Fifty years of MSF desalination in Kuwait and sustainability issues

M. A. Darwish, Ali Darwish, Amina Darwish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)


Kuwait was the first country in the world to adopt desalting water as the main source of fresh water in the world. It was also the first to use the multi stage flash MSF desalting system in its present design in 1960. Many questions are raised about the sustainability of using seawater desalination as a main source of fresh water which is followed by most of the Arab Gulf countries. In other words, are the three conditions of sustainability satisfied? These conditions are: 1) The exploitation rate of ground water (the supplementary natural water source to the desalted water as potable water source) does not exceed the rate of their re-generation; 2) The consumption rate of non-renewable fossil fuel used in desalting does not exceed the developing rate of sustainable substitutes; 3) The pollutants emission (to air and sea) rates do not exceed the environment capacity to absorb, or render them harmless. In Kuwait, the replenishment rate of ground water is about 20 m3/d while its extraction exceeds 550 m3/d. The fuel oil resource is finite, and non-renewable. It represents the main income to the country. Its local consumption is continuously increasing to the extent that the total production can locally consumed within 40 years. For the time being, no alternative fuel energy source is seriously considered. Although the fossil fuels (as energy resource) required for desalting water cannot be completely sustainable, the efficient use of this fuel and desalted water can prolong the availability of these resources, making them more sustainable. The United Nations UN defined different environmentally sound technologies EST which decrease the environmental pollution, use the available resources efficiently to elongate its sustainability, and reclaim the waste as much as possible. This opens the way for new recovered resources and saves the environment. In trying to satisfy the staggering needs of desalted seawater in the Arab Gulf countries, some points were overlooked and now there is a need for re-consideration to make adoption of desalted water source more sustainable. These points include: over-utilization of ground water resources, over consumption of energy needed to produce potable water, negative impact of desalting seawater on the environment, and looking for alternative source of water. This paper discusses these points and discusses possible solutions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-354
Number of pages12
JournalDesalination and Water Treatment
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - May 2011


  • Desalination
  • Kuwait
  • MSF
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Pollution

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