Water and Energy in MENA: Challenges, Opportunities, and Potential – January 2014

There has been no shortage of debate in recent years about the water – energy nexus. Just as water is required to generate and distribute electricity, water supply and sewage disposal require energy. Predictions of dwindling water supply due to climate change and environmental degradation and an expected 56% increase in global energy consumption by 2040 (EIA) means that the co-dependency of this relationship will be tested. Nowhere is the tension on the water side of the equation felt more acutely than the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region which although rich in fossil fuels, has less than 1% of the world’s renewable water supply. As a result, almost 50% of the world’s desalination capacity is located in the MENA region and the International Energy Agency’s 2013 World Energy Outlook found that the six biggest users of desalination in MENA–Algeria, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates–use approximately 10% of their primary energy for desalination. In fact, desalination accounted for more than 4% of the total electricity generated in the MENA region in 2010.i
This paper will explore the following:

  • The water demand and supply gap within MENA
  • How to address this gap through technologies for desalination and water reuse but also more economically through demand management strategies. There are massive opportunities and potential highlighted in this section. For example, the MENA region is forecasted to account for more than 54% of the world’s growth in desalination has a market estimated to be worth at least US$40 billion
  • What all this change in the water sector might mean for private industries and how profit impacts loom for those industries that do not engage in effective water supply and management strategies.

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