H2ome

How to Convert Your Garage to Living Space

A garage conversion can add value to your property as well as additional living space to your home. We take a look at what to consider when converting your garage

A well-thought out garage conversion can add as much as 10% to the value of your home. If you would be wise enough, you would know what to do with your Wichita garage door after your conversion. Expect to pay between £5,000 and £8,000 for converting the average single garage, making it one of the most cost effective ways to improve your property’s resale value.  An additional benefit is increased living space without incurring the costs and inconveniences of moving house.

Design and Space Planning

At five meters long by two and a half meters wide, the internal space of most garages is longer and thinner than most rooms in a house. To achieve a more natural shape, consider using stud or block walling to convert the garage into two rooms, typically a toilet, shower or storeroom.

Consider also how you plan to use the rooms, and either make some drawings yourself or get some made.

Building Regulations

The change of use from a garage to a habitable room will mean compliance with Building Regulations, including delivery of a building notice to your council. Building Regulations apply to:

moisture proofing

ventilation

insulation

fireproofing

escape routes

structural soundness.

As a result, almost any design decision must take them into account. For example:

When you divide up the garage, a new room is created. This room is subject to a set of Building Regulations that require an escape route and ventilation separate from the main room.

Alterations such as an infill wall replacing the original garage door will also be subject to Building Regulations concerning the foundations.

The building inspector will want to visually inspect windows, doors, fireproofing and foundations before he or she gives a certificate of completion.

Once the building inspector is satisfied, the completion certificate should follow within 28 days. It is often much sooner.

Insulation and Damp-Proofing

Insulation:

In pitched roofs, go for two layers of 150mm glass fibre quilt, one between the joists, another over as usual.

Flat roofs tend to need one layer between of rigid PUR insulation board and another below — the space in between flat roof joists however can’t be entirely filled. A 50mm air gap must be left above for ventilation. The second layer underneath will drop the ceiling height a bit. Typically 150mm deep flat roof joists will receive 100mm of PUR insulation between the joists and 50mm beneath them.

As with floors, if the ceiling height is an issue (due to smaller than 150mm deep joists allowing less insulation between) multi-foil laminate insulants can help reduce the thickness of the under layer.

Damp-proofing: The concrete floor may or may not have been cast over a damp-proof membrane (DPM). In recent decades, integral garages would normally have included a DPM and certainly the walls would have a damp-proof course (DPC). But without plaster and screed finishing to conceal them, the two elements would not meet as they would in the house. Protecting the concrete floor with a polythene or paint-on DPM and dressing it up under your new finishing to the DPC layer will ensure that damp is not a problem.

Plumbing and Wiring

Make a thorough survey of the plumbing and wiring in the house and garage. Any wall you plan to pierce for doorways or windows needs special attention. Locate the main outflows for water, and, if you plan to install a toilet, the soil outflow.

Check the garage for wiring in the walls and ceiling. Rewiring the garage for lights and electric radiators will place additional strain on the household mains, which is fused at 100 amps. An additional mains supply can be installed, with the cost varying from £500 to £20,000. This will also require the installation of a separate consumer unit.

Otherwise, locate the garage on the current consumer unit. If it doesn’t have its own miniature circuit breaker (MCB), consider replacing the consumer unit or upgrading it. If the garage is to be another habitable room in your house, its own MCB is probably enough. Consider adding at least one new 20-amp circuit.

Wiring to a detached garage can be run through an underground conduit. If it is to be a separate dwelling, a new connection may be required, depending on likely power usage; consult an electrician.

Tips and Tricks

Here are some practical information that can be useful to you for all your renovation projects, from a simple change of counter to the expansion of your house.

BATHROOM

Here are some renovation tips that can make a difference:

-To stay within a reasonable budget, respect water arrivals and evacuations (expensive plumbing costs).

-A new floor followed by a bit of paint and voila!

-Changing the handles on furniture can rejuvenate it. If the budget allows it, change its doors without touching the cabinets.

-Refresh your accessories (soap dish, trash can, towel handler, candles etc.)

-The lighting makes all the difference! (Hint: add a dimmer)

-Be creative: want something you’ve never had? Do something you’ve never done! Add a bright color (on walls or in your accessories), a mirror on the wall above the bath, beautiful frames, etc.

KITCHEN

Here are some questions, answers and tips that will guide you in the right direction and help you save some time.

  1. Make a list

Why do you want to renovate your kitchen? Want more storage? Modernize the style? What elements would you change : cabinets, countertops, appliances, flooring, backsplash ? Do you want to add an island (central unit)? Make a list of everything you want to renovate in order of importance. Thus, if along the process you need to eliminate some options to stay within your budget, you can eliminate those from the bottom of your list!

  1. Budget

This is the basis of everything. It will let you know what you will be able to achieve on your list and allows you to determine the amount that will be allocated to each task. Ex: $ 7,000 for kitchen cabinets, $ 2,500 for household, $ 400 for paint, etc. (It’s possible that you don’t know the cost of some of the work, please refer to the 3rd paragraph.) Remember to allocate 80% of the original budget for the entire project. This way, if changes or unforeseen should occur, you can stay within your budget.

Getting a plan and a quote allows you to avoid wasted time and costly changes. With a plan created by a kitchen designer, coordination of job shifts is set in advance which greatly reduces time and expenses. The money invested in a plan and an estimate is never lost because you can avoid costly surprises and changes that may affect your budget.

  1. Materials

Be ready: shop for your materials (furniture, fixtures, colors, etc.) by flipping through magazines such as DécorMag, JeDécore. This will help you avoid making choices in a hurry and will ensure you a look you’ll love.

  1. What to provide

Obtaining a permit from the city (each city has different criteria)

Space for the installation of a temporary kitchen

The ability to move elsewhere if you need to achieve major renovations

Inform your neighbours of future work (noise, waste container, etc.)

