World In the Middle East, countries spend heavily to transform seawater into drinking water
John Stamos Helps Couple Get Engaged at Disney World
John Stamos Helps Couple Get Engaged at Disney World“To assist with an engagement anywhere is an honor, but at @waltdisneyworld right as the fireworks began? That’s magical,” Stamos, 56, wrote on Instagram on Wednesday, December 4.
BARKA, Oman — On the shore of the Arabian Sea, two massive pipes, each more than six feet in diameter, extend from a fenced compound down into the water.
The pipes work like powerful straws, sucking in seawater and sending it through a series of tanks and filters.
The Barka 4 desalination plant is Oman’s newest and largest. Powered by natural gas, the plant went online last year and at full capacity can churn out 74 million gallons of potable water in a day — enough to fill 112 Olympic-size swimming pools.
Miss Universe is Breaking Barriers With Its First Openly Gay Contestant
For the first time in the pageant’s history, an out lesbian woman will take the stage. *Glamour* spoke to Miss Myanmar about facing discrimination in her home country and representing the LGBTQ community on the world stage. It’s taken 67 years, but when 90 beauty pageant hopefuls strut their stuff across the stage for the Miss Universe competition this Sunday, December 8th, they will be joined by the pageant’s first openly gay contestant—and it’s about time.The pageant world isn’t especially known for its inclusivity. Contestants have historically been overwhelmingly thin, white and model tall. But times are changing.
Oman relies on desalination because its extreme scarcity of water leaves few other options. In this corner of the Arabian Peninsula, there isn’t a single river that flows year-round, and pumping from wells has led to depleted aquifers and allowed saltwater to seep into groundwater along the coast.
The country has a total of nine large desalination plants, plus 47 small plants, which the government says supply about 86% of the country’s potable water.
The technology is expensive and energy-intensive, and the government heavily subsidizes water rates to keep prices low.
One man is dead after a single vehicle rollover on the East Side
One man is dead after rolling his vehicle on the East Side Tuesday morning. San Antonio police said the man was driving his maroon 2010 Nissan Maxima on the access road near the 6200 block of Interstate 10 just after 12:30 a.m. when the accident occurred. He was going too fast exiting the highway and drove into the grass, police said.FIND OUT FIRST:Get San Antonio breaking news directly to your inboxThe Maxima then hit a small drainage ditch, causing the vehicle to flip several times.The man was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead on scene. The man has not been positively identified.
Other countries across the Arabian Peninsula are similarly dependent on government-subsidized desalination plants. In Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, rulers have for years poured oil and gas wealth into plants that transform seawater into a steady supply for their growing populations in cities on the Persian Gulf from Doha to Dubai.
No other region on Earth desalinates so much water. The Middle East, according to experts, accounts for more than 60% of the world’s total desalination capacity.
Other water-stressed countries, such as Morocco and Australia, have also begun to tap the oceans. And in the arid American Southwest, water officials and urban planners are increasingly looking to desalination as a potential partial solution for cities whose water supplies are under pressure due to overuse, years of drought and the effects of climate change.
Jennifer Aniston shares throwback pic of her as 'beanie baby'
Jennifer Aniston shared a photo of herself as a kid with her Instagram followers.In the black-and-white photo, young Jen is wearing a beanie and looking out the window as though she's waiting for someone or something.
Oman’s first desalination plant started operating in 1976, and since then the number of facilities has steadily grown along the shore of the Gulf of Oman.
The $314 million Barka 4 plant was built by a consortium of companies led by Suez, which will operate the facility for 20 years under a contract.
Leading a tour of the plant, managers from the Paris-based company touted the reverse-osmosis technology as state-of-the-art.
"Energy consumption is very low in this plant," said Estelle Clermont, the plant’s operations and maintenance manager.
Compared with other older plants, Barka 4 consumes about a quarter less gas-fired energy per volume of water produced. Clermont said this represents the future of desalination, as costs continue to come down with technological improvements.
She and other managers in hard hats walked alongside one of the giant beige intake pipes, which snaked from the shore toward the plant. They climbed up stairs to a platform and looked down from a railing into a deep rectangular pool where the seawater was flowing in.
Body of Willa Rawlings, who was swept away in floodwaters, recovered at Roosevelt Lake, officials confirm
The Gila County Sheriff's Office announced Friday that it believes it has recovered the body of Willa Rawlings, 6, who was swept away in floodwaters. Two other children, Willa's brother, Colby Rawlings, and cousin Austin Rawlings, both 5, also were swept away but their bodies were later recovered. Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.Willa's body was recovered from the area of Indian Point on the north side of Roosevelt Lake on the Tonto Creek Arm Friday just before 2:30 p.m., the Sheriff's Office said.
