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Water Treatment in Middle Eastern Countries


Water resources in the Middle East can be classified into two main categories: conventional, such as surface water (including aflaj water systems, springs and dams) and groundwater (shallow and deep aquifers), and non-conventional, such as desalinated water, treated wastewater and cloud seeding.

Surface water
The surface water is negligible and includes floodwater, water retained in dams, some very small streams, ponds and spring water. These are either confined or flowing when there are land slopes and are replenished by rainfall or groundwater.

Due to the Middle Eastern countries’ location in a dry belt region, rainfall is limited and floodwaters leak into the ground, especially in sedimentary areas. Thus, it is crucial to build dams to harvest rainwater and store surface water behind them and to help feed the aquifer, although most of it is lost to high evaporation. The average annual surface water flow through valleys ranges from 23 million cubic metres to 138 million cubic metres

Groundwater is the main natural water resource. The total volume of groundwater is quite significant at around 640 billion cubic metres, but only 3% of it (around 20 billion cubic metres) is fresh.

In the Middle East’s arid environment, groundwater is an important and precious resource for municipal and rural supplies, environmental protection, and social and economic development. However, most of the groundwater used in the Middle East is brackish. Groundwater resources can be divided into renewable (shallow aquifers) and non-renewable resources (deep aquifers).

Groundwater resources occur in the aquifers located in the Bajada region, UAE, in the eastern part of the country. The aquifers consist of alluvial fan deposits along the base of the Oman and Ras Al-Khaimah Khaymah mountains that extend over a large area. The upper aquifer is composed of gravel sand and silt, the lower aquifer of limestone, dolomite and marl. Both aquifers range in thickness from 200 to 800 metres. In addition, the Dammam and Umm er-Radhuma aquifers, which extend into the western desert areas, contain highly saline water.

The recharge of shallow aquifers depends mainly on rainfall events and surface run-off, and thus may vary considerably from year to year. Due to the high evaporation rate and surface water run-off in mountain areas, only 10-14% of the total precipitation percolates to recharge the shallow groundwater aquifers.

In recent years, aquifer conditions have improved as a result of measures taken to reduce groundwater abstraction to sustainable levels. However, full recovery will take generations. Controlling the groundwater mining has also commenced, although more steps still needed to reduce the abstraction volume to sustainable levels. In addition, a comprehensive set of measures for sustainable groundwater management have been adopted, notably establishing strong monitoring and regulatory programmes and conserving traditional water systems such as aflaj.

The high evaporation rates during the summer increase the accumulation of salts in the root zone. Excess irrigation water percolates deeply and carries the accumulated salts to the aquifer, further aggravating the problem of groundwater deterioration.

Non-conventional water sources

In order to meet both the qualitative and quantitative requirements for drinking water standards, domestic water supplies rely mainly on desalinated water (around 99%), which is used either directly or blended with groundwater.

After Saudi Arabia, the UAE has the highest desalination capacity globally. Most of the desalination plants use co-generation multi-stage flash technology or multiple-effect distillation, whereas only two plants use reverse osmosis technology. As of 2015, there are 33 major water desalination plants in the UAE.

The availability of desalinated water at relatively low costs may also be an attractive means of meeting industrial water demand, since industries have been willing to pay for water at rates higher than domestic and agricultural rates.

Renewable energy can play a key role in lowering the cost of desalinated water. In fact, the UAE is very progressive when it comes to developments and innovations in green technology. Food and water security are important issues for the country, which already imports more than 90% of its food. Furthermore, the UAE aims to increase its total renewable energy by 24% by 2021. The water demand is expected to grow about 30% by 2030, and seawater desalination requires ten times more energy than surface water production.

Treated wastewater

Treated wastewater represents one of the most important alternatives to meet some of the present water requirements and lessen the long-term supply-demand imbalance. Thanks to the completion of wastewater treatment facilities and the expansion of urban sewage networks, large volumes of treated wastewater have become available. Due to environmental considerations, wastewater is treated completely or partially, regardless of its intended use.

At present, the UAE operates modern treatment facilities with tertiary and advanced treatment capabilities. Treated water is used mainly for urban purposes, such as irrigating gardens and highway landscaping. Municipalities are responsible for building and managing sewage systems, creating networks for storm water collection and reusing treated wastewater. However, half of the treated effluents are discharged into the Arabian Gulf. The main reasons for this are:

  • Lack of transmission and distribution networks to supply end-users (which are mainly forests and private companies such as golf resorts)
  • Lower demand due to the financial downturn from 2008-2014
  • Cultural obstacles, such as convincing farmers to use recycled water

There are about 79 medium and large wastewater treatment plants. In 2013, treated wastewater amounted to about 615 million cubic metres, or around 14% of the total water resources used.