Opportunities aplenty

Sasidhar Chidanamarri of Frost & Sullivan sums up the key trends in the region’s water and wastewater sector in 2012

As economic development gains speeds up, Middle East governments are moving aggressively towards promotingwater conservation/storage, wastewater recycle and reuse and desalination of sea water in order to meet the burgeoning water consumption needs of all sectors. The region is also investing heavily in water and sewerage networks to ensure 100% connectivity to the growing population.

The region is at a very sensitive stage where it is trying hard to balance the three Es, namely Energy, Environment and Economy. This strenuous act is shoring up business opportunities in the environment sector. On the energy side, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is expected to add more than 140,000 MW of new power generation capacity in the next decade. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) will alone invest $80-100 billion in adding 75,000 MW by the year 2020 from current capacity of 46,000 MW.

Economically, the GCC region is making brisk developments and is anticipated to be a $2 trillion economy by the year 2020, supplying 25% of the world’s oil. Contribution of non-oil sectors to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is expected to go up from 35% in 2010 to 40% in the year 2020, as economic diversification gains pace.

Such rapid growth is undoubtedly straining the already scarce and stretched water resources in the region. Water requirements by all the three sectors, namely, agriculture, domestic and industrial are set to grow from 35 billion m3 to 49 billion m3 by 2020 in the GCC. Whilst, the sewage collection rate in the GCC is 52% of the total sewage generated; however, contribution of recycled water to total water withdrawal is between four to eight per cent. All the GCC countries are water-stressed with the per capita renewable water resources much below the critical level of 1,000 m3/day. Over drafting of groundwater aquifers has led to deterioration of groundwater quality, further constraining groundwater supplies.

The GCC region mirrors the trend followed by emerging economies like India, Brazil, and China where up to 80% of the water withdrawals are meant for agricultural purposes. However, in case of developed economies like the United States, industries consume the majority. The industrial growth in the GCC region, though aimed at de-risking the economy from frequent shocks of Oil & Gas sector, is expected to unfold opportunities for advanced water and wastewater treatment solutions.

Urbanisation is another mega trend severely impacting the already low levels of available water resources pegged at 1,200 m3/per person/ per year as against the global average being 7,000 m3/per person/ per year. In the Middle East, urbanisation levels are about 50%, but the urban growth rate is about four per cent. Urbanisation levels are expected to touch 70% by the year 2020. Hence, the real challenge lies in continuing economic growth, eradicating poverty and preserving the environment.

Provision of water and wastewater treatment infrastructure is vital to make the Middle Eastern cities viable, liveable and competitive, in order to attract foreign investment, increase employment and economic growth. Investments in clean technologies and environment friendly practices through the implementation of advanced treatment technologies not only solve water issues but also promote green growth and sustainable living.

The region is facing an uphill task of meeting the growing demand for water by industries, improving water supply and sanitation to the growing population, planning to prevent depletion and contamination along with optimisation of available water resources. In its path towards meeting these challenges, opportunities are unfolding for the water sector particularly in the areas of recycle and reuse technologies such as Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) and sea water desalination.

The Water and Wastewater Treatment Equipment Market in the GCC region is pegged at $1.3 billion in 2011 and is expected to reach $2 billion by 2016 growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of seven per cent over the next five years. Desalination is expected to continue playing a critical role in the overall water supply in the MENA region. Across the Middle East, a total of 39 million m3/day of desalination capacity is expected to be added between 2010 and 2020. This translates into an approximate investment of $45-50 billion in the desalination sector. Frost & Sullivan, in a recent study, estimated the MBR market in the Middle East at $120 Million in 2010. The MBR market represents just nine per cent of the overall treatment equipment market, which is pegged at $1.3 billion. The MBR market is slated to grow at CAGR of 17.7%, most of the revenue will again be anchored by the GCC region.

THE CEO’s PERSPECTIVE

Technological Impact

In desalination, Reverse Osmosis (RO) technology is expected to garner greater market share than thermal technologies, especially in the small-capacity plants market. With technical advancements resulting from various researches, RO is gaining importance in the market for its lower energy consumption. The GCC region is also witnessing newer developments such as RO or Multi Stage Flash (MSF) hybrid desalination plants that offer significant advantages such as small seawater intake facilities, optimisation of feed water temperature of the RO plant by using cooling water from the heat rejection section of the MSF, extension of the life of the membranes and low water production cost. Another technological trend likely to gain a foothold in the GCC region is the solar-powered desalination market. Solar energy received on each square kilometre of the desert land is sufficient to desalinate an amount of 165,000 m3/day. Realising that desalination consumes vast amounts of energy, implementing solar technologies in desalination would lead eventually to cost reduction, lower operating expenses (OPEX) over the concession period and help earn carbon credits. These advantages translate to lower water tariffs for consumers in the long term.

The GCC region is witnessing installations of large capacity MBR plants. Muscat in Oman, has recently commissioned a 76,000 m3/ day MBR plant that treats sewage to low levels of suspended solids, biological oxygen demand (BOD) and colour, for use in irrigation and other industrial applications. These developments are revealing signs of a more expansive market for MBRs in the Middle East.

Global opportunities

The ageing water and wastewater infrastructure of the developed regions coupled by the increasing stringent legislation will catalyse replacement opportunities as well as advanced and efficient treatment systems. Rapid increase in populations both in developing countries as well as major urban centres will influence major investments for water and wastewater treatment needs. Growth markets include the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and APAC, which are characterised by high population density lacking adequate drinking water and sanitation.

The cumulative global desalination capacity was 68 million m3/day in 2010. The Middle East and North Africa region contributes to more than 50% of the world’s desalination capacity. Saudi Arabia is now the largest producer of desalinated water in the world, accounting for 17% of the global desalinated water capacity, followed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at 14%. The world’s desalination capacity is expected to double from 60 million m3/day to 120 million m3/day by 2020. Much of the expansion is anticipated to occur in the Middle East.

On a global scale, Middle East’s MBR market represents 20% of the global MBR market. It has the potential to grow at a remarkable rate of 18% CAGR in the next five years as compared to the global CAGR of 13.9% over the next four years.