The plant can pump in as much as 7.1 million gallons of seawater per hour, Clermont said. The salt-free water that emerges from the plant, she said, supplies about one-fifth of the country’s desalinated water.
Looking out over an open tank, where the water welled up and swirled in eddies, fellow manager Sebastian De la Garde explained that the first phase of treatment removes algae and other particles.
Brownish water cascaded down a waterfall-like structure one on side of the treatment platform. Some of what’s filtered out ends up as concentrated sludge, which is sent to a landfill. The process also generates highly salty brine, which pours back into the gulf.
On the other side of the plant, a blue pipe nearly 5 feet wide emerges and arches over the road. It carries potable water toward Muscat, the capital, and other cities on the coast.
The costs of relying on desalination
The country, officially called the Sultanate of Oman, has been ruled since 1970 by Sultan Qaboos bin Said. He and his government have dedicated a substantial portion of the country’s natural gas to generating electricity and running desalination plants, while keeping water rates low through large subsidies.
In its latest, the government’s Public Authority for Water listed the equivalent of $404 million in total subsidies for 2018 — about $1.1 million per day.
A 'forever chemical' poisons drinking water near military bases
Communities nationwide have found levels of PFAS in their water hundreds, sometimes thousands, of times higher than the level recommended by the EPA.For kids in Horsham and Warminster Townships, that was just one of the perks of growing up near two active military bases. Grosse, who lived across the street from the Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster, remembers watching, rapt, as Navy personnel torched airplanes during weekly fire drills and doused the flames with a white, bubbly foam.
Over the years, the government has regularly added more desalination plants to keep up with rising water consumption and the increasing population, now about 5 million as people immigrate from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other countries.
"Desalinated water is increasing because the government has a supply policy, which means that whenever we need more water, we build new desalination plants," said Slim Zekri, a professor who leads the natural resource economics department at Sultan Qaboos University.
He said low water rates have long meant a lack of "demand management" or financial incentives for people to conserve. The government budget has been squeezed, while per-capita water use has climbed.
"Desalination is quite expensive and energy-dependent," Zekri said, "and we need to think about solutions for the future."
He said that should mean raising water prices substantially while continuing to ensure economical rates for low-income people.
Homeowners and businesses have long paid a water rate of 2 baisa per gallon in Omani currency, which works out to about a dollar for 200 gallons. (That subsidized price, while inexpensive, is still higher than what people pay for water in parts of the United States. For example, an average customer with a single-family home in Phoenix pays about 60 cents for 200 gallons.)
Star freshman Wiseman leaves Memphis to begin preparing for NBA draft
James Wiseman formally withdrew from the University of Memphis, the freshman star confirmed on his Instagram on Thursday. Wiseman will immediately begin preparing for the NBA draft, he posted. The Tigers' 7-foot-1 preseason All-American is viewed as a potential No. 1 pick in 2020, according to several projections. The former East High star and Nashville native played in three games for the Memphis Tigers before being ruled ineligible by the NCAA. On Nov. 5, the NCAA informed the university that Wiseman had been deemed ineligible "based on alleged recruiting violations.
After many years of keeping the price frozen, Oman's Public Authority for Waterfor customers who use more than 5,000 gallons a month. Above that level, people will be charged 25% more.
Zekri said this marginal increase still won't cover the cost of water service, and won't provide an effective incentive for people to use less.
He said water prices should be increased more to encourage conservation and help drive investments in water-saving technologies. Taking steps to manage the demand for water, he said, would also help limit declines in aquifers, which have fallen due to heavy groundwater pumping, and would help Oman prepare as climate change brings higher temperatures and shifts in rainfall patterns.
"I'm quite confident that water can be managed properly and we can avoid a water crisis," Zekri said, "if we put in place the appropriate management strategies."
Rashid al-Abri, an assistant director of Oman's water ministry, said government officials are seeking to improve on their approaches to water management and are looking at alternatives in addition to desalination, including reusing more treated wastewater — some of which is now used to irrigate roadside vegetation in cities.
Taking advantage of more recycled water, he said, should help address the country's shortage and reduce strains on aquifers.
Farmers struggle as aquifers decline
While desalinated water flows to faucets in cities on the coast, groundwater remains the primary source for farms and many inland towns.
Some Omani farmers in mountainous areas still depend on ancient systems of water tunnels called aflaj. The channels were hand-dug centuries ago to tap underground water sources on mountain slopes. The water runs through the underground passages and into open aqueducts, nourishing crops such as dates and lemons, as wells as grasses that villagers use to feed goats and cows.
