California looks to Saudi Arabia for desalination expertise

The Carlsbad desalination plant in California. America’s largest seawater desalination plant, the $1 billion facility produces 50 million gallons of drinking water for the San Diego area each day, but at a cost double the price of other sources. (Reuters)
Updated 30 March 2018

California looks to Saudi Arabia for desalination expertise

SAN FRANCISCO: As water shortages become a reality across the globe, authorities in drought-prone areas are looking to Saudi Arabia’s desalination industry for inspiration.
The Kingdom produces more desalinated water than any other nation, with 27 plants transforming sea brine into five million cubic meters of fresh water a day.
The industry has grown rapidly in recent years. In January, the Kingdom announced plans to invest more than $500 million (SR1.874 billion) to build nine plants in Jeddah.
It is not the only area trying to meet the needs of a growing population demanding more fresh water. After experiencing acute drought between 2011 and 2017, the US state of California is expanding desalination projects. Grants of $35 million were approved this year for a variety of desalination ventures as municipalities across the state seek to diversify water portfolios.
Experts in California have been studying the Kingdom’s desalination projects. “The value of what is going on in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world is the recognition that water … is necessary for both long-term community and economic survival, and that good planning is key,” said Paul Kelley, the executive director of CalDesal, a not-for-profit advocacy group. He added that Saudi Arabia’s foresight in planning for a “water resilient” future was a lesson that California would do well to follow.
Increasing both the volume and efficiency of water production is among the many goals laid out in Saudi Arabia’s National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020 and Vision 2030, which seeks to wean the country from oil reliance, and build a more sustainable economy. At a conference last month, the Minister of Environment and Agriculture announced a $1.3 billion investment in water technology projects to upgrade and further develop infrastructure.
While cutting-edge desalination technology has been developed in California’s top research institutions for decades, complicated regulatory frameworks and politicians have hindered the broader application of the process, said Yoram Cohen, director of the Water Technology Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. “It’s one thing to develop the technology, it’s another to actually push for its deployment,” he added.
While acknowledging that the water needs of California vary greatly from those in Saudi Arabia, Cohen said the golden state could learn much from the political will shown in the Kingdom to prioritize desalination. “They’re moving forward,” he said of counterparts in Saudi Arabia.
In California, which sets strict limits on greenhouse-gas emissions, critics of desalination have long cited its environmental footprint as massive inputs of energy are required to run the plants separating salt from water.
However the industry may be moving toward a greener, future. In February, Saudi Arabia announced plans to develop a $58 million solar-powered desalination plant near King Abdullah Economic City. Construction began on the project this month, with the plant scheduled to be up and running by 2020.
It is an important step forward, Cohen said: “It illustrates that one can move toward sustainability in a dual mode — where you use renewable energy and you use renewable sea water.
“You don’t want to continue desalinating using precious energy sources, including petroleum or gas: solar energy is the way to go. That’s an investment in the future.”
Creativity and good-planning will be necessary as both Saudi Arabia and California develop resource-management plans for the future, Kelley said. While Saudi Arabia has been “pushing the innovative envelope” by investing in desalination projects and research, examples of poor governance abound.
Aside from the dramatic water shortages seen in California during the recent drought, the recent admission by municipal leaders that Cape Town would run out of potable water by this summer has renewed calls for investment in desalination. “They could well have done some desalination and followed the model of Saudi Arabia and other places around the world to make sure that at least a third of their water supply was drought-resistant,” Kelley said of Cape Town.
With global warming increasing temperatures worldwide and once-predictable weather patterns thrown into flux, the Kingdom’s commitment to reliable supplies will be “very applicable to the rest of the world,” he added.


Riyadh Season Boulevard zone opens with spectacular parade

Updated 18 October 2019

Riyadh Season Boulevard zone opens with spectacular parade

  • The Riyadh parade is thought to be the biggest parade in Kingdom to date

RIYADH: More than 1,500 performers and 25 floats took part in a parade and carnival on Thursday night that officially launched Riyadh Season’s Boulevard zone. The crowds that gathered for the fun-packed event were also treated to motorcycle displays, fireworks and other surprises.

The Boulevard lit up at 9 p.m. for the start of the 90-minute event, which featured some of the international artists who will perform as part of Riyadh Season. Afterwards, the zone’s food and drink outlets, outdoor cinema and fountain shows officially opened.

The audience watched the parade, performances and displays from specially constructed stands. Food trucks offered a selection of tasty snacks, and organizers also provided prayer rooms, toilets, first-aid stations and other facilities.



In addition to the opening-night festivities, the Boulevard zone, which covers 400,000 square meters, will host a wide range of entertainment options and activities for all ages, including the outdoor cinema, restaurants, and sports, music and theatrical events. It has three main venues: The 22,000-seat Mohammed Abdu Theater, the 6,000-seat Abu Bakr Salem Theater, and the 2,000-seat Baker Al-Sheddi Theater.

The parade is just one of more than 100 events featuring local, regional and international performers taking place during the Riyadh Season festival, which continues until mid-December at 12 zones across the city: the Boulevard; the Front; Riyadh Car Show; Winter Wonderland; Riyadh Stadiums; the Diplomatic Quarter; Al-Muraba’a; Al-Malaz; Wadi Namar; Nabd Al-Riyadh; Riyadh Safari; and Riyadh Sahara. It has been organized with the support of Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority and president of Riyadh Season.

The audience watched the parade from specially built stands. (Supplied)

 

The ambitious 2019 Saudi Seasons initiative, the first of its kind in the region, was launched in February and includes 11 local seasons covering most parts of the Kingdom. Designed to promote the fledgling Saudi entertainment sector and boost tourism, it is attracting some of the biggest names in world entertainment.

The Riyadh parade is thought to be the biggest parade in Kingdom to date. It follows a folklore parade at the Mawtni (My Nation) cultural event in Yanbu to mark Saudi National Day this year, and a parade during the Jeddah Season festivities in the city’s Obhur district.