How solar-powered desalination allows Saudi Arabia to produce potable water sustainably

Special How solar-powered desalination allows Saudi Arabia to produce potable water sustainably
A view of the Al-Khafji Desalination Plant, the world's largest. (Vision 2030 photo)
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Updated 22 June 2024
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How solar-powered desalination allows Saudi Arabia to produce potable water sustainably

How solar-powered desalination allows Saudi Arabia to produce potable water sustainably
  • Desalination of seawater allows parched Gulf nations to access plentiful water for farming and human consumption
  • To cut emissions, the Kingdom is adopting renewable energy sources to power its filtration and treatment plants

RIYADH: In regions with limited rainfall, desalination is a practical means of sourcing plentiful water for farming and human consumption. However, the process of turning seawater into freshwater is notoriously energy intensive.

Indeed, desalination is a significant contributor to carbon emissions in the water-scarce Arabian Peninsula. That is why Saudi Arabia has been investing in green energy sources to power its desalination plants.

“Using renewable energies for desalination is crucial as it contributes to reducing the operation’s carbon footprint and water production costs,” Sultan Al-Rajhi, spokesperson for the Saudi Water Authority, told Arab News.

 

 

Due to the scarcity of freshwater resources in a region with a rapidly growing population, seawater desalination is essential to keep pace with demand, he added.

“Saudi Arabia depends on desalination of seawater due to the nature of the desert climate, in which the presence of surface water and natural rivers is rare,” Al-Rajhi said.

In fact, desalination accounts for about 75 percent of the Kingdom’s water supply.

“Therefore, investment is being made in desalination of seawater to meet the demand for population and economic growth witnessed in the Gulf region as a whole.”

Each year, the Kingdom requires an average of 5.5 billion cubic meters of freshwater. The need for water is especially high during the Hajj and Umrah seasons, when well over a million pilgrims arrive from around the world.

Home to more than 37 million people, the Kingdom is the world’s third-largest consumer of water per head of population. Agriculture alone accounts for around 84 percent of total water consumption.




An alfalfa farm in Riyadh region's Wadi Ad-Dawasir governorate. (Supplied)

Desalination is a complex process that involves removing salt and other impurities from seawater. Since the process requires a significant amount of energy, adopting renewables such as solar to power these facilities has become a top priority.

“To develop climate-resilient infrastructure for sustainable desalination, Saudi Arabia should prioritize innovative and renewable technologies,” Abdulaziz Daghestani, area sales director of water utilities and country director at Grundfos, told Arab News.

Grundfos is a Danish company that is working with regional states to provide innovative pumping solutions for water supply, wastewater management, heating and cooling, and industrial processes. 

According to Daghestani, integrating advanced monitoring systems can help optimize desalination operations and enhance efficiency.

“Using real-time data and analytics, we can improve water management practices and make timely adjustments to meet the varying increasing demand for human consumption and agriculture,” he said.

The Qatrah program, which means “droplet” in Arabic, was launched by the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture in 2020, and aims to reduce excess water usage by eliminating waste, and encouraging the conservation and reuse of existing freshwater.

Its objective is to lower daily per-capita water consumption from 263 liters to 150 liters by 2030. To do this, the ministry has created a unified framework, known as the National Water Strategy, for the country.

However, despite these efforts to improve the sustainability of water systems, desalination remains a crucial means of meeting water demand, making the adoption of clean energy sources and efficient production techniques a critical priority.

DID YOUKNOW?

• In 2023, Saudi Arabia had a desalination capacity of 13.2m cubic meters per day.

• 7 million cubic meters of desalinated water have been generated by the Al-Khafji plant.

• Desalination accounts for 60 percent of the urban water supply in Saudi Arabia.

• Agriculture makes up 84 percent of the Kingdom’s water needs.

Al-Khafji Desalination Plant, located in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, is the world’s largest solar-powered water desalination project, providing the region’s water requirements through an innovative and environmentally friendly approach.

The plant can generate up to 90,000 cubic meters of freshwater per day using innovative technology created by the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology. 

Its new Solar Saline Water Reverse Osmosis method uses a process known as ultra-filtration during the pre-treatment phase.




