Emmanuel Gayan, CEO of Veolia Water Solutions and Technologies Middle East, talks about the demand for water re-use solutions in the GCC and the challenges faced by the industry when it comes to implementing the technology in the market.
Are you seeing a lot of demand for water re-use solutions like the one in Park Hyatt Dubai in the Gulf region today?
When we implemented this water re-use project in 2009, it was really the first of its kind, not only in the UAE but also the region. Since then, we have executed several similar projects across the region. In the UAE, if we take just the hospitality industry as an example, we have done two to three similar projects.
Once you are comfortable with the TSE quality (which we check), the design is pretty straightforward. Of course, you don’t always have a TSE network (like in some parts of Saudi Arabia), so it is then much more challenging. We might have to directly treat the wastewater for re-use, which require additional technologies to be used. Overall, we have now done nearly 20 projects or more on the same principles in the GCC.
What is the biggest concern of your clients when it comes to water reuse?
The major worry, which comes irrespective of the actual application of the water, is safety. Is it safe to send in the perceived dirty water? It is more of a mental concern because the technology available today can ensure that the re-used water is safe.
Our industrial clients have consultants working on their large scale water re-use projects, and they trust their consultants. But when it comes to smaller projects in hotels and with water not being their business, one has to do a lot more in terms of explanations and assurances. But the Return on Investment (RoI) for the Client, especially in the UAE, is very good.
In Dubai, the high water tariffs are a motivating factor and ensure faster RoI. What about other parts of the Middle East?
One has to go on a case by case basis. Sometimes, it is either reuse the water or nothing. You have places in Saudi Arabia, where conversations would be on the lines of: no we don’t have TSE, yes the city water is almost free but there is no city water here. So if you want water for cooling or other purpose, you have to desalinate the water or reuse what you have already desalinated. Then the answer is very simple: if you have to desalinate water to operate your cooling system, better to re-use everything you can
With many hotels and commercial projects having their own desalination systems, are people talking about closing the loop?
Brine disposal is always the limiting factor when it comes to closing the loop. In cities, we have wastewater networks and common sewage treatment plants, so the high TDS brine discharged by the re-use system will be only a very small part of the overall wastewater flow and there will be natural dilution effect. But when you have to do specific onsite treatment to dispose the brine, it can be very complicated.
A simple and cheap option, if you have space and do things right environmentally, is natural evaporation; if you don’t have space or have environmental restrictions, forced evaporation is the alternative. We have a company called HPD, which is a world leader in this technology. We have implemented Zero Liquid Discharge systems for power plants in the US; closer home, we did a huge one for Shell in Qatar. However, it is still an expensive technology on both capex and opex.