Best practices

The GCC is a market where most end users are now seeking performance over price. As opportunities in recycle and reuse grow, the market is seeking innovation and newer technologies like MBR to treat and reuse wastewater. The growing numbers of Build, Operate, Transfer (BOT) projects indicate an increase in adoption of energy-efficient systems. The use of energy recovery devices (ERDs) and variable frequency drives (VFDs) are making RO desalination a cost-effective and energy efficient solution. With growing number of BOT projects in the region, industry participants must also have the capability to finance the projects. The ability to secure funding will play a key role in the market. Apart from the above, improved project management skills are also being sought to prevent time and cost overruns. Services market is another area of great opportunity where end users, industries in particular, are outsourcing the operations and maintenance (O&M) of water and effluent treatment plants so that they can focus on their core competencies.

End-user Perspective

Municipalities form the major chunk of end users for water and wastewater treatment equipment. In order to augment the water and wastewater infrastructure, governments of Middle East countries are using Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) wherein the risks are shared optimally between the public and private sector for sea water desalination. There is also a need for institutional capacity building such as dedicated agencies, availability of sufficient skilled staff and detailed policy planning. Most importantly, the private sector has to ensure efficient delivery of services over the concession period without unreasonable hikes in water tariffs. Both Public and Private sectors have to bear in mind that water is still considered a “free” resource in most of the developing nations. In order to bring improvements in efficiency and quality of service, the PPPs representing huge stakes for both private and public sector agencies have to be a mutually rewarding.

The Commercial segment has driven the demand for MBR systems, mainly on account of urbanisation and development of the real estate sector in the MENA region. Oil & Gas sector has also been at the forefront in developing and adopting advanced treatment systems for the wastewater treatment.

Competitive analysis

The competition is intense in less technologically intensive water treatment systems. When it comes to complex systems like MBR and desalination, the market is concentrated in the hands of few players of global repute. However, the competitive landscape in MBR and desalination is changing with the entry of new participants from regions like India, Asia Pacific and China. The competition for components such as membranes is also increasing due to new entrants from China. However, as manufacturing quality standards for systems and discharge standards for effluent become stringent, players with the capability to treat multicomplex contaminants are certainly going to have an advantage over other low-cost manufacturers.

Strategic outlook for the year 2012

It is widely known, and fully documented, that the Middle East, despite the severe water crisis, has been at the vanguard of embracing new technologies. Whether it is the new eco-friendly solar powered desalination plants or forward osmosis desalination or the large capacity MBR systems, the region is making maximum attempts to shore up infrastructure to tide over the water scarcity issue. The region holds significant potential for industry participants mulling a foray into the development of water and wastewater infrastructure including desalination, water and wastewater treatment, water transmission, and wastewater collection network. The Middle East region has the potential to drive the market for membrane-based systems such as reverse osmosis, MBR and ultra-filtration (UF) on the treatment side. Additionally, the Middle Eastern countries are keen to allow the private sector to tackle critical water and wastewater issues. In its quest for sustainable and green growth, the region is expected to be the testing ground for advanced and newer treatment technologies.

 (The author is Industry Manager, Environmental and Building Technologies Practice, Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, Frost & Sullivan)

Rethinking landscapes

Nico Berdellé on how the desert can be transformed into a life supporting system

Every landscape provides unique water services. Landscape architecture in the MENA region could fulfil the purpose of recreating water services according to natural models. In combination with other scientific disciplines like geological and hydrological engineering and also mechanical and civil engineering, the art of landscaping could be reconsidered for the installation of Life Support Systems (LSS).

In a region with dying agriculture, no forestry and very little wildlife, there is much to gain and little to lose by rethinking the landscape. The Arabian subcontinent offers unlimited space and diversity of eco-topes to choose from. Vast regions are only a few metres above sea level making them ideal for seawater farming. Others regions are largely mountainous, with little vegetation, constituting extensive watersheds. The Rub Al Khali desert has countless salt flats that are primed basins for inland mariculture (seawater farming). The surface groundwater makes them waterproof at the bottom. Further, the mixing of hyper-saline groundwater with the seawater will not matter because the seawater available in the Gulf is metahaline, having reached 47ppt salinity and still rising (brine is considered to start at 50ppt). In general, soils in Arabia are rich in minerals.

Most important, solar irradiation is an untapped treasure which could enable generation of freshwater with low temperature desalination (LTD). Even without further technology, like boiling point reduction, an annual water column of 1,800 – 3,600mm could be gained by evaporation, which is the simplest form of desalination and the solution that planet earth operates on. The numbers are derived from daily evaporation rates of five to 10mm.

Salt flats could be used as basins for inland mariculture. Dunes would be “locked down” with waterworks greenhouses

The accrued water vapour can used in two different ways: first inside a greenhouse, which is small scale but comes equipped with closed cycles offering unlimited water supply. The humid air is squeezed out, like a sponge, to gain the fresh water and to start the cycle. Second, it could serve open air as by-product of large-scale inland mariculture, which would result in a more temperate micro climate. The water vapour will not be available for reuse in this version unless one is thinking in terms of Terraforming, which is a real process, but on a four-dimensional scale and of a size which could be a disincentive to investors.

Of course there are several challenges to such architectural landscaping projects. First, salinity levels of seawater rise when deployed for seawater farming. The conduct of the water in open canals and the very large size of the farming areas cause a long exposure to the sun, which binds the endeavour to the shore. Our calculations show that a maximum of 20% of the water transported 100 kilometres inland evaporates under worst conditions.

If the recipient greenhouse or mariculture is further inland, the water must be pumped. The energy for it is not significant, especially coming from the Arabian Gulf, because the ascending slope inland is low. But building pipelines, especially huge ones required for mariculture in the salt flats, is all the more expensive. Open canals are more demanding when it comes to maintenance, unless they are inside the greenhouse utilities.

Salinity levels of the two Gulfs are too high to permit increase in discharge of brine. If the aim is ecological and long-term economic development, the saltwater must be evaporated entirely (open pond evaporation). This demands a large area, which pushes the operation further inland and brings us back again, to the cost of laying pipelines.

