Reclamation Continues Desalination Research Collaboration with the Middle East
Written by: Leslie Harmon, Former Detailee, Native American and International Affairs Office and Sarah Webster, Public Affairs Specialist
The Middle East Desalination Research Center (MEDRC) headquarters is located in Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman. MEDRC is an internationally recognized research institution. Photo courtesy of MEDRC staff.WASHINGTON – It’s hard enough to deal with long-term drought and climate change issues, but imagine what it’s like to live in a region where access to clean water is a rare commodity.
Saied Delagah, chemical engineer at Reclamation’s Technical Service Center in Denver, has witnessed this issue first hand. He has traveled abroad to work with the Middle East Desalination Research Center (MEDRC), an internationally recognized research institution that specializes in desalination technologies and renewable energy integration into desalination. His most recent travel to Muscat, Oman, during December 2015, continues Reclamation’s long-standing relationship with Middle East desalination research, which dates back to the 1990s.
MEDRC was established under the Multilateral Middle East Peace Process Working Group on Water Resources. In the interim peace agreement, investment in cost-effective desalination, development of human resources, and collaboration among countries were seen as key to preventing water from becoming a source of instability and conflict in the region.
The United States government was a founding member of MEDRC and has been active with the institution since its establishment by international agreement in December 1996. MEDRC today includes Oman, United States, Qatar, Netherlands, Spain, Palestinian Territories, Israel, Jordan, Japan and South Korea.
Since 1998, the U.S. Department of State has been supportive of MEDRC activities that enhance the desalination capabilities in the Middle East and North Africa. The State Department requested Reclamation’s assistance to provide technical advice and to help strategize MEDRC’s future. Reclamation has an interagency agreement with the State Department to provide this technical assistance until December 2019.
MEDRC deals with two of the most pressing global and regional challenges: water and peace. According to the organization’s website, their region of the Middle East has the lowest renewable water resources, the most extreme water stress, and both massive population and per capita water consumption growth.
In fall 2013, Reclamation partnered with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide technical assistance to the agency in Desalination and in conducting The Desal Prize. In April 2015, led by Delagah, Reclamation completed The Desal Prize competition with USAID.
“The concept is to create a novel, low cost, small-scale, standalone Desal technology that is powered by a renewable energy system that can be deployed in rural and underdeveloped areas with minimal environmental footprint,” Delagah said, adding Reclamation had a particular interest in The Desal Prize competition due to its mission to manage water supplies in the 17 Western states.
“In the Southwestern U.S., we have a lot of underdeveloped and rural areas that can benefit from such a system, so we partnered with USAID on The Desal Prize,” Delagah said. “We went through the full prize competition process and final demonstration testing on six of the technologies took place at our Brackish Groundwater Desalination Research Facility (BGNDRF) in Alamogordo, New Mexico.”
MEDRC members are also interested in conducting prize competitions, such as a humanitarian challenge for a desalination device that can be used during potential crises. It will also be used as a tool to spur innovation and entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa.
With assistance from the State Department, Reclamation, and other international partners, MEDRC promises to enhance the desalination capabilities in the Middle East and North Africa and increase water supply through desalination technologies.
The work completed by Reclamation is funded by the U.S. Department of State and The U.S. Agency for International Development.
Students are seen measuring for the fouling potential of water in reverse osmosis systems, 2015. Photo courtesy of MEDRC staff.
Published on April 13, 2016