Key research addresses water conservation, desalination, and treatment
The Water Center at the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI), part of Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), is committed to helping Qatar tackle its water security challenges by conducting research, development and innovation to enhance every step of the water cycle in Qatar. In line with Qatar National Vision 2030, QEERI’s Water Center focuses on core issues including water resources, water desalination, and wastewater treatment and reuse.
QEERI’s Water Center provides technological solutions and data to support best practices and policy development related to water in the country. Dr. Jenny Lawler, Senior Research Director at the Water Center, says: “Qatar faces specific water challenges because of its desert environment. In support of the Qatar National Research Strategy, our team looks at various aspects such as the national strategic water resources – both the groundwater and other non-traditional sources of water such as treated water reuse. We place great emphasis on developing state-of-the-art technological solutions to address the challenges of providing safe and clean drinking water through desalination, as well as treating waste water to ensure minimal wastage of this precious resource.”
Multiple projects are currently underway at the Water Center, including the treatment of ablution water at mosques, the reuse of cooling water condensate, water treatment for agricultural irrigation in desert climates, development of physical filtration systems such as membranes and filters, brine management, ballast water, characterization of the sub-surface and soils, and strategies for managed aquifer recharge. The advanced oxidation process (AOP) for wastewater treatment is one of the projects that is close to maturity.
“One of the challenges with treated sewage effluents (TSE) is the potential presence of harmful micro-pollutants such as pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and plasticizers,” explains Dr. Jayaprakash Saththasivam, a scientist at the Water Center. “The micro-pollutants can be harmful for the environment or human health, and can bio-accumulate and affect human health through the food chain. We are currently working on several oxidation technologies such as ozone, ozone-hydrogen peroxide and ultraviolet-hydrogen peroxide to create free radicals that could break down micro-pollutants and other harmful organic substances.”
Dr. Lawler adds: “There are other water resources and streams that we are targeting, for example: the ablution water from mosques. With the right treatment, this water can be reused for agricultural irrigation or other non-potable applications. We are exploring novel methods and materials to treat the water, after which we will focus on changing the community’s perception towards re-using treated water. We are planning on hosting an awareness drive to demonstrate how treated water can be reused for a variety of purposes.”
QEERI’s Water Center has also established a number of collaborations with national stakeholders to combine efforts to tackle their shared goal of promoting water conservation. Dr Marc Vermeersch, Executive Director, QEERI, says: “Our partnerships with national stakeholders are crucial to tackling the challenges related to water security in Qatar. Our success is the result of combined efforts with government and private organizations, as we work closely to develop tangible solutions for Qatar. In this role, QEERI also acts as a ‘binder’ of multiple efforts deployed at country-level, and as a catalyst to seed new innovative ideas and solutions.”
“We are currently working with Kahramaa on sea water intrusion monitoring and mitigation, and soil characterization. Meanwhile, through our 20-year agreement with Qatar Electricity and Water Company (QEWC), we are developing a pilot testing program for multi-effect desalination (MED) technology; with the Ministry of Municipality and Environment, we are working on establishing the reverse osmosis process powered by solar energy; and with Ashghal, we are developing a pilot plant focusing on the advanced oxidization processes for wastewater treatment.”
Dr. Abdel Nasser Aboukhlewa, a scientist at the Water Center, said: “Our partnership with QEWC will enable their team to leverage our scientific and technical expertise. As of today, the first phase of the program is on track by completing the installation of the advanced MED desalination pilot plant at Dukhan site – provide by QEWC – while the commissioning is ongoing to complete the first phase of the project. The MED pilot plant will enable the development of a new concept that would reduce energy consumption and improve the energy efficiency of MED technology.” The pilot study program will extend to a few more with research on thermally enhanced polymer tubes to mitigate the corrosion and scale fouling experienced on the existing metallic tubes.
Scientists at the Water Center also work together with QEERI’s other centers such as the Energy Center, the Environment & Sustainability Center, the Computational Materials and Processes Center, the Corrosion Center, and the Natural and Environmental Hazards Observatory to ensure a cohesive approach to related concerns, such as energy consumption in desalination plants or the use of renewable energy for desalination, assessing the water quality, and reducing microbial corrosion on pipes.
The world-class laboratories and facilities at QEERI, coupled with the expertise of its scientists, researchers, and engineers enable the Water Center to forge its own path as a leader in water research that is specifically focused on the arid environments that are typical across many parts of the region and in other parts of the world.