The next challenge is the construction of a greenhouse, or superstructure. It must be able to withstand strong winds and take care of sand deposits, some of which can get very heavy. At the same time, the opacity of the structure must be averted to keep sufficient solar energy coming in. The greenhouse must not only cover an acre or two, but an entire landscape. Only the most economic type of construction can be the solution. In the case of seawater farming, there are also various parameters in the fields of fish breeding, fish food growing and breeding, climate, hydrology, technology and logistics that have to be taken care of.

These are but a few areas of interest that were solved in a process of Multi-disciplinary engineering (MDE) covering 145 scientific areas. All are part of the finished set of models developed by TS Prototype Creation. The ?brick wall’ of location, pipeline building and pumping cost could be solved through the strategy of subdividing into functional elements, mixing with different solution and reassembling to a flexible and adaptable strategy.

Systems integration

The entire concept relies on a series of inventions that emerged out of the broad linkage of the divergent areas of science and technology modelled for the IBTS (Integrated Biotectural System). At the same time, these ideas do not add up if considered from a single perspective. For the architect, building a greenhouse (in the desert) may not make sense. For the developmental planner, it is a book with Seven Seals because the master plan relies on natural sciences, technology and new probabilities in construction engineering. The mechanical engineer will not get the idea of a machine that works with water, soil, the climate and other natural assets. Neither modern faculties nor the experiences collected during professional careers ?inside the system’ produce generic scientists equipped to understand the polystructure of such concepts.

Mangroves in the Everglades thrive on saline water with up to 60ppt (1). Black and white mangroves still grow above 90ppt (2)

However, if looked at in the right context, it is not difficult. If we look at the efficiency of tropical rainforest biomes, as an example, the highest degree of efficiency is achieved by the integration of cycles and their functions. Viewing a simple leaf as energy provider will not convince the energy expert because photosynthesis operates on low efficiencies of around three to six per cent of total solar radiation. But looking at the cooling effect, so powerful that entire landscapes receive temperatures 20°C lower as well as the evaporated fresh water that amounts up to 4000mm of rain in the Amazonian rainforest, things looks different. In addition, the leaves provide oxygen, shade, beauty, nutrition, fodder and medicine. This way of integration is superior to the high-tech or modern methods that are a misuse of nature. Employing the patterns of nature without falling for pointless mimicry is a challenging task.

The elements

A suitable, bionic water management for desert regions includes water preservation, seawater use (not only for seawater farming), solar desalination, atmospheric water generation (AWG), storage and controlling the flows of virtual water. All of these can be covered by an MDE landscaping process:

First and foremost, a paradigm shift between provision and preservation has to be traversed. There is sufficient water anywhere in the MENA region because any household, factory, or greenhouse can be equipped with closed water cycles or the more simple open water cycles that show no deficit in the inflow/outflow balance. Just like the Amazon rain forest, which generates its own rain and rivers, we have, on a micro scale, the Biosphere 2. The required water for operation is introduced in the form of a onetime charge. If evaporative desalination is the charging process and complete evaporation is achieved, then the landscaping development will not hit any physical or natural limit.

Mangrove underwater

Furthermore, engineered desert-reclamation or desert-greening will gain momentum during its growth in contrast to common urban, industrial, or agricultural reclamation efforts that literally dry up after flourishing for some time. The reason for this acceleration is simple population dynamics. The growth of a population is dependent on its ability to harness and use the available resources. The concept applies for economics just as well. More than anything, unlimited resources from sustainable (water) cycles can aid the economic growth of the Arabian countries.

Seawater farming is a term used by the Seawater Foundation. The more exact name would be Integrated Multi-trophic mariculture (IMTM). The name describes the joint cultivation of different seawater plant and animal species in a food chain system that makes profit out of waste. Salt loving plant species like Mangrove, Salicornia, Microalgae and Zooplankton (fish food) are fertilised by the excrement of fish or domestic effluent. Besides the yield in fish, the plants can serve as fodder for goats, cattle and poultry. Atmospheric water generation can start outside of a greenhouse with plantations harvesting the morning mist. Certain plants have the ability to internalise and use this water before it evaporates again. The dew provides sustenance for many insects like honey bees. The moist foliage can be used as fodder reducing the requirement for other potable water sources for the animal husbandry. Inside the greenhouse a dense atmosphere of elevated temperature and water vapour allows for economic water generation. Different condensation technologies, depending on coastal distance, topography, pumping technology, physics and the containment itself offer exciting solutions for low energy condensation.

Mangrove canal with little evaporation

(Below) soil is a water storage which can take in and release water in a controllable manner! The upper few 100 metres of the earth’s crust can host static or moving water masses in very different forms. In the tropical rainforest of the Yucatan peninsula, an underground system of rivers exists which is directly connected to the biosphere by very long roots of different key species.

The topsoil’s surface must be designed to minimise evaporation in agricultural applications. For greenhouse applications, the soil will contribute to the required evaporation to saturate the air. It is necessary to control the flow of virtual water embedded in food production. Arab nations will not lose much profit or technological advancement if they stop exporting agricultural goods. The production of technology and machines, which requires even more virtual water per service unit (pertaining to the MIPS concept or Material Input per Service Unit) would make sense abroad, but that is a much bigger topic than the local ecology. Turning the landscape into a water machine, including large scale solar desalination in a greenhouse complex, is one of the main features offered by the Integrated Biotechtural System. The IBTS is a flexible master plan concept comprising of modules the size of residential properties. It can be installed instantaneously because the Construction Site Setup (CSS) is already a fully functional version of the IBTS.

Karst sinkpool in the Yucatan peninsula. Areal roots reach into the aquifer

The consistent biomimicy of an entire rainforest biome brings unprecedented efficiency rates in reach, like the generation of freshwater from brine with only 1.8 kWh of electrical energy input (3). Considering that the IBTS is a broadband developmental solution, integrating the functions of power plants, desalination plants, agriculture, animal husbandry and aquaculture farms, forestry and desert greening requires minimal financial investment. This in turn results in a low-risk and stable project implementation.