A view of the Ras al-Khair water desalination plant, owned by the Saudi government's Saline Water Conversion Corporation, along the Gulf coast in eastern Saudi Arabia. (AFP)

The method involves forcing seawater through a semipermeable membrane that only allows water molecules to pass, while blocking the salt and other contaminants. The resulting purified water is then collected for distribution.

Since its launch in 2018, more than 7 million cubic meters of freshwater produced by the plant have already been utilized.

“Using reverse osmosis technology is considered to have the lowest rates of carbon emissions as a result of the increase in energy efficiency through the development of this field in recent years,” said Al-Rajhi.

“The rate of carbon emissions per cubic meter in some desalination systems has been reduced to 91 percent compared with thermal desalination systems.”

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Solar is not the only source of renewable energy that can be adopted to power the desalination process.

“This is in addition to the prospective use of hydraulic turbines to convert the kinetic energy resulting from the flow of water into electricity to generate clean energy,” said Al-Rajhi.

This shift toward renewables not only addresses the high energy costs associated with desalination but also supports Saudi Arabia’s commitment to sustainable development. 

Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, has praised the Kingdom’s water conservation agenda, which is part and parcel with its environmental mission, the Saudi Green Initiative.




A farm in Wadi bin Hashbal, Saudi Arabia, was recently recognized by the Guinness World Records as the largest sustainable farm in the world. (Supplied)

Saudi Arabia is correct to prioritize “not over-extracting and being very wise around environmental management.”

“That is why we are quite impressed by the Saudi Green Initiative,” she told Arab News.

This transition to cleaner energy sources reflects a strategic decision to enhance the Kingdom’s energy efficiency and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, while simultaneously addressing the challenges posed by climate change.

Integrating renewable energy into desalination processes marks a significant step toward achieving a more sustainable and environmentally-conscious approach to water production.
 

 


King Salman Global Academy spotlights India’s role in promoting Arabic language

King Salman Global Academy spotlights India’s role in promoting Arabic language
Updated 20 July 2024
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King Salman Global Academy spotlights India’s role in promoting Arabic language

King Salman Global Academy spotlights India’s role in promoting Arabic language
  • KSGAAL is hosting Arabic Language Month for Indian students and teachers
  • Initiative is in line with Human Capability Development Program of Vision 2030

NEW DELHI: India plays a significant role in promoting the Arabic language in the wake of growing commercial exchanges with Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom’s top linguistic institution has said, as it conducted a series of programs for Indian scholars and learners.

Students and lecturers from the Indian universities and colleges that teach Arabic courses are taking part in training sessions, workshops and competitions as part of the Arabic Language Month organized by the King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language.

The event, which aims to develop and improve the teaching of Arabic for non-native speakers in the world’s most populous nation, began online in late June and runs until July 26.

The main host is Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, which has been teaching Arabic for decades.

“India plays a significant role in promoting the Arabic language, driven by a growing demand for learning Arabic within its vast and diverse human, linguistic and cultural landscape,” KSGAAL Secretary-General Dr. Abdullah bin Saleh Al-Washmi told Arab News on Friday.

“Despite India’s diverse multilingual landscape, there is a growing interest in learning Arabic, fueled by increasing commercial activities and cultural exchanges.”

The Arabic Language Month in India features a range of educational activities led by Saudi linguists affiliated with the KSGAAL — from competitions and workshops to enhance Arabic language teaching curricula at different educational institutions, to specialized sessions for instructors to familiarize them with the most recent teaching methodology.

“These activities are conducted in different educational institutions across India, with the primary goal of fostering stronger relationships with Indian universities that have an interest in teaching Arabic,” Al-Washmi said.

“Moreover, the Arabic Language Month serves as a platform to highlight the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s efforts in promoting and teaching the Arabic language through innovative methods. This initiative is in line with the objectives of the Human Capability Development Program, a key component of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.”

Upholding and promoting the Arabic language is part of the Vision 2030 transformation strategy, which also focuses on the development of skills and academia.

“The program also focuses on enhancing the teaching skills of Arabic language educators, both locally and globally, particularly in non-native speaking communities,” Al-Washmi said.

