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For dry regions like the MENA, desalination has long been part of national water strategies. As a whole, the region accounts for almost the half of the world’s desalination capacity and is home to some of the largest desalination plants. Interest and investment in desalination are expanding beyond this part of the world, however, driven in part by water-scarcity concerns —14% of the world population is expected to live in water-scarce areas and will be facing a major challenge of a widening gap in water supplies and demand by 2030, by which nearly half the global population could be facing water scarcity, with demand outstripping supply by 40% (Ban Ki-Moon, 2013).
This is attributed to limited renewable water resources and anticipated high population growth. In fact, climate change and poor water management have been implicated as contributing causes to both the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars. Unrest, instability and conflict can all be triggered or worsened by water scarcity. Besides being inefficiently managed, water is also distributed unevenly across the globe, making some regions significantly more stressed than others. The Middle East will be one of the regions most affected by water shortages in following years. According to an analysis by the World Resources Institute, 33 countries will face extremely high-water stress in 2040, of which a shocking number of 14 will be in the Middle East. In addition, water availability and quality are threatened by pollution, the impacts of climate change, population growth and increasing consumption.
Desalination is becoming increasingly important as a solution to the water challenges and a serious climate change adaptation option in the region, and also an important strategic technology to fulfil the sustainable development goals (SDGs), mainly the SDG 6 (Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all) and SDG6-a: “By 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies”. Desalination offers several advantages over other water supply options because it taps a virtually infinite resource that is more immune to political or social claims than conventional hydraulic works. Moreover, desalinated seawater is insensitive to climate change and may reduce tensions between and within countries struggling over shared water resources. About 80% of the population in this region live within 100 Km from the sea (AFED, 2009).