The Excess yielding Service Cycles, adapted to the Physical Environment (ESCAPE), provide utilities within the cycles of the IBTS but also Excess Services for the environment it is part of like communities in the vicinity. What more could be expected?

REFERENCES

1. Florida Bay Watch Report ?Mangroves in Florida Bay Dying- Back (again)?

2. Newfound harbour marine institute ?Mangrove Morphology & Physiology’

3. H2O Magazine, March 2011, ?Out of the Box’

http://www.h2ome.net/en/2011/03/out-of-the-box/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :

(The author is start-up manager of TS Prototype- Creation. He may be contacted at trueschool (at) fastmail.fm; www.prototype-creation.de)

Recharging dry wells

Nicol-André Berdellé of TS Prototype Creation on a new rainwater management solution for arid regions, which reactivates dry wells for use as cisterns and Aquifer Storage & Recovery units (ASR)

Falling groundwater tables are a worldwide phenomenon, an invisible ebbing of the most elementary fossil resource we use. While the economy is dependent on hydrocarbons that feed its huge energy needs, life in essence depends on water. Plummeting groundwater resources are more than a challenge to the economy, the financial system or high standard of living. They represent the foundation of our achievements, with deep implications on the future of civilisation.

Once a working system of food provisioning becomes established and effective in a civilisation, the additional branches of its economy starts developing. But as fossil water-based agriculture dies down, the Arab region could be looking at a future scenario which makes energy crisis a trivial topic.

Despite the blue revolution, overall water demand is increasing much more rapidly than what all water conservation, re-use and desalination efforts can make up for. Water tables are still falling in the Middle East at the rate of several metres every year.

Potent option

However, there is a potent and deployable solution, which can stop and even reverse the trend of falling ground water levels. In between rainwater management and aquifer recharge, this option utilises existing wells that have run dry. It was originally designed by TS Prototype Creation as a developmental aid project for Niger, as an engineering challenge to create the most cost-effective solution for rainwater management possible by reactivating dry wells as cisterns and Aquifer Storage & Recovery units (ASR). It relies in the fact that traditional wells at the bottom of watersheds can be filled without any need for pumping. The entire area around the well could be modified and serve as a funnel to collect the short but intense rainfalls that occur in the Middle East, with drainage ditches speeding up the flow.

Simple structures on the surface slow down water and keep back surface sediments, thus helping collect clean water. The excess water is drawn from top of the filled cistern well and introduced back into the natural aquifer. This solution works well because the geological aquifer, in most cases, will lead the water back to the bottom of the well. If the water was introduced from anywhere else, the chances are that it will vanish in subterranean canals.

This solution is a self-sufficient and sustainable reclamation utility, and does not require significant maintenance.

It could be compared to a palm oasis because a large surface area receives a rainwater management system, the difference being that water is stored securely underground and the system is fully up and operational from the first rain event on. Furthermore, the Recharge Well (RW) shows a positive Material-Input Per-Service-Unit (MIPS). The RW is not a quick profit solution; it is a stable process to recreate Life Support Systems (LSS). This is the foundation of our economy and a pre-requisite for financial profit.

Injection wells

Injection wells aren’t new, but retrofitting and activating a barren, open well, utilising it as a cistern and filtrating the runoff water for aquifer recharge is. Even the practise of recharging aquifers is hardly found anywhere in the world, barring a few examples being implemented in Bangalore and a strategic water reserve being built in Abu Dhabi.

Injection wells are also used to deposit treated wastewater or hazardous effluent from factories. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies injection wells into five groups, depending on the type of waste to be disposed in them. The same is reproduced below as follows:

  • Class 1: Receives industrial, commercial, or municipal waste fluids injected beneath the lowermost formation containing an underground source of drinking water (USDW) within 1/4 mile of where the well was drilled. Class 1 wells are prohibited in Washington State.
  • Class 2: Receives fluids that are brought to the surface as part of oil or natural gas exploration, recovery or production.
  • Class 3: Used for mineral extraction. 2 basic types: solution mining and in-situ leaching for minerals. Class 3 wells are prohibited in Washington State.
  • Class 4: Receives radioactive or hazardous waste injected into or above underground sources of drinking water. Class 4 wells are prohibited in WA State except for Class IV wells used at an approved Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) or Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) facility that re-injects treated ground water into the same formation.
  • Class 5: All other injection practices not included in the other classes. Class 5 injection wells, the most common injection well in our state, are generally shallow wells used to discharge fluids into or above a ground water aquifer. In many cases, these aquifers are shallow, unconfined or surficial. Large on-site septic systems, serving 20 people or more per day or having a capacity of 3,500 gallons per day, are considered Class 5 wells.

The wider neighbourhood of RW hosts various practices and techniques of groundwater or aquifer recharge through surface percolation or injection . At the seventh International Symposium on Managed Aquifer Recharge in Abu Dhabi last year, the main topic was the costly injection technology. In contrast, the unique advantage of RWs is not recharging or storage but as an option of harvesting huge amounts of rain, otherwise lost. A major difference between recharge by percolation and RWs is the amount of evaporation on the water surface, which is dramatically higher if the rainwater is not directed underground.

Another difference is the quality of water. RWs provide clean drinking water in the cistern after the rain event. Only after the well shaft is full, the excess water will percolate into the aquifer at the sides. Recharge Wells are about drinking water, the most important type of water. The quantity and quality of water in a Recharge Well is layered out for highest security and purity in drinking water utilities.

To cover the drinking water demand for one person for one year in an arid desert environment, a rainwater catchment area of only 14m² suffices (with an annual precipitation of 100-110mm in Riyadh and four litres per day).

The success of RWs rests on finding the right method of converting the desert surface into a funnel to collect the rainwater, in combination with the right location and subsequent resettlement efforts to maintain the unit.