“These initiatives include supporting modern activities for teaching Arabic to non-native speakers, enhancing the teaching competencies of instructors, and organizing scientific competitions to discover and encourage individuals with linguistic talents.”


KSrelief continues aid projects in Lebanon, Pakistan 

KSrelief continues aid projects in Lebanon, Pakistan 
Updated 20 July 2024
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KSrelief continues aid projects in Lebanon, Pakistan 

KSrelief continues aid projects in Lebanon, Pakistan 

RIYADH: Saudi aid group, KSrelief, has distributed 25,000 bags of bread in Akkar Governorate and Miniyeh District in Lebanon.

The distribution comes as part of KSrelief’s Al-Amal Charitable Bakery project to support Syrian and Palestinian refugee families, and the host community living in northern Lebanon, benefiting 125,000 individuals.

KSrelief continues to distribute bread to refugee families in northern Lebanon. (SPA)

Elsewhere, KSrelief implemented the Saudi Noor Volunteer Program to combat blindness and eye diseases in Pakistan's provinces of Sindh and Balouchistan from May 15 to July 10.

During the program, rolled out in cooperation with the Albasar International Foundation, KSrelief's volunteer medical team examined 21,614 cases, distributed 4,683 eyeglasses, and performed 2,038 successful eye surgeries.

KSrelief implemented the Saudi Noor Volunteer Program to combat blindness and eye diseases in Pakistan's provinces of Sindh and Balouchistan from May 15 to July 10. (SPA)

 


Saudi Arabia’s Mawhiba ties up with UNESCO to promote STEM education in Arab countries

Saudi Arabia’s Mawhiba ties up with UNESCO to promote STEM education in Arab countries
Updated 20 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s Mawhiba ties up with UNESCO to promote STEM education in Arab countries

Saudi Arabia’s Mawhiba ties up with UNESCO to promote STEM education in Arab countries
  • Partnership aims to enhance STEM education for students from 6th grade to 12th grade across Arab states
  • Special attention will be given to empowering Arab girls and young women, ensuring they have equal opportunities to excel in STEM fields

PARIS: Mawhiba, an endowment organization that aims to nurture talented Saudi students in the scientific field, has signed a partnership agreement with UNESCO to foster science, technology, engineering and mathematics education across Arab countries.

The agreement was signed on July 19 in Paris by Abdulaziz bin Saleh Al-Subail, Mawhiba deputy secretary-general for business development and communication, and Lidia Arthur Brito, UNESCO’s assistant director-general for natural sciences, Mawhiba said in a news release carried by the Saudi Press Agency.

Mawhiba is the short name for the King Abdulaziz and his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity, which was organized in 1999 in honor of Saudi Arabia’s founding king.

Brito said that the partnership aimed to enhance STEM education for students from 6th grade to 12th grade across Arab states, ”focusing on refining their scientific knowledge, nurturing creativity, and fostering critical thinking.”

It sought ”to provide young people with the necessary knowledge and capabilities and to motivate them to use science, technology, engineering and mathematics to meet global challenges,” she said.

Brito said that the experience would help in exchanging these experiences globally, adding that ”there is potential for expanding these efforts to Africa and other parts of the world to promote sustainable development goals.”

Special attention would be given to empowering Arab girls and young women, ensuring they had equal opportunities to excel in STEM fields, she said.

Mawhiba has identified 97,000 gifted students out of more than 300,000 tested in more than 100 cities and villages across the Kingdom. Its sponsorship of more than 54,000 students and its participation in international science competitions for talented youth has reaped global recognition for the Kingdom. 

Saudi students have so far won more than 397 medals and prizes in these competitions, developed in excess of 16,000 ideas, acquired 15 patents, and more than 1,000 Saudi students were accepted in the world’s top 50 prestigious universities in distinguished disciplines that met the needs of national development plans, the SPA report said.

Mawhiba Secretary-General Amal bint Abdullah Al-Hazzaa emphasized the shared commitment to empowering young Arab minds and advancing sustainable development through education and innovation. She underscored the importance of this collaboration within the framework of Saudi Vision 2030.

