ACCIONA is a leading company in the design, construction and operation of drinking water treatment plants, wastewater treatment plants, tertiary treatment for water reuse, and reverse osmosis (RO) desalination plants. RO is the most sustainable, advanced and widely used desalination technique, capable of improving water quality and reducing the impact on the environment. We spoke with Pedro Miranda, head of the company's international desalination division, about the current outlook for the sector, ACCIONA's role and the latest innovations in the field.
Why is it important to invest in non-conventional water resources such as desalination?
Access to water is one of the most serious problems of humankind and a source of conflict in many areas nowadays. It is one of the priorities of the 2030 Agenda and part of the SDGs, but we have less and less water available: this problem affects more than 40% of the population and is expected to get worse. Therefore, we can say that desalination has established itself as a viable, safe and increasingly affordable technology for areas with water scarcity.
Could you tell me about the company's desalination experience and key data?
ACCIONA is already producing more than 5.5 million m3/day of desalinated water in its more than 85 plants built around the world and supplying more than 28 million people.
What are your most important projects in this area at the moment?
Right now we are the undisputed leaders in desalination in the Middle East. We are building the six desalination plants in Saudi Arabia: three of them are already completed (Al Khobar-1 and 2, Al Shuqaiq) and the others are under construction right now. Not to mention the two we have in the UAE (Fujairah and Jebel-Ali) and in Qatar (Umm Al Houl 1 and 2 and Ras Abu-Fontas). In addition, we have another desalination plant under construction in Hong Kong (Tseun Kwan O) and we will soon start the Los Cabos desalination plant in Mexico.
What are the latest innovations in desalination?
Reverse osmosis technology has evolved so much that we have attained minimal costs efficiently and sustainably. RO is the most widespread method and has displaced evaporation technology without any doubt. In addition, we have technologies that help plants to optimize their operations: digital twins, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning, the internet of things, satellite images, etc. One of the most important challenges is to treat increasingly complex water at a lower cost, and this can be achieved with technology.
How do you see the current outlook for desalination worldwide?
Desalination is well established and accepted worldwide, especially in countries with severe water stress such as those in the Middle East and North Africa, in Australia and in Latin America: southern Mexico, Peru and Chile (especially for mining). What is clear is that the climate is changing and we are heading for longer periods of water scarcity where the solution is to desalinate seawater and reuse the water we already have.