So far, I have discussed reactivating dry wells. The situation in the (new) urban areas close to the Hajar Mountains, with lots of sealed surface, is different. In these areas, new Recharge Wells built in the exact same manner reach payback quicker and with less maintenance, and they could even help in solving the problem of flooding. The Musandam peninsula could receive more rain in the future due to climate change, and it would be a measure of foresight if these simple measures are implemented towards this prospect.

The dilemma

The problem with ASR is that it is been developed by scientists or specialists who want to apply all available data and formulas, engineer hydro geological models and get paid for the most costly planning process possible. But the models frequently turn out to be wrong, particularly in the natural sciences, were models are based on countless assumptions and results are erratically different due to plenty of levers in the calculation and some personal choices.

Understanding climate or geology will always be a partial matter and cannot be controlled like steel-alloys in mechanical engineering or structural analysis. This is a truth that always eludes the investor. The transposition of our trust in technology on to natural sciences could turn out as one of the momentous errors of our time. Probably the best example in modern history has just occurred in Japan: Engineers simply took wrong assumptions about geological events, although they were otherwise fully qualified and able to built a highly complex machines and operate them successfully over a longer period of time.

Another downside of industrial ASR solutions is the ratio of investment to recharged water unit, or retrievable water unit. This ratio can never be as good as recharge into a formerly operational well and its attached, proven aquifer. On top of that RWs can be operated without any machinery, fossil energy, water or lubricants.

The strategic reserve in Abu Dhabi was contracted to be built for $430 million, one cubic meter of the injected water costing $26 only counting the construction. RWs cost seven orders of magnitude less. And like ASR, the amount of water that can be stored through the RW is principally limitless. Both technologies are simply access methods to the vast underground reservoirs that are probably interconnected, throughout vast portions of Arabia, as per studies. In both cases, there are question marks on the issue of recovery, but only the cisterns of RWs are exempt from these insecurities.

The lifespan prospect of a delicate ASR, which is crucially dependent on a certain company to operate it, looks very dim compared to an RW which will be passed on from generation to generation, empowering people to be self-reliant and reclaim their land step by step.

REFERENCES

1. Percolating young minds: Case study of recharge wells dug by an educational institute by Shree Padre Dec, 2007

2. The Groundwater Recharge Movement in India, by RAMASWAMY SAKTHIVADIVE

(The author is start-up manager of TS Prototype-Creation. He may be contacted at trueschool (at) fastmail.fm; www.prototype-creation.de)

Ford grants recognise UAE conservation project

The Ford Motor Company Conservation and Environmental Grants awarded Emirates Diving Association (EDA) for its Project Reef Check aimed at the preservation of UAE’s coral reefs.

Emirates Diving Association received $9,000 from Ford to fund training programmes for volunteers and for the collection of data during the reef check surveys in Al Aqqa, Rul Dibba and Al Faqeet around the East coast. The Reef Check project not only collects scientific data important for the conservation of the marine environment but also provides volunteers information in layman’s terms to understand the status of the UAE’s coral reefs and know the main threats. With this project, it is also hoped that the local communities will have increased awareness on the state of coral reefs and the need to conserve them.

EDA won one of the two awards granted in the UAE. The second award went to IFAW for its fight against the illegal trade of animals in the region.

“Both projects that received grants from Ford emphasise the community’s role in protecting the environment. We commend the determination of EDA and IFAW in pursuing extensive awareness campaigns through training programmes and workshops,? said Hussein Murad, director of Sales at Ford Middle East.  “Through the Ford Grants and the legacy of Henry Ford who was in the business of not only creating good products but goodwill, we continue to give back to our local communities where we serve.?

The Ford Motor Company Conservation and Environmental Grants is a grass-root level programme that has offered $1.1 million in grants to over 130 Middle Eastern environmental projects since its launch in 2000.

In the Middle East, the initiative has seen support from various governmental and non-governmental environmental authorities including the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Emirates Wildlife Society, the Arab Forum for Environment & Development (AFED) and most recently, the UNESCO Doha.

An independent panel of nine jurors consisting of academics, as well as experts from environmental ministries and agencies choose the winning projects that demonstrated a well-defined sense of purpose, a commitment to maximising available resources, and a reputation for meeting objectives and delivering planned programmes and services.

Each year, the Ford Grants make a total of $100,000 available to individuals, community and non-profit groups that have projects currently running in the areas of preservation of the natural environment, environmental education and conservation engineering. The programme is open to applicants from Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the United Arab Emirates.

Following are the recipients of the 2010 Ford Motor Company Conservation & Environmental Grants, GCC and Levant Chapter:

Jordan:

  • Jordan Environment Society, for their project: Eco-Students Network; Category: Environmental Education. Grant awarded: $10,000
  • Badia Center for Ecological Education, for their project: Capacity building and Public awareness; Category: Environmental Education. Grant awarded: $10,000

Lebanon:

  • Dr Salwa Tawk, for her project: Arabic version of Urban Agriculture in the Middle East and North Africa magazine; Category: Natural Environment and Environmental Education. Grant awarded: $10,000
  • Animal Encounter, for their project: Long Term effect of zoo education on wildlife conservation; Category: Environmental Education. Grant awarded: $10,000

Oman:

  • Biosphere Expeditions, for their project: Dhofar Arabian Leopard Project (previous winner); Category: Natural Environment. Grant awarded: $12,000
  • Biosphere Expeditions, for their project: Musandam Coral Reef Project; Category: Natural Environment. Grant awarded: $10,000
  • Environment Society of Oman, for their project: Community Education on Masirah Island, Oman, the World’s Largest Loggerhead Turtle Rookery; Category: Natural Environment. Grant awarded: $7,000

Qatar:

  • College of the North Atlantic, for their project: Build an Environmental Research Robot to clean the beach at Ras Laffan Industrial City; Category: Natural Environment. Grant awarded: $15,000

UAE:

  • Emirates Diving Association, for their project: Reef Check; Category: Natural Environment. Grant awarded: $9,000
  • International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), for their project: Prevention of illegal trade of animals in ME region. Category: Natural Environment. Grant awarded: $7,000

Strategic reserve

Abu Dhabi’s plan to create an emergency water reserve has entered its final implementation phase. By Anoop K Menon

Three — that’s the number of days that Abu Dhabi’s water reserves will last, if the emirate’s desalination plants, its primary source of potable water, ceased producing water due to some emergency. If we were to consider just the population, which, at present, is a little over one million, but projected to increase three times by 2030, three days of reserves would seem to be way too little. And an emergency could be anything, from a war or a major oil spill in the Arabian Gulf to natural disasters like cyclones.

