Moving Towards a Circular Economy for Water Preservation

Tuesday 29th March 2022

Many countries in the Gulf are facing challenges when it comes to water scarcity. In fact, 6 out of 7 Gulf countries have a water scarcity risk rating of ‘extremely high’. 


While geographical location undoubtedly plays a major role in the water shortages of the Middle East, decision makers in both the private and public sectors are coming together to find ways to reduce stress. For example, the UAE Water Security Strategy 2036 aims to lower the total demand for water resources and increase water reuse to 95%.


This is just one example of how leaders are moving towards a circular economy, maximising the value of materials. Through recognising that the Earth’s resources are limited, a circular economy seeks to eliminate waste and replace the end-of-life concept of traditional linear models, with restoration and reuse.


Oman currently treats 100% of its collected wastewater and reuses 78% of it. Saudi Arabia’s approach to reduce water usage is to price water with the intent of incentivising conservation. This goes to show that the implementation of a circular economy will not only enhance sustainability, but also benefit the private sector through reduced operational costs and improved rate of return.


How can we move towards a circular economy? 


While there is no universally agreed upon structure, all circular economy frameworks are built around some variation of the same three principles: 


  • Design out waste and pollution

  • Preserve and regenerate natural systems 

  • Encourage urban resilience


How to design out waste and pollution:


  1. Renewable energy: we must minimise the use of finite raw materials such as metal ores, crude oil, and groundwater, and replace these with renewable alternatives such as sustainable polymers, solar energy, and reclaimed wastewater. This will reduce pressure on the Earth, while also decreasing the rate of global warming and pollution.

  2. Energy efficiency: buildings optimised to use energy efficiently through techniques such as zoned HVAC systems, insulation, and high-performing drainage systems, can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen financial performance.


  1. Resource reuse: chemicals such as bisphenol are often added to plastics to enhance their flexibility, durability, or fire resistance. These additives are harmful to both the environment and human health, and can prevent the materials from being recycled. To increase reuse we must first eliminate the presence of toxins.


How to preserve and regenerate natural systems: 


  1. Biodiversity: from providing biological resources such as food, to delivering social benefits such as recreation, we depend heavily on biodiversity. With species and entire ecosystems on the brink of extinction, we must establish a more harmonious relationship with nature through preserving natural habitats and planting more vegetation.


  1. Green spaces: landscaped areas have the potential to counteract the urban heat island effect since green spaces such as parks and green roofs can lower city-wide ambient temperatures by up to 4°C and reduce AC demand by up to 75%.


  1. Nature-based solutions: nature-based solutions are proven to close the infrastructure investment gap in a cost-effective manner while benefiting local communities and the environment. Solutions such as Sustainable urban Drainage Systems (SuDS) mimic the natural water cycle, requiring no energy input.


How to encourage urban resilience:


  1. Green urbanisation: combining green and grey infrastructure can boost infrastructure resilience with its natural adaptive and regenerative capacity. This can be achieved through innovations such as podium decks, which allow for the passive irrigation of green areas without raising energy and water demands.


  1. Multi-functional spaces: transforming unused roof space into blue-green roofs enhances biodiversity, reduces pollution, and increases property values. The space can be used recreationally or commercialised for a more rapid return on investment. 


  1. Smart infrastructure: the adoption of ‘self-sufficient’ systems that operate on a demand-basis can increase efficiency, leading to energy savings of up to 30%. The Internet of Things can connect HVAC and drainage management systems, and lighting to the cloud for enhanced monitoring and remote accessibility.


Circular Economy Water Protection and Sustainability


The role of drainage in circular economy: 


At Polypipe Middle East, we offer a range of sustainable water management solutions that promote a circular economy through minimising water wastage, reducing energy consumption and promoting green urbanisation.


Our two Sustainable urban Drainage Systems (SuDS), Polystorm and Permavoid both mimic the Earth’s natural water cycle to capture, store, treat and reuse water through zero-energy technology.


SuDS use a source control strategy to capture and retain water as close to where it falls as possible. This reduces peak flows, which collect pollutants as they travel over impermeable concrete surfaces and overwhelm drainage systems. The adoption of SuDS supports a more resilient urban environment through preparing the city to deal with extreme weather events - both floods and droughts.


In water scarce regions such as the Middle East, it is even more important to adopt a circular economy approach in order to capture what little rainwater we receive and filter it for reuse. Polystorm has a 95% void ratio for maximum water retention. The high strength and modular nature of the design makes it suitable for source control systems where large attenuation, detention, and infiltration systems are required. 


Permavoid is better suited for shallower applications. Permavoid podium decks can be installed beneath plant beds as a passive irrigation system through its innovative capillary cone and wicking geotextile. This allows water to naturally flow up into the soil on a demand-basis, delivering the optimum amount of water each day. Having the irrigation mechanism below the surface reduces water loss to evapotranspiration, lowering water demand for irrigation by up to 40% compared to over-soil irrigation. Read about how permavoid was integrated into tree planters at Expo 2020 Dubai here.


In arid environments where green spaces require a large volume of water, the integration of Permavoid can help to reduce demand while still contributing to the regeneration and preservation of natural systems.


A circular and resilient water system can lower capital and operating costs and increase revenues, creating a more attractive environment for the private sector. With countries throughout the GCC beginning to implement stricter regulations to protect the environment, it’s time for developers to get ahead or fall behind.


Contact us today about the SuDS options for your development. Our SuDS design team can help you to better understand all your options and work with you to create a solution that solves all your water drainage needs.


Tel: +971 (0) 4 807 3000


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