Cloud seeding

The UAE is one of the countries pioneering cloud seeding and artificial rainmaking in the MENA region. It spent 2 million dirhams (around $550,000) on cloud seeding operations in 2015.

Cloud seeding usually takes place over the eastern mountain ranges on the border with Oman and aims to raise levels in aquifers and reservoirs in the area. However, some cloud seeding over the cities has also been carried out. Although this technique has proved its success in increasing the amount of precipitation, a detailed cost-benefit analysis needs to be carried out to ensure that it is a viable water source compared to options such as desalination or even water conservation campaigns. The table below shows the UAE’s water resources from 2002 and projections to 2050.

Quantity of water resources (Million cubic metres) 2002 2005 2010 2015
Surface run-off Average groundwater feed Desalination Treated water Total
150 125 720 227 1,222
150 125 945 273 1,493
150 125 1,488 387 2,150
150 125 2,342 615 3,232
150 125 3,688 754 4,717
150 125 5,806 1,053 7,134
150 125 11,612 2,106 13,993

Shared Water Resources in the Middle East

The Middle East does not share any surface waters and so does not have any water agreements or treaties with any other country. However, since the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, of which the Middle Eastern country, United Arab Emirates is one, share underground aquifers, the GCC should work together to utilize these aquifers in a more sustainable way. Currently, no treaties or agreements govern these aquifers.

Charity: Water


Charity: water is a non-profit organization founded by Scott Harrison. Charity: water provided drinking water to people in developing nations.

“1 in 10 people lack access to clean water. Charity: water on a mission to change that. Here’s how.”


In order to have a clean water, there are different type of solutions provided.

    • Hand-Dug Wells

Skilled laborers dig up to 15 meters by hand to reach aquifers below. This is often the only relatively easy way to obtain water, particularly in developing countries that lack surface water.
It is an economical technique because it only requires physical labour with simple tools. This is the simplest method of well construction. Wells dug this way have a wider diameter which means water can be drawn from a wider zone in the water table.
These wells can capture water from less permeable materials such as fine sand, loam or clay.

    • Drilled Wells

A drilling team drills deep into the earth to reach fresh aquifers. The advantages of drilled wells are the quicker and cheaper to sink than hand-dug wells, less susceptible to contamination, no de-watering during sinking required, less lining material required compares to hand-dug wells, safer in construction and use compared to hand-dug wells and the well itself barely needs maintenance as well as many simple drilling techniques available suiting most geological conditions

    • Rainwater Catchments

Gutters on rooftops direct the flow of rainfall into a sanitary holding tank. Also called rain harvesting, these simple systems connect downspouts (gutters) to a central water tank capable of holding about 100,000 liters of water or more. Often, in dry countries, the issue is not that it never rains, but rather that when it does, most of the runoff is lost. These water systems make the best use of what little rain there is.

    • Gravity Fed Systems

The force of gravity feeds water into a community from an elevated source. The gravity fed water system is used to pull the water from springs, streams, creeks, rain barrels, and rivers upstream or uphill from the water source. You can use this system to provide water to your shower, gardens, animal barns, and even your whole house if you have it set up properly.

    • Water Purification Systems

Installed treatment systems remove contaminants from existing systems. Water purification is the process of removing undesirable chemicals, biological contaminants, suspended solids, and gases from water. The goal is to produce water fit for specific purposes. Most water is purified and disinfected for human consumption (drinking water), but water purification may also be carried out for a variety of other purposes, including medical, pharmacological, chemical, and industrial applications. The methods used include physical processes such as filtration, sedimentation, and distillation; biological processes such as slow sand filters or biologically active carbon; chemical processes such as flocculation and chlorination; and the use of electromagnetic radiation such as ultraviolet light. Water purification may reduce the concentration of particulate matter including suspended particles, parasites, bacteria, algae, viruses, and fungi as well as reduce the concentration of a range of dissolved and particulate matter.

Charity: water funded 38,113 water projects for 9.6 million people around the world.

Find out more photos on the solutions that Charity: water has provided in here
Check out more information on Charity: water

Perak Water Board


Perak Water Board or Lembaga Air Perak (LAP) is corporate organization that started under Perak Water Board Enacment 1988. The purpose of Perak Water Board is to provide water supply services in Perak.

“To supply clean water to meet the needs of the population, both urban and rural, and the requirements of commerce and industry.”

In order to produce clean water for Perak state,few steps need to be taken

  • Raw water resource
    • At this stage, raw water from Sungai Perak which close to plants is obtained.

  • Screening
    • Raw water that obtained from earlier stage go through screening that separate physical materials such as wood, sand, grass and etc.

  • Aeration
    • Raw water is then pumped to cascade aerator. The action is perform to increase oxygen content and get rid smell and taste of the water.

