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GCC Prepares Unified Water Strategy

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia

The Gulf Cooperation Council is drafting a unified water strategy for member countries, according to Abdallah al Shebli, assistant secretary-general for economic affairs at the GCC Secretariat.

“Universities and research centers in GCC countries will play a role in formulating this comprehensive strategy,” Shebli said last week.

The strategy is in line with the latest GCC summit recommendations, which emphasized water security. Shebli said it will “complement other development strategies in GCC countries, taking into consideration all aspects related to water production and water security.”

As part of the unified strategy, the GCC will establish a common water network by 2020. The water ministries of the six member countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – estimate it will take $1 billion USD to complete the project.

Based on studies conducted by water agencies in the GCC, the project will require member countries to build desalination plants with water intakes located mainly on the shores of the Persian Gulf. The waters of the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea could also be used as sources.

The common network is expected to help provide uniform desalination standards and specifications in all six countries.

The regional strategy also includes a number of key desalination plants on Al Qamar Gulf in Yemen, as well as other projects.

The Persian Gulf region is one of the most water scarce parts of the world. GCC countries are looking for ways to increase water production in order to meet the needs of a steadily growing population and development projects.

They depend mainly on desalination; the GCC represents 40 percent of total global desalinated water production.

Jordan and Morocco have been invited to join the regional bloc, and Yemen is in negotiations to become a member, and hopes to join by 2015.