Struggling dairy farmers building a future with hazelnuts, specialty milk, and creative thinking
Wisconsin dairy farmers must think differently about the future and try new things if they want to keep farming.He and his father, Ken, milk about 200 cows on land in Trempealeau County that's been in the family since 1873.
While many of the aflaj are still flowing, some have dwindled and dried up as the wells and pumps of farmers and towns have drawn on the aquifers and lowered the water tables.
Elsewhere, in the Batinah coastal plain, groundwater pumping for agriculture has also taken a major toll. Over decades, the pumping has drawn seawater into the groundwater, making it too salty for crops.
Zekri and other researchers are working on a government-supported project tracking farm water use in an effort to begin to address the problem, which continues to worsen.
"We have seawater intrusion up to 12 kilometers (7 miles) now inland," Zekri said. "And we have been observing a lot of plantations fading, dying because of salinity."
Along roads near the Barka 4 desalination plant, some farmlands sit dry and abandoned. The intruding seawater ruined the groundwater years ago. The farmers left behind dusty fields and dead palm trees.
Some Omani farmers have been buying their own small-scale desalting units to use brackish groundwater that would otherwise be unsuitable for crops.
But when the hyper-salty brine from the process isn’t disposed of properly, it can further pollute aquifers, said Zaher bin Kahlied al-Sulaimani, president of an organization called the Oman Water Society.
"The problem is, the salinity is increasing year by year," al-Sulaimani said. "And the pumping has increased."
His group has held seminars to explore how farmers can better manage the brine.
Muscat also is home to the Middle East Desalination Research Center, an institution that was established in 1996 as part of the peace process in the Middle East. The center focuses on research and training, promoting desalination as a solution that can help address scarcity and alleviate tensions.
How political aims feed a big business
Desalination has become the "techno-fix" of choice for governments across the Arabian Peninsula because it has provided a way to deal with water scarcity and enable rapid growth, while also serving the political aims of the region’s monarchs, said Laurent Lambert, an assistant professor of public policy at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies.
Across the Gulf region, he said, leaders have focused on demonstrating the capacity of their governments through big water infrastructure projects, projecting an image that "large is powerful," while providing water to the public at highly subsidized rates.
In Qatar, which is the world’s top exporter of liquefied natural gas, domestic water comes entirely from desalination plants, and water is free for citizens.
Other countries, such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, also subsidize desalinated water, charging people a share of the cost.
As this system has grown entrenched over the years, governments have found themselves in a cycle of desalinating increasingly more water, while the costs in money and energy have continued to climb.
"It’s very hard to take away subsidies, and it’s very hard to change people’s attitudes towards what they deem to be naturally free. 'That’s water. Why should we pay for it?' That’s the mentality we have here across the region," Lambert said.
The countries are burning increasing amounts of natural gas, and sometimes oil, to run the plants, Lambert said. That translates into more emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases and also reduces the amount of fuel sold internationally, cutting into government revenues.
But the governments continue to take big financial losses, he said, because the idea of reforming the system and cutting subsidies is widely seen as politically unpalatable.
"I call it sustained unsustainability, meaning the government pays nevertheless," Lambert said. "They prefer to make small adjustments but keep the thing as it is, rather than make people unhappy."
And while the plants keep humming, the environmental footprint goes beyond the pollution generated by burning fossil fuels.
The brine has to be disposed of somewhere, and it’s typically released back into the sea.
"You have some places where you make a huge concentration of salt, so you may kill the fisheries, you may kill the wildlife," Lambert said. "You may add stress on local corals, which were a niche for a lot of life."
The Suez managers at the Barka 4 plant said they’ve done monitoring work and believe the brine from the plant isn’t harming the surrounding marine environment.
Suez’s partners on the project include Japan-based Itochu Corp., France’s Engie, and the Omani company WJ Towell.
Across the Gulf region, desalination plants are a lucrative business for a list of foreign companies, among them Japan’s Sumitomo Corp., the French company Veolia, and U.S.-based Bechtel Group.
The desal business is booming in arid and water-stressed regions around the world, with plants proliferating to supply cities in Israel, Jordan and Egypt, as well as Spain, Singapore and South Africa.
MAPPING THE WORLD'S WATER:
On the California coast, the Claude "Bud" Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant in San Diego County started operating in 2015 and is now the largest plant in the United States,of drinking water per day. It’s the most expensive water in San Diego’s mix of supplies, and people in the area pay in the country.
