What role for desalination in the new water paradigm

The lack of drinking water, worsened by climate change, is a major challenge for humanity. More than 300 million people around the world rely on desalinated water for some or all their of their daily water needs. Currently 150 countries use desalination, where the equivalent of 86.8 million cubic meters or desalinated water is produced per day. This happens in 18,426 desalination plants worldwide according to information gathered by the International Desalination Association as of June 30, 2015.

With 40% of the world population living within 100 km of the coastal area, desalination of seawater or brackish groundwater is proving to be an essential alternative resource for long term sustainability of large urban areas. Currently, this method provides only 1% of drinking water in the world, but the global desalination market is constantly growing (more than 10% per year) and is expected to reach $ 18 billion in 2016, in order to supply more than 500 million people in drinking water. The desalination market is also diversifying as demand from the industrial and mining sectors grows and needs increase for the agricultural and irrigation sector.

One of IWA’s coorporate members is also a sustainability champion. SUEZ has desalination at its heart, while positioning and commiting itself to the preservation of resource and circular economy. SUEZ, through its degremont® expertise, has been a pioneer in the desalination sector. With 45 years’ experience and more than 250 desalination plants built over around the world, the Group produces 1,200,000 m3/ day of desalinated water.

Thanks to its strong expertise on DBO (design, build, operate) contracts, SUEZ offers treatment infrastructure solutions for local authorities and industry. SUEZ designs and builds customised seawater or brackish water desalination plants – small or large, modular or standardized – to meet specific client needs. SUEZ also offers operation and service solutions for daily plant management and optimization covering pre-treatment, energy consumption and the washing of membranes. SUEZ also supplies spare parts, site rehabilitation and employee training.

Currently, SUEZ is building the wastewater treatment plant of Al-Amerat in the Sultanate of Oman, and has recently won a contract with its partners to finance, build and operate a new seawater desalination plant in Barka. This public-private BOO (Build Own Operate) partnership provides covered the construction and operation of the facility for the next 20 years. The facility, with a capacity of 281,000 m3 per day, is the largest reverse osmosis desalination plant in the Sultanate of Oman. By signing a BOT (Build, Operate, Transfer) contract, SUEZ is committed over the long-term, from design, during operation and through to transferring the plant. SUEZ’s dedicated experts assume the responsibility for raising the necessary finance and establish the legal framework for the project. SUEZ secures completion of the project by involving selected partners to contribute added technical or financial value, specific know-how and local knowledge.

Through major investments in research and development, SUEZ continuously provides its customers with innovative and more sustainable solutions, consuming less energy and producing more water therefore reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Continuous improvements in technology are gradually making desalination an affordable solution for more and more countries. In ten years, water production costs have been reduced by one half and production capacity has doubled thanks to constant optimization of the reverse osmosis processes. Masdar Initiative and pilots are eloquent innovation examples in desalination. These projects are aiming at developing and demonstrating advanced and innovative technologies in desalination to both ensure water security and reduce energy consumption. The main final target is to apply those renewable energy technologies on large scale desalination plant. At its pilot in Masdar, SUEZ has brought together some of its most advanced and innovative technological desalination partners.



SUEZ is an IWA member and will be one of the 250 Exhibitor’s organisations and institutes present at the IWA World Water Congress & Exhibition 2016.

Rare, precious, and fragile, natural resources are not infinite. SUEZ Group’s businesses are being transformed to support cities and industries in the optimal management of resources essential to life and the future. With activities accross five continents, and 80,000 employees, SUEZ supplies 92 million people with drinking water, and 65 million with sanitation services. It provides nearly 52 million people with waste collection services and recovers over 14 million tons of waste as secondary raw materials and energy. To protect the future, we promote a more efficient use of our resources: optimize processes, create new alternatives for water resources, and transform today’s waste into tomorrow’s resources.