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Abstract Details

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Toward Sustainable Water Reuse in Abu Dhabi, UAE
Paper Proposal Text :
In oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries of the Arabian Peninsula, fresh water is in limited supply – the high evapotranspiration rate in the arid region deem surface water bodies to be non-existent, and groundwater resources have been rapidly declining because of limited recharge, over-pumping, and mixing with subsurface brine from evaporitic deposits(Sanford and Wood 2001; Brook, Al Houqani et al. 2006). Cities in the region tend to be coastal so that they can rely on seawater as a feed-water source for high throughput desalination processes, which yield fresh water at a severe energy and carbon penalty(Mezher, Fath et al. 2011; Aina and Ahmad 2013). Conversely, treating wastewater costs only a fraction of seawater desalination (Hering, Waite et al. 2013), and water reuse serves to increase the average residence time of desalinated water in the urban water cycle. Therefore, the reuse of treated wastewater offers a sustainable solution to meet the burgeoning water demand in water-scarce regions, especially for society’s functions that require non-potable reuse. (e.g., landscape irrigation, cooling tower operation, and fire-fighting) (USEPA 2012).

In Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), water reuse is a significant component of the sustainable development goals of the government (Regulation and Supervision Bureau 2010). At present, treated wastewater meets less than 10% of Abu Dhabi city’s total water demand, leaving much room for improvement (Abu Dhabi Statistics Center 2012; Abu Dhabi Executive Council 2015). The shift to complete treated wastewater reuse might be inevitable for the United Arab Emirates (UAE), considering UAE’s current per capita water demand of 550 L/day is one of the highest in the world, and the region’s population is expected to almost double by the year 2050 (Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development 2009). With the increasing trend towards water reuse, protection of public health from harmful water contaminants is a paramount concern. The presence of chemicals either present in the wastewater or produced during disinfection is often overlooked in the reclamation process (Joss, Keller et al. 2005; Yang, Shang et al. 2005).

Ongoing research at the Masdar Institute related to the sustainable reuse of treated municipal wastewater has the overarching goal of establishing safe and sustainable practices. Work accomplished so far has focused on the following key concerns, some of which are unique to the region: (i) saline water intrusion into the sewage system, its effects on the generation of carcinogenic disinfection byproducts, and the subsequent health risk posed during landscape irrigation (Aina and Ahmad 2013); (ii) human bacterial pathogen detection in treated effluent using newly-developed molecular biological methods (Kumaraswamy, Amha et al. 2014), and quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) models for edible crop irrigation reuse (Amha, Kumaraswamy et al. 2015); and (iii) characterization of residual pharmaceutical micropollutants in treated effluent, and their removal using sustainable technologies such as the newly-developed photo-regenerable multi-walled carbon nanotube (MWNT) membranes (Zaib, Mansoor et al. 2013). Technical and policy-based insights from this work hold the promise of limiting the region’s carbon footprint and energy demand, while enhancing food and water security.


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