To the north in Santa Barbara, a long-closed plant.
The company Poseidon Water has proposedin Huntington Beach, where the plan has faced controversy over environmental concerns and the projected costs. Other facilities along the Pacific Coast in places like Monterey and Dana Point.
Mexico and U.S. eye the Sea of Cortez
Landlocked Arizona has been studying the possibility of working with Mexico to desalinate water from the Sea of Cortez. Efforts to explore the concept got a boost in 2017, when Mexico and the U.S. government pledged as part of a Colorado River accord to jointly study the possibility of building a desalination plant.
The agreement, called, listed potential locations for a plant including the Pacific Coast, the sewage-laden New River on the Mexico-California border, and the shore of the Sea of Cortez.
The countries formed a working group with representatives of federal and state agencies.
A team of consultants is now preparing a study assessing the potential for desalinating water from the Sea of Cortez. They're looking at technologies, possible locations along the Sonora coast between Puerto Peñasco and Puerto Libertad, and potential effects on the marine environment.
The study is scheduled to be released next year. A desalination plant theoretically could benefit Arizona though a water exchange, in which some users of Colorado River water in Mexico would instead get desalinated water, freeing up river water for Arizona.
The concept is mentioned prominently as one of multiple options in a new report on "," which consultants prepared for a group appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey called the Water Augmentation, Innovation and Conservation Council. Along with ocean desalination, the report lists options such as desalinating brackish groundwater within Arizona, or transferring groundwater from outlying rural areas to the state’s fast-growing cities.
Part of the reason there’s no concrete proposal on the table is that there doesn’t yet seem to be enough support for desalination, said Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University.
"It’s not yet needed. But there’s recognition that it could well be needed in the future," she said.
Estimates of how much water could come from a desalination plant suggest the amount would be, at most, about 100,000 acre-feet a year, Porter said, a relatively small quantity compared with Arizona’s total Colorado River allotment of 2.8 million acre-feet.
"I think ocean desal isn’t the big answer that a lot of people dream of it being," said Porter, who is a member of the governor’s water council. "It’s going to be the most expensive water ever developed for Arizona, and it just isn’t going to yield the supplies that people envision."
In addition to the expense of treating water, she said, there are environmental concerns, and the cross-border agreements to exchange water would also be complex.
Porter traveled to Israel last year with a group from the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and they toured the large desalination plant in Ashkelon.
"It’s amazing what they’re doing with ocean desal. And I hope Arizona never has the kind of water stress that Israel faces," Porter said. "It doesn’t make sense to be investing in these in really, really expensive forms of water supply when you have much, much more affordable water available."
Porter said Arizona still has potential to stretch its existing supplies through conservation and more reuse of reclaimed water. And there are also opportunities for more voluntary water deals, she said, like those negotiated for the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan. As part of the plan, the Gila River Indian Community and the Colorado River Indian Tribes will contribute some of their water in exchange for payments to help Arizona deal with water cutbacks.
The first cutbacks under the Colorado River deal, with Arizona, Nevada and Mexico leaving some of their allotted water in Lake Mead to reduce the risk of the depleted reservoir falling further.
In the long term, desalinating seawater could help as part of a strategy for adapting to climate change, Porter said, but it isn’t likely to take hold until Arizona has first "plucked off all the lower-hanging fruit, which probably includes desalinating brackish groundwater in some places."
Looking to the future, though, Porter said a seawater desalination partnership seems likely to happen in Mexico eventually.
"If I had to bet, I would bet that it is going to be tried within 30 years," she said. "It is the most reliable supply of municipal water in many ways, so that would be a benefit, and we expect growth."
Ultimately, decisions on whether desalination makes sense — for the desert Southwest and other parts of the world — will depend on considering any other alternatives, and weighing whether the high costs of turning to the sea pencil out.
Reach reporter Ian James ator 602-444-8246. Follow him on Twitter:
Support our journalism: today.
Environmental coverage on azcentral.com and in The Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Follow The Republic environmental reporting team atand at OurGrandAZ on , and .
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic:
Struggling dairy farmers building a future with hazelnuts, specialty milk, and creative thinking .
Wisconsin dairy farmers must think differently about the future and try new things if they want to keep farming.He and his father, Ken, milk about 200 cows on land in Trempealeau County that's been in the family since 1873.
Why Global Military Spending Is On The Rise
Global military spending reached a post-Cold War high of $1.8 trillion in 2018 according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
The TOUGHEST Military Training in the World!
Watch this video to learn all about the toughest and most elite military training around the world! Who are the countries that made this countdown? Watch to find ...