Water will undergo Flocculation, Sedimentation, Filteration, Chlorination, pH adjustment, Fluoridasi, Clean Water Tank, Water Quality Monitoring before the water reach Water Distributation System to be use for citizen of Perak.

Check out more information on Perak Water Board

Just a Drop


Just a Drop is a charitable organization founded by a managing director of World Travel Market Flona Jerry and supported by members of international travel industry. Just a Drop support marginalised people across the world through community leading development.

“Just a Drop brings sustainable safe water, sanitation and hygiene projects to communities, transforming lives.”

In order to have safe water, there are different type of solutions provided.

  • Rainwater Harvesting
  • Rain falls and is directed into a sanitary water tank, usually by guttering. Rock catchment system operate in the same way, on a larger scale, with the rainfall that flows from a steep rock face directed and collected.

  • Water Distribution Systems
  • Work by distributing water to locations through a system of pipes. Gravity Fed Water Systems use the pull of gravity to direct the flow of water to a sanitary storage tank. Piped Water Systems work by distributing piped water to a series of taps in a community.

  • Spring Protections
  • A system is built to capture water from a naturally occurring spring source, and the clean water is stored.

  • Hand-Dug Wells
  • Wells are dug by hand, to reach the water stored in the aquifer below, at a depth of no more than 15 meters. Hand-dug wells, or shallow wells, are the most common way of extracting water in rural areas of the developing world.

Just A Drop projects have benefitted 1.5 million people in 32 countries and monitored for minimum 7 years after completions.

Find out more information on how rainwater harvesting tanks work here
Check out more information on Just a Drop



PureMadi is a nonprofit organization that collaborate with University of Virginia‘s students and faculty. PureMadi use low cost materials such as clay, water and sawdust. This technique is called as Ceramic Filter Technology.

“To prevent waterborne disease through educating, training, and empowering resource-limited communities to produce and distribute an innovative point-of-use water technology.”

In order to produce ceramic water filters, there are few steps need to be done before ceramic water filters can be used.

  • 1st Stage
    • At this stage, clay are collected from local deposit need to be dry and rocks are removed from the clay by hand. The clay is then grind into powder form for future use.

  • 2nd Stage
    • At this stage, sawdust from local sawmill needed to be sieve before using it for future use.

  • 3rd Stage
    • The processed clay and sawdust are mixed with water with particular ratio.

  • 4th Stage
    • The clay and sawdust mixture is pressed into pot shape using filter press and they needed to air-dry before moving to next step.

  • 5th Stage
    • The air-dried filters are placed in either a wood-fired or electric kiln with temperature of 870˚C. This process will allow sawdust inside clay and sawdust mixture will combust which create pore space. The filters is then cooled.

  • 6th Stage
    • The filters need to two tests to insure their quality. Filters that failed either one of the tests above have to be destroy.

  • 7th Stage
    • The filters that passed both 2 tests above are air-dried and the filters’ surfaces are painted with colloidal silver solution. They are air-dried again and packaged for distribution.

After few years, PureMadi introduced new invention called “MadiDrop” during its one-year celebration event. MadiDrop is in tablet form and is a small ceramic disk impregnated with silver or copper nanoparticles.

Check out more information on PureMadi.



Newater is brand name of reclaimed water produced by Singapore’s Public Utilities Board. Newater filter all used water using technology called”Water Reclamation Plants”. It collect and treat all the used water in Singapore based on international standards. Newater has passed more than 150,000 scientific tests and Newater fulfill WHO(World Health Organisation) requirements.

“By 2060, NEWater is expected to meet up to 55% of Singapore’s future water demand.”

In order to produce Newater,all used water have to undergo 3-steps treatment at NEWater Plants.

These 3 steps are Microfiltration, Reverse Osmosis, Ultraviolet Disinfection.

  • Microfiltration
    • At this stage, used water that contain microscopic particles including bacteria are filtered out.

  • Reverse Osmosis
    • At this stage, undesirable contaminants from filtered water on earlier stage are now removed. The water at this stage is called high grade water.

  • Ultraviolet Disinfection
    • The water is passed through ultraviolet light to ensure that there is no remaining organisms. Chemicals are also added into the water to restore its pH balance. The water that gone through all the processes above is called Newater and is ready to be used!

Newater that was produced has 2 usage which is non-potable use and indirect potable use

Non-Potable Use
Indirect Potable Use
  • Newater is mainly used for industrial and air-con cooling purposes at different fields as Newater is ultra clean. Wafer fabrication plants is biggest user of Newater as it require water quality that is even more clean than drinking water.
  • During dry periods, Newater is mixed with raw water from reservoirs. The raw water form reservoirs is treat at the waterworks before it delivered to consumers as tap water.

Check out more information on PUB Newater.

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