2014 — The Year of Landmark MENA projects?

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Tom Freyberg  

With the Red-Dead Sea water pipeline scheme in Jordan and Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia grabbing headlines towards the end of 2013, what does 2014 hold for these historic projects?

So there we have it, 2014 is well and truly upon us. January is a time for people making and breaking New Year's Resolutions and businesses looking ahead to what the next 12 months could bring.

Just when we expected the end of the year to limp along until the Holiday period with a news drought, history was made with two politically, financially and geographically important water projects coming under the spotlight.

First up, despite peace talks between Israel and Palestine apparently stagnating, a water agreement was signed between these two nations and Jordan. The multi-billion dollar project aims to build a pipeline to help replenish the rapidly drying Dead Sea with brine and water being piped from the Red Sea.

As can be read in our analysis starting on page 39, several environmental concerns have been raised. These include the presence of the large diameter pipeline in Jordanian territory and also the mixing of two seawaters. Questions also remain over the financing of the 232,900 m3/day desalination plant that is part of the project.

Another historic project sparking headlines around the world towards the end of 2013 was the $4.2 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, set to be Africa's largest when completed in 2017. Ethiopia has downplayed the effect the dam would have downstream of the Nile in Egypt. Egypt meanwhile relies on the Nile for the vast majority of its potable water and has questioned the sophistication and reliability of reports from Ethiopia. It was in 1959 when Egypt and Sudan agreed a treaty to share the Nile, with Egypt taking 55.6 billion cubic metres of a total of 74 billion, after evaporation.

Egypt has become accustomed and dependent on that amount of water – building infrastructure and agriculture around it. Should the dam prevent the flow of the Nile and the 55 billion cubic metres reduced, relations between Egypt and Ethiopia will become even more thorny.

Yet all is not negative when it comes to large scale MENA projects. As can be read on page 27, Israel's new Sorek SWRO desalination plant is proving how conventional technology such as RO membranes can be quite literally turned on their head and instead be used vertically.

By total coincidence, that is not the only feature with an Israeli theme in this issue. In the leader focus (page 10) you can read how one engineer took an innovative aeration technology and is taking it global. And as if spearheading desalination and aeration developments isn't enough for one country, we also hear how one company is having an impact on the utilities' arch enemy - non-revenue water – as far as the Bahamas. The community work going on alongside the project is really interesting and worth checking out.

And with the start of 2014 also brings the turn of biannual IFAT and Singapore International Water Week shows. WWi will again be covering these events with our video team so we look forward to catching up with you all. Enjoy the issue.

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