Abu Dhabi’s existing water storage capacity (comprising mainly of surface tanks, reservoirs attached to existing desalination plants and water distribution networks) can hold only two million cubic metres of water, which as Peter Menche, Director of Projects of GTZ-IS, a German government-owned technical co-operation organisation, noted, can barely last three days at current consumption rates.

The near-total reliance on desalination for drinking water (Abu Dhabi’s total desalination capacity is 630 MIGD, while water production stands at 0.8 million m³/day) raises questions over water security, the vulnerability of desalination plants to pollution, environmental and natural disasters, disruption caused by maintenance works or even war, and therefore, guaranteed availability of drinking water to tide over such emergencies.

Among the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries, if we measured emergency water reserves in terms of days, Kuwait’s is the highest, at five days, while for Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman and UAE, it is, more or less, two to three days. In such a context, a strategic water reserve can play a critical role in protecting a country from threats to its water supply. It can also, among other things, be useful in managing ‘peak water’ demand and replenish over- exploited ground water resources.

The population of Greater Abu Dhabi City is expected to touch 3.1 million by 2030, three times the existing number, which will increase the pressure on the emirate’s potable water resources. As per official estimates, per capita water use in the emirate stands at 650 litres/day, not taking into account network losses, estimated to be in the range of 25-30%.

The fact that Abu Dhabi’s emergency water reserve of a mere three days would be totally inadequate in a worst-case scenario served as a major impetus to the strategic water reserve project.

The proposal

GTZ, in partnership with Dornier Consulting, a private-sector consulting, engineering and project management services company from Germany, proposed a strategic water-storage project based on Artificial Storage and Recovery (ASR) to the higher authorities of Abu Dhabi for the first time in 1998. Menche pointed out that the proposal owed its origins to a Groundwater Assessment Project (GWAP), covering the entire Abu Dhabi emirate, contracted to the GTZ-Dornier consortium by ADNOC and the Abu Dhabi government in 1995. “After its completion in 2006, we had full-fledged knowledge of everything related to groundwater resources in Abu Dhabi,” explained Menche. “This project, thus, formed the basis for the ASR proposal, submitted to the higher authorities.”

The biggest advantage of ASR is minimal land requirements, as existing ground water layers are recharged with desalinated seawater. This reduces storage costs and minimises environmental impact compared to alternatives, like building massive surface-storage facilities, based on massive concrete or metal storage tanks. “In case of an emergency,” Menche said, “the stored water in the aquifer can be pumped out, with a basic sub-surface storage facility to enable the process. However, if only surface-storage infrastructure was relied on to build the water reserve, the investment cost would be huge, in the region of $4 billion if not more.” He cited the example of six massive water storage tanks in the Mussaffah area of Abu Dhabi, with a capacity of 45,000 m3 each. To store the quantity of recharged water that the ASR project envisaged, at least 600 such tanks of similar capacity would be required. The construction costs apart, one has to consider O&M costs and manpower costs, all of which would take up the total cost by several notches.

According to an Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) communiqué, issued in 2009, by choosing the ASR route, the cost of storage was reduced significantly. The use of land for surface-storage facilities was reduced from 250 hectares to 15 hectares, the cost of infrastructure needed to store one gallon of water was reduced from Dh 3.5 to Dh0.8, and the cost of operation and maintenance of storage per gallon decreased from Dh1.5 to Dh0.25.

Moreover, storing water in storage tanks or ground reservoirs for long periods is also fraught with risks from the water becoming stagnant. The water would need to be recycled within the network, or disinfected and refreshed. On the other hand, ASR systems enable multi-year storage and recovery of water in good quality and quantity.

Another alternative considered was the GCC Water Grid, which relies on a network of three large desalination plants, but would cost a whopping $5.3 billion, if not more. Also, the desalination plant network that underpins this grid would be exposed to the same environmental and operational risks, the kind of risks that a strategic water reserve would need to be avoid or insulated against; and one cannot dismiss the huge amounts of energy expended to desalinate the seawater.

Successful pilot

The proposal submitted by the GTZ-Dornier consortium recommended a feasibility study, followed by a pilot. After getting the go-ahead, the consortium carried out the feasibility study during 2001-02, in terms of hydro-geological assessment, water demand analysis, selection of the project site and the planning of the pilot. Following a successful feasibility study, a pilot project was implemented in the western region of Abu Dhabi from 2002 to 2004. In his paper, Strategic Water Reserve: New Approach for Old Concept in GCC Countries, Dr Mohamed Dawoud of EAD writes that a shallow-to-medium-deep aquifer, north of the Liwa Crescent, was selected for the pilot on the basis of the following attributes:

  1. Existence of a large natural fresh groundwater lens (salinity less than 1,500 ppm, partly meeting the TDS-limit of the World Health Organisation (WHO) drinking water standard (1,000 ppm)
  2. Sufficient lateral extension and aquifer thickness
  3. Sufficient depth of groundwater table
  4. Relatively homogenous lithology
  5. Far from already existing well fields
  6. Favourable hydro-chemical conditions.

“The pilot project lasted two years; the first year for planning and constructing the facilities and the second year for testing,” Menche said. Among other things, the consortium successfully tested storage and recovery techniques and evaluated recovery efficiency and reservoir response.

