Desalination in the Context of Water Security

Published: 20 March 2024

Our sixth webinar will commence on Tuesday 14th May 2024 at 5.00pm (UK Time)

Dumfries River Nith - 1400x400

Water and Sustainable Development: Desalination in the Context of Water Security

Our next webinar will be Tuesday 14 May 2024, at 5.00pm (UK Time). 

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Seawater desalination has become an increasingly viable process to produce fresh water. However, for it to benefit the billions of people living 60-100 km from coasts, aspects such as cost of production, energy use, and environmental impacts still have to be addressed. This webinar will discuss the roles policy, science, and technology can play in making desalination a more affordable and environmentally-friendly process to produce fresh water, and, to what extent, it can contribute to water security in the future in a framework of climate change.

The webinar will be moderated by Professor Cecilia Tortajada of the School of Social & Environmental Sustainability, University of Glasgow. Introductory remarks will be by Uzma Khan, Vice-Principal for Economic Development and Innovation, and Deputy Chief Operating Officer at the University of Glasgow. The panel members will be