Peaceful countries in the Middle East, especially the smaller ones, are quickly establishing themselves as regional development leaders. Qatar is one that intends to lead in sustainable development. Its ultimate aim is: “Management of the environment such that there is harmony between economic growth, social development, and environmental protection.”
Qatar is a tiny country located on the NE coast of Saudi Arabia, currently one of the higher users of utilities per capita in the world. Its citizens are also the richest. A former British Protectorate, the country achieved independence in 1971 and is now a peaceful constitutional monarchy with 1.8 million people (most of whom are expatriates). Its first desalination plant was built in 1953. The country’s reserves of natural gas and oil are the third largest in the world.
Qatar is known for its accomplishments in human development, considered by the United Nations (UN) to be the highest in the Arab world. The country’s government has been conscientious about using its profits to benefit the people. In 2022 it will become the first Arab nation to host the FIFA World Cup games (men’s soccer football).
The government is also committed to becoming the sustainability hub of the region, acting on guidelines spelled out by the UN Environment Program. HIs Excellency Dr. Mohammed bin Saleh al-Sada, Minister of Energy and Industry, says that sustainability is the key to the rapidly changing world. He commends the strides made by Qatar’s electricity and water provider, KAHRAMAA, in its efficient delivery of utilities and successful sustainability projects, described in its 2014 sustainability report.
KAHRAMAA ‘s sustainability program is fairly new. In putting it together, the company involved all of its stakeholders to help develop a practical approach and prioritise key issues. It held workshops for government officials, customers, suppliers, investors, and employees. It also set up and trained an internal Sustainability Task Force to oversee the program.
KAHRAMAA is a distributor, not a generator, of water and electricity. It’s government owned with no subsidiaries and is the only such distributor in the country. Because it is a government entity, public appearance is important, so one of its sustainability arms is to keep the public informed about its programs.
Through public information projects on the Internet and visual media, and public appearances in schools, KAHRAMAA conveys the importance of water quality and water and energy conservation, as well as the role of the public in achieving the country’s sustainability goals. Already utility customers are responding by cutting down their use. The average annual use of water dropped from 232 cubic metres per person in 2012 to 216 cubic metres in 2014. The average use of electricity dropped from 16,294 kWh per person in 2012 to 15,100 kWh in 2014.
The company also conserved internally – mainly by examining its facilities and pipelines to close up leaks. In 2007 the company measured a water loss of 59% from leaks alone. By 2014 that loss was reduced to about 10%. In 2007 there were almost 27 water main bursts per each 100 km of pipe, whereas in 2014 the average was barely over 6 bursts per 100 km.
A look at water used in the country’s cooling systems showed great potential for conservation of potable water. Taking on just two districts as pilot projects in early 2014, the company provided reclaimed sewage water to use in that area’s cooling systems. All districts are required to switch over eventually, with expected water savings of 80% and electricity savings of 40% by 2023.
Also in progress are construction of a mega-reservoir with a 7 day supply of potable water, installation of smart meters countrywide (with the help of partner, IBERDROLA), upgrading customer service offices with new interiors, evaluating and retrofitting schools to serve as efficiency models for other schools, Installation of LED street lighting, setting up a tendering service for suppliers online, legislating the use and quality of potable water, as well as establishing manufacturing standards for water/electrical equipment and fixtures. These are impressive results, considering that the company’s sustainability program has only been in effect for a couple of years.
Plans for the Future
So far the company has focused on legislative and conservation changes, but there are other aspects to sustainability too – like customer service, employee well being, supplier facilitation, and Qatarization (hiring more locals). Here are some of the projects planned for the future.
Training: Extending the principles of conservation, sustainability, and good customer service all involve training. KAHRAMAA has several projects planned along these lines.
• To carry out the national goal of employing native Qataris, the company plans to continue providing educational scholarships, then give training in utilities management to those who interested and hire them as leaders in the industry.
• KAHRAMAA is not yet satisfied with its customer service response, so will be working to identify new ways to improve, including moving old customer records online for easier access.
• Tourism uses a lot of energy and water, but tourists have little incentive to conserve. KAHRAMAA intends to reach out to this industry to show how it can operate more sustainably. In addition, the company will engage suppliers and contractors to apply sustainability practices, and will implement a religious awareness program to engage mosques in conservation practices.
Increased Supply : With a burgeoning population and economy, the company will be looking at potential new sources of supply, both of water and electricity.
• The sun shines year round and is a great potential source. As fuel cell technology advances, solar power can become a significant new supply of electricity. KAHRAMAA will be studying the feasibility of adding solar power to its grid and looking for good locations.
• Northern Qatar is both windier and less inhabited than the rest of the country. KAHRAMAA will be evaluating the potential for wind power projects in that region.
• Certain potable water wells have fallen into disuse and others are currently too polluted to use. The company will rehabilitate all of those wells to add more potable water to its supply.
• Qatar does have good aquifers, but not much is known about them. To see what is possible for storage and recovery of reclaimed water, the company will be instituting a comprehensive study of the nation’s aquifers.
Utilities Management: Good management tools can add greatly to the success of a comprehensive sustainability program like this one. Here are a couple of tools the company plans to install.
• To get a good handle on all aspects of its water network, KAHRAMAA will be installing a centralised, online water management system to monitor the entire country.
• Water quality is important, especially when it comes to drinking water. To ensure that all water distributed, whether its source is desalination, underground aquifers, storm water capture, or reclaimed water, the company will build a new water quality assurance laboratory to run regular tests.
KAHRAMAA’s sustainability program is ambitious, but the company has already proven it can succeed with those projects it has taken on. If it keeps on the way it’s going, Qatar could easily establish itself as a sustainability leader in the Middle East, in spite of the country’s small size.
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19 September 2017