Two basic recharge/recovery schemes were tested — the Well Gallery Scheme (dual purpose wells where water is injected through wells into the sub-surface and, later on, pumped out from the same wells) and the Infiltration Basin Scheme (comprising infiltration basin constructed in the sand and recovery wells. The desalinated water was percolated through infiltration basins into the sub-surface and, finally, into the ground water layer, relying on gravity instead of pumps). In the case of an emergency, extraction is done through normal water wells.

“The pilot project lasted two years; the first year for planning and constructing the facilities and the second year for testing,” Menche said. Among other things, the consortium successfully tested storage and recovery techniques and evaluated recovery efficiency and reservoir response.

Two basic recharge/recovery schemes were tested – the Well Gallery Scheme (dual purpose wells where water is injected through wells into the sub-surface and, later on, pumped out from the same wells) and the Infiltration Basin Scheme (comprising infiltration basin constructed in the sand and recovery wells. The desalinated water was percolated through infiltration basins into the sub-surface and, finally, into the ground water layer, relying on gravity instead of pumps). In the case of an emergency, extraction is done through normal water wells.

The pilot demonstrated that recharging an existing freshwater aquifer with desalinated water and efficient recovery of the same was feasible on a large scale. Based on the results of the pilot project, it was decided that the Infiltration Basin scheme best served Abu Dhabi’s requirements.

“We found the Well Gallery Scheme to be very complicated, needing tremendous amount of maintenance, spare parts and repair, as well as a highly educated and trained staff, which is a tough proposition even worldwide,” Menche explained. With Infiltration Basins, the energy and maintenance requirements were less, as gravity does the bulk of the work; pumps are needed only for taking out the water during an emergency. Because the extraction is done through normal wells, there is no need to invest in dual-purpose wells. “We found Infiltration Basins to be more reliable as a long-term proposition and therefore, sustainable,” Menche said.

In the implementation phase

After extensive discussions, a tender for large-scale artificial recharge was put into the market during 2007-2008. Last month, a joint venture (JV) between Arabian Construction Company (ACC) and POSCO Engineering & Construction Company (POSCO E&C) was awarded the Dh1.6 billion contract for the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of a Strategic Water Storage and Recovery System in Liwa.

Under the system, designed by the GTZ-Dornier partnership, an existing ground water layer will be recharged with seven MIGD (over 31,000m³/day) of desalinated seawater through three infiltration basins, over a period of 27 months, resulting in surplus water of 5,753 MIG (26.15 million m3). The recovery rate, in an emergency scenario, would be 40 MIGD or 181,000 m³/day for a period of 90 days, with the total volume recovered being 3,600 MIG or 16.4 million m3, translating into an availability of 182 litres per capita per day.

The desalinated water will be transferred from the Al Mirfa desalination plant situated on the Abu Dhabi coast, transported through a 1,200-diameter pipeline to an existing pumping station in Madinat Zayed, and further pumped down to a location south of Madinat Zayed, from where it will be pumped into the infiltration basin. The total length of all the pipelines constructed for the project will be 161 kilometres.

Apart from the pipelines, other key components of the project include:

  • Three recharge/recovery schemes, consisting of:
    • Three recharge basins
    • 326 recovery wells
    • 117 groundwater monitoring wells for tracking ground water levels, temperature, quality.
  • Pumping stations and treatment facilities
  • Independent process control and instrumentation system

Menche elaborated: “To monitor the hydro-chemistry, all three schemes are surrounded by a ground water monitoring system. We have proposed that the area be demarcated as ground water protection zone. This aspect forms an important part of the initial evaluation process. Are there any industrial or oil & gas activities near the site? Is there scope for agricultural or human interference? This location is pure desert and, hence, very ideal.” The system will also enable close monitoring of the incoming water and the mixing process, so that operators have a complete picture of what is happening with regard to water quality in the sub-soil.

Menche noted that a certain amount of mixing between native water and injected water is expected. He explained: “Water lens or water barrier is not static; it is moving. The water in the aquifer is very salty at the bottom, getting sweeter as you move up. And on the top lies a small lens of drinking water quality. We are essentially topping up the lens.”

Following the award of the contract, the construction and implementation phase is expected to last 30 months, which will be followed by a two-year, operation-and-maintenance phase. “We did the entire planning and design for the project and will supervise all the work till the project is handed over to the client,” Menche said. “It is important to ensure high-quality performance from the contractor, as the three re-charge/recovery schemes constitute the heart of the project.”

Project moments

The feasibility and pilot project stages had their moments. For example, in the course of carrying out GWAP and the ASR pilot, the consortium drilled nearly 10,000 shallow-to-very-deep ground water exploration wells all over the emirate. “The shallowest well was 20 metres deep while the deepest one measured 1000 metres,” Menche said. Extensive ground water modelling was another highlight. “We also developed, in what may be a first for this region, a suitability- evaluation catalogue for selecting an area for ASR projects, factoring in natural resources as well as human, agricultural industrial aspects,” Menche added.

Answering a question of whether the project will go into hibernation once the 27-month re-charge phase is completed, Menche said: “We have proposed to the client that parts of the water could be used for meeting the water needs of the Liwa Crescent area. In such a scenario, the recharging process can be extended beyond 27 months. Internally, we regard this project only as Stage 1 because there is tremendous scope for increasing the aquifer storage capacity through additions.”

Menche pointed out that similar ASR projects have been implemented in other parts of the world on a smaller scale, most notably in Amsterdam, where a coastal aquifer is being recharged, in this case with recycled wastewater. He continued, “We studied experiences from all over the world and tried to optimise them for Abu Dhabi’s environment. The ASR project in Liwa can be replicated in the eastern region, where a pilot had already been implemented. Also, the Liwa project is being closely observed by neighbouring countries, especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar.”

Menche also sees tremendous scope for recharge projects using recycled wastewater in the region. “You can use the ASR method to create sub-surface storage facilities for supply of recycled wastewater to agriculture,” he said. “There is tremendous scope for smaller, isolated recharge projects using recycled wastewater in the MENA region.”