GCC desalination projects announced, emerging and nearing completion in 2020

With water security (or lack thereof) posing the single greatest threat to the GCC region’s people, economy and long-term future, how are nations stepping up the fight against water stress?

Including the current pipeline of projects in development, the MENA region represents almost half (48%) of all the world’s desalination combined capacity, with the GCC leading the way. Over the next two years, a predicted investment spike of an additional $4.3 billion into the sector demonstrates just how dedicated water-stressed countries are to securing reliable supplies for the future.


NEOM Solar Dome – NEOM, Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia is responsible for about one-fifth of all global desalinated water production at around four million cubic metres of desalinated water per day. New reports in 2020 expect the country to invest another $80bn in desalination over the course of the current decade.

Top of Saudi Arabia’s announcement list is the NEOM ‘Solar Dome’ project, recently agreed between Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund-backed (PIF) and UK-based Solar Water. Expected to be finished before the end of this year, this will be a landmark project as its first-of-its-kind technology allows for 100% carbon neutral operations. At an estimated $0.34 per cubic metre, not only will Solar Dome create desalinated water more sustainably than previous methods, it will also manage it at a lower cost. If successful, this could provide a mould for future projects in the region.

6 Omani IWP projects: Oman’s desalination market has been expanding by 5% per year as the country looks to cement its long-term water capacity needs. Oman currently has a total of 9 large desalination plants and 47 smaller ones, which together supply around 86% of the country’s potable water. Announcing in late 2019 and early 2020, various Omani government institutions and private firms are developing six Independent Water Projects (IWP) across the country. Together, these plants will add more than 850,000 cubic metres per day of additional desalination capacity as they come online during the next four years.


Taweelah plant – Abu Dhabi, UAE: Predicted to be completed and operational in Q4 2022, Taweelah will be 44% larger than the world’s current biggest reverse osmosis plant and will have a processing capacity of 909,200 cubic metres of water per day.

Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA) Desalination project – Sharjah, UAE: SEWA announced in March its intention to build a new Sharjah-based plant with a daily 60 million Imperial gallons (MIGD) capacity, due to be ready by 2022.

Nearing completion

The Jebel Ali Complex – UAE:  Set to open in 2020,this plant will offer a capacity of 150,000 cubic metres of water per day. Together, the current pipeline of UAE desalination projects are setting the course for future capacity drives experimenting with advanced desalination techniques and technologies.

Preparing to tackle a water-stressed future

The threats of drought, groundwater depletion and seawater contamination via desalination are all uppermost in the minds of government leaders and civic planners across the GCC region. Not only are they looking to expand capacity to keep up with rising demand, they are also looking to implement those ‘paradigm-shift’ technologies that will turn desalination from a stop-gap solution to a viable and sustainable long-term source of potable water.