Riyadh, Asharq AL-Awsat—The Gulf states have started taking concrete steps to study the legal and regulatory aspects of a project to link the regional states’ water systems. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) intends to draw on experience from the electricity linkage project, which has reached the implementation and construction stages, at a time when the water project is still in its infancy.
Arab Gulf states are planning–starting in 2020–to make the Arabian Sea and the Sea of Oman the main water resources for the Gulf region in the event of a water shortage from the Arab Gulf. This is part of Arab Gulf aims to confront expected water shortages over the next few years.
Gulf sources, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, revealed that the water linkage project will be made available in a public tender, with companies from outside the Gulf region also expected to bid.
The sources added that “the operations on the ground need great experience and large numbers of laborers and other human resources; therefore, there will be alliances between local and international companies to implement this project.”
Meanwhile, Gulf states are expressing fears about the possibility of a severe water shortage within the next two decades. This is why they are taking urgent steps now to implement the Gulf water linkage project, in the hope that it will provide better water security.
Adnan Al-Mohaisen, general manager of the Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Authority (GCCIA), held a meeting with Mohamed Falah Al-Rushaidi, representative of the General Secretariat of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and officials from Artelia, the company in charge of research into the water linkage project, at the authority’s headquarters in Dammam, eastern Saudi Arabia, yesterday. This meeting aimed to discuss cooperation between the two sides and look at the legal aspects of the Gulf electricity linkage project.
The meeting aims to benefit from the experience of GCCIA, which took charge of the Gulf electricity linkage project that has proved viable and that has achieved its major aims following its launch in December 2009. The project’s objectives included improving the reliability of the interconnected networks by sharing electricity reserves, provision of support and exchange of required power during emergencies, and the avoidance of electricity blackouts. In addition to this, the project has activated power trades between the connected countries, and opened new horizons for power exchange and trade, by creating linkage opportunities with neighboring countries.
The meeting comes in response to the results of the extraordinary meeting related to the discussion of water linkage and Gulf water strategy held at the Ministry of Electricity on June 12, 2012, in order to research water linkage between GCC states, on the authority of decisions taken by the GCC higher council.
Recent information attained by Asharq Al-Awsat revealed that studies carried out on the water linkage project recommended the use of the Arabian Sea and the Sea of Oman in the event of water shortages from the Arab Gulf due to population growth in the Gulf region.
Population growth in the Gulf adds pressure on water consumption in the region, which has driven the GCC states to move urgently to work on the water linkage project. This project is expected to be revealed at the next meeting of GCC leaders.
Following a meeting in Riyadh about eight months ago, Saudi minister of water and electricity Abdulah Al-Hossein said: “The Gulf electricity linkage is progressing well in its third year. It has proved its economic and technical viability in what was achieved in the past year, when there were more than 600 energy exchange processes between Gulf states during emergency situations, which, in turn, underlines the importance of the electrical linkage.”
Speaking at the time, Hossein revealed that the success of the electricity linkage process between GCC states had led to another proposal, the implementation of the water linkage project. He said,
“The references for the water linkage project were redrafted after they were studied previously, and they were discussed during today’s meeting after being amended in order to present them to the leaders of the GCC states to approve them.”
Hossein added, “The project aims to improve the water industry in the Gulf states through the standardization of desalination plants and pipeline . . . in order to provide the requisite water.”