“Why waste water?” was the theme of the 2017 World Water Day. TANQIA the wastewater utility in Fujairah, one of the 7 emirates of the UAE, is responding to this call to increase the reuse wastewater in support of Sustainable Development Goal SDG 6.3. It has developed a system to distribute highly treated wastewater from TANQIA’s treatment plant for reuse as a substitute for higher value underground and desalinated water in non-potable applications TANQIA requested KWR to assess the safety of its wastewater for the various possible uses.
Wastewater reuse to resolve water scarcity
Driving from Dubai to Fujairah, we pass through beautiful red sand dunes and rocky desert hills. Beautiful but dry. Fresh water is scarce in this region. Drinking water in Fujairah is mostly produced by seawater desalination, which is costly, energy intensive and has a negative impact on the environment. Meanwhile, treated, fresh wastewater is discharged in the Indian Ocean. TANQIA has designed a distribution system for reusing this water for irrigation, cleaning or other purposes. I’ve been invited by TANQIA to assess the safety of the water for the various reuse purposes before starting its distribution. So, after a warm welcome, and a tour around the beautifully landscaped treatment system, I get to work.
UAE versus Australia and the USA
The “Why waste water?” campaign also focused on the safety of wastewater reuse. Several guidelines for reuse of treated wastewater have been developed by the World Health Organization and other governments and institutions.. The California Tittle 22 and the Australian Guidelines are well known regulations that provide practical guidelines for safe reuse. However, when applied to TANQIA’s case study, practical challenges become clear. Each of the guidelines makes different assumptions about wastewater composition in their respective regions and different health based targets are applied.
Translating these guidelines to the UEA Region isn’t a simple task, but together with the people from TANQIA we arrive at a clear approach for risk assessment. This will require quite some work when I get home, but we hope this case will provide a good example for the UEA Region and will stimulate research to fill important knowledge gaps specifically for this region.