UAE Launch New Desalination Plant, Ensure Safe Drinking Water for 2 Mn residents

Asma Ahmed - | UAE

In terms of seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) capacity, Naqa'a is among the biggest desalination projects in the world. This project is a joint venture between ACWA Power of Saudi Arabia, Mubadala, and Etihad Water and Electricity. Its goal is to supply water to about 2 million people living in the northern parts of the United Arab Emirates.

Overview of the Naqa'a Desalination Project

About 2 million people in the northern areas of the UAE have their water demands greatly met by Naqa'a, one of the world's largest desalination facilities using seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) technology. A 150 million gallon per day production capability is boasted by this massive project, which is a collaboration between Mubadala, Etihad Water and Electricity, and ACWA Power of Saudi Arabia.

Situated in Umm Al Quwain, the plant's distribution network spans Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Dibba Al Fujairah, Ajman, and Dhaid in Sharjah, ensuring a reliable supply of potable water across these areas. Eng. Yousif Al Ali, CEO of Etihad Water and Electricity, emphasizes the strategic importance of Naqa’a in the UAE’s water security agenda.

Addressing the challenge of water scarcity in a desert nation, Naqa’a’s desalination facility provides a dependable source of freshwater, mitigating the region's limited natural freshwater resources. Eng. Al Ali notes that the UAE faces significant water stress due to expanding infrastructure and a growing population. Desalination, therefore, is vital for providing safe drinking water. The Naqa’a plant supports the Mohamed bin Zayed Water Initiative, producing around 50 billion gallons of water annually, enough to serve the needs of 2 million residents.

Environmentally friendly technology

The project aligns with the UAE’s National Water Security Strategy 2036, under which Naqa’a was launched to ensure a sustainable water resource for future generations. Eng. Al Ali confirms that the water produced is safe for human consumption, adhering to stringent quality standards and periodic testing to meet national and World Health Organization (WHO) specifications.

Moreover, the SWRO technology used at Naqa’a is highlighted for its environmental benefits, consuming significantly less energy compared to traditional thermal desalination methods. Eng. Al Ali points out that innovative technologies like variable frequency drives (VFD) and pressure exchangers (PX) have reduced the plant’s electrical energy usage by up to 60%. This efficiency allows for the production of high-quality freshwater while minimizing environmental impact.

Etihad Water and Electricity has also taken steps to mitigate the environmental impact of constructing and operating the plant. Measures include protecting local wildlife and vegetation, such as relocating fauna species and Ghaf trees before construction, and engaging in beach cleanup projects with plant staff participation.

Looking ahead, Etihad Water and Electricity is committed to exploring technological upgrades and potential expansions to enhance Naqa’a’s output and efficiency. This forward-thinking approach ensures the plant can meet increasing production demands, support future needs, and contribute effectively to the national water security strategy. Eng. Al Ali emphasizes the importance of continuous improvements and proactive measures to maintain and improve water distribution efficiency, preparing for future demands while safeguarding the environment.

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Asma Ahmed
Asma Ahmed
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