DesalData Weekly - May 11th, 2016

Posted 11 May, 2016 by Mandy

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Later this month, Dubai’s first solar desalination plant is set to open at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park.  A photovoltaic array powers the plant, which will produce 50 cubic metres of water per day.  This initiative bolsters the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, which aims to provide 7 percent of the city’s energy from clean energy sources by 2020—and 75 percent by 2050.[1] 

The managing director and chief executive officer of the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, has stated that the project “supports the Dewa and the UAE Water Foundation’s efforts to supply people in poor countries with clean drinking water, by conducting specialised research regarding the production of desalinated water via the use of solar energy, storing it, and supporting water technology related projects to defeat drought.”[2]


Malaysia, like much of Southeast Asia, has been contending with the devastating effects of El NiñoThe weather phenomenon has brought with it not only higher temperatures but also severe water shortages to reservoirs, lakes, and dams across the country.[3]  The Linggiu Reservoir, for instance, which helps provide 50 percent of Singapore’s water needs, is at an all-time low (just over one-third of capacity).  The Penang Water Supply Corporation has stated that four northern states in Malaysia lack sufficient supplies of water in dams and rivers that are necessary for the irrigation and domestic consumption needs of 4 million people.[4] 


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While many states are relying on water rationing to contend with the crisis, seawater desalination and groundwater may provide better long-term options than surface water.  Dr Lau Woei Jye, a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Chemical and Energy Engineering at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, suggests that seawater desalination would provide an “abundant and steady source of fresh water” that will work independently of any weather or climate changes.[5]  As for groundwater alternatives: in 1982, studies by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) reported that Malaysia has an estimated 5,000 billion cubic metres of groundwater reserves—reserves that have since increased.  University and government experts confer with JICA’s estimation of untapped groundwater.  Reports suggest that only 3 percent of the supply has been used for agriculture and small- and medium-sized industries; although, the cost of dredging is expensive, not unlike desalination, and the necessary technology needs to be developed and implemented.[6]

Meanwhile, dry weather conditions have also influenced Malaysia’s agricultural output and rubber production, and reportedly caused “large-scale deaths of fresh water fish.”[7]  The nation’s projected output for palm oil is also set to fall by 2 million tons (Malaysia is the world’s second-largest producer of palm oil).[8]


In South Texas, a new brackish water desalination plant will soon produce 45,420 cubic metres of drinking water per day.  The plant is located in southern Bexar County, and will serve 50,000 homes in San Antonio—the state’s second most populous city.  A representative of the San Antonio Water System, Richard Donat, has reported that the plant will ease pressure on the Edwards Aquifer and become the city’s ninth water source.[9]




[1] Baset Asaba, “Solar Desalination Plant to Open in Dubai,”, May 8, 2016, <> accessed May 10, 2016.

[2] “Solar Park Desalination Plant Nearing Completion,” Khaleej Times, May 6, 2016, <> accessed May 10, 2016.

[3] Syareen Majelan, “Seawater Desalination And Groundwater Could Be Long-Term Solutions To Malaysia’s Water Crisis,” Malaysian Digest, May 3, 2016, <> accessed May 10, 2016.

[4] “Drought Beyond India: Malaysia Faces a Massive Water Crisis as South East Asia Swelters,”, April 18, 2016, <> accessed May 10, 2016.

[5] Majelan, “Seawater Desalination and Groundwater.”

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid..

[8] Aditya Kondalamahanty, “El Nino To Dent Malaysia Palm Oil Exports; Prices Set to Rise, Top Analyst Says,” International Business Times, <> accessed May 10, 2016.

[9] Anusha Roy, “Desalination Plant Brings Cutting Edge Tech to S.A. Water Supply,” KENS 5, May 10, 2016 <> accessed May 9, 2016.

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