Central to the initiative is the MAWHIBA-UNESCO Online STEM Oasis, which will serve as a global platform for local, national and regional science and engineering fairs. 

The partnership will focus on training Arab science teachers to lead research and guide students in scientific projects, thereby enhancing the overall quality of STEM education, the Mawhiba news release said.

“Mawhiba is committed to expanding the use of the UNESCO Open Science Portal and the UNESCO Science-2-Innovation Network to build the capacity of young scientists and women in STEM education globally.

“Over the past three years, Mawhiba has supported 839 students from Arab states through enriching STEM programs, setting a precedent for regional cooperation and development in STEM education,” it added.

By joining forces with UNESCO, Mawhiba aims to amplify its ability to address global challenges such as climate change, health crises and technological disruptions, it said.


Saudi Arabia, MWL welcome ICJ ruling on Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories

Saudi Arabia, MWL welcome ICJ ruling on Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories
Updated 20 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia, MWL welcome ICJ ruling on Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories

Saudi Arabia, MWL welcome ICJ ruling on Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories
  • The Kingdom calls for practical steps to reach a just solution to the Palestinian cause
  • MWL says the ruling is "a positive step towards the human and legal right of the Palestinian people to reach a just and comprehensive solution to their cause"

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has welcomed a ruling by UN’s top court that Israel’s settlement policy on Palestinian territory breaks international law.
The Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement that the Kingdom welcomed the advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice and called for practical steps to reach a just solution to the Palestinian cause.
The World Court issued the judgment, which is non-binding, on Friday.

A sign stands in the Palestinian village of Battir, a UNESCO heritage site in the occupied West Bank south of Jerusalem, which is now threatened by Israeli settlers trying to build a new, illegal outpost. (AFP)

In a separate statement, the Saudi-based Muslim World League described the ICJ ruling as "a positive step towards the human and legal right of the Palestinian people to reach a just and comprehensive solution to their cause."

MWL Secretary-General Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, who is also chairman of the Association of Muslim Scholars, said the decision, although non-binding, ensures that Palestinians "obtain their legitimate rights to self-determination and establishing their independent state in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative and relevant international legitimacy resolutions."

The court panel found “the transfer by Israel of settlers to the West Bank and Jerusalem as well as Israel’s maintenance of their presence, is contrary to article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
The ruling comes against the backdrop of Israel’s devastating bombardment on Gaza, following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants on Israeli settlements adjacent to the Palestinian enclave.
Israel captured the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem in 1967, but Palestinians consider the areas as integral part of a future independent state.

A view of Battir, a UNESCO heritage Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank south of Jerusalem, which is now threatened by Israeli settlers trying to build a new, illegal outpost. (AFP)

The Saudi Cabinet on Tuesday condemned the “continued genocidal massacres” against the Palestinian people amid Israel’s battle with Hamas in Gaza.
The Kingdom wants an independent state for the Palestinian people, encompassing the 1967 borders.
The US and regional players have been attempting to end the conflict in Gaza through a peace deal between Hamas and Israel, which would include the release of Israeli hostages and a form of lasting cessation of military activities.

(With SPA)


How Saudi Arabia and its Asian partners are driving green development ahead of COP29

How Saudi Arabia and its Asian partners are driving green development ahead of COP29
Updated 20 July 2024
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How Saudi Arabia and its Asian partners are driving green development ahead of COP29

How Saudi Arabia and its Asian partners are driving green development ahead of COP29
  • Asian nations share a common vision for climate action that does not hinder growth and prosperity
  • From the Saudi Green Initiative to Azerbaijan’s adoption of solar, Asia seeks harmony between humans and nature

QINGDAO, China: As one of the world’s largest economies and contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, China is seen as having a particular responsibility among nations to help address climate change and promote sustainable development.

As such, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization invited Asian countries to participate in a two-day Green Development Forum in Shandong earlier this month to discuss solutions for a greener future.

China’s President Xi Jinping has expressed his desire to strengthen cooperation with regional parties to work toward common social and economic development goals, while at the same time fostering harmonious coexistence between people and nature.

Representatives from various Asian countries attended the two-day Green Development Forum in Shandong, China, earlier this month to discuss solutions for a greener future. (Supplied)

Shen Yueyue, vice chair of the national committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and chair of the Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation Commission of the SCO, reiterated the need to foster this link between development and the environment.

“Development is development for all, and good development is green development,” Shen said in her keynote address at the forum, which was themed: “Joining hands in green development, together promoting harmony between humans and nature.”

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Green development is a focus for many countries, including Saudi Arabia. Indeed, one of the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform agenda is ensuring sustainable practices in social and economic development.

Two such strategies launched by the Kingdom to promote green development and a low-carbon future are the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative.

Together, these initiatives aim to increase vegetation cover in Saudi Arabia and across the region by planting billions of trees to mitigate the effects of climate change and to help slow the rise of global temperatures in line with the Kingdom’s net-zero commitments

Another regional state that is making green development a key priority is Iran.

During the SCO conference in Shandong’s port city of Qingdao, Ali Salajegheh, vice president and head of Iran’s Department of Environment, discussed his country’s commitment to fighting climate change.

One example of this is the country’s role in hosting the International Conference on Sand and Dust Storms in 2023.

Family picture of the participants of the Green Development Forum held in Shandong, China, earlier this month. (Supplied)

However, Salajegheh believes that addressing social and political issues is crucial to preventing a deepening of the environmental crisis in the region, including the need for economic stabilization and poverty reduction.

“Developing countries should make sure of their social and economic development as the main priority because the fight against poverty and the development of health and the provision of housing and energy is still for a significant part of the developing world considered a basic priority,” he said, according to Iran’s state news agency IRNA.

These efforts and more will be on the agenda at the 29th UN Climate Change Conference — COP29 — in Baku this November. In the run-up to this major event, host nation Azerbaijan has been working hard to achieve its green development goals.

DID YOUKNOW?

Azerbaijan’s capital Baku will host COP29 in November.

COP29 Presidency aims to raise ambition and enable action.

Baku is committed to developing the nation’s renewable energy potential.

Policies include tax breaks on electric vehicles and investment in education.

Although Azerbaijan is a major player in the global oil and gas industry, ranking 20th in the world for proven oil reserves, one of the key pillars of its green development strategy is the rapid expansion of renewable energy infrastructure.

The country has made significant changes to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, begin the transition to renewable energy, and participate in the global effort to combat climate change.

The 230MW Garadagh Solar Power Plant project in Azerbaijan. (AN photo by Haifa Alshammari)

In 2020, an agreement was signed between Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Energy and UAE firm Masdar to establish the country’s first solar energy facility — the 230-megawatt Garadagh Solar Power Plant.

The project occupies 550 hectares and currently boasts 570,000 bifacial photovoltaic panels, which capture the direct light of the sun and the reflection of sunlight from the ground.

Murad Sadikhov, the Garadagh Solar Power Plant’s country manager, told Arab News the facility has thus far achieved 24-gigawatt capacity. “But we have set a very ambitious goal to reach 100 GW by 2032,” he said.

Murad Sadikhov, country manager at The 230MW Garadagh Solar Power Plant project in Azerbaijan. (AN photo by Haifa Alshammari)

Alongside the implementation of renewable energy projects, Azerbaijan is also encouraging the public to shift from using fossil fuel-intensive vehicles to adopting green modes of transport.

“The government is promoting a green agenda, not only in terms of establishing generative capacity but also on the demand side,” said Sadikhov.

“They promote electrical vehicles. They started the electromobility master plan. They hired prominent consultants. They established new rules and legislations such as the tax relief for EVs and are promoting EVs for public transportation, trying to maximize the use of electric transportation.”

Significant strides have been made in tapping Azerbaijan's immense wind energy potential. The Azerbaijan 240 MW Wind Farm, for one, is being developed by Saudi Arabia's ACWA Power. 

Azerbaijan is also investing heavily in raising public awareness about environmentally friendly practices and training the next generation of sustainability professionals. “Most of the universities now have special programs for renewable energy,” said Sadikhov.

Although green development strategies have been adopted by several nations across Asia, experts and officials are keenly aware that more needs to be done to respond to the climate challenge without undermining social and economic development.