With Saudi Arabia facing an increasing demand for water to support its rapid population and economic growth, GE just wrapped up its two day “Used to Useful” Water Reuse Summit in the country. The goal was to explore water reuse solutions that can support Saudi Arabia and the region in securing a sustainable water supply for the future.
Those solutions are increasingly gaining attention as a sustainable way to manage scarce water supplies — and several Middle Eastern countries are evaluating stringent reuse goals. For example, Saudi Arabia has mandated a target of 11 percent of its water use to come from treated wastewater, which is suitable for domestic and industrial uses such as landscaping. Saudi Arabia’s advanced treated water reuse capacity is growing at more than 30 percent annually and is expected to reach 2.2 million cubic meters per day by 2016 from a current level of 260,000 cubic meters per day.
During the Water Reuse Summit, GE and recognized specialists presented and shared research and case studies from around the world that describe the complex nature of the water scarcity challenge. GE also presented its research on various incentive policies and structures to increase water reuse and recycling in a white paper entitled Creating Effective Incentives for Water Reuse and Recycling.
That just-released study describes how the world’s urban and industrial water use is projected to double by 2050, yet one fifth of the world’s population, or some 1.2 billion people, already lives in areas of water scarcity. The paper notes that one major stumbling block to reuse is a lack of effective incentives. “Cost-effective technologies already exist to solve virtually all water challenges, thus the focus needs to be placed on the human side of the equation,” said Heiner Markhoff, president and CEO—water and process technologies for GE Power & Water. “In that regard we see four main approaches: increased education and outreach so that people can see the need and the benefits; removal of bureaucratic and other barriers; effective use of mandates and regulations; and establishment of effective incentives, which is the focus of our latest white paper.”
The paper discusses four possible policy options: water pricing/discharge fees, water quality and demand trading, tax incentives and public-private partnerships. It says that regardless of the incentive type, experience shows that incentives are most effective when implemented within a regulatory structure that already exists and functions well. For example, Singapore’s goal is to use reclaimed water as a key part of its water supply. The island city-state merged several governmental units into a centralized Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, and it has been a major factor in helping the country realize a 30 percent water reuse rate.