efforts to catch up with the requirements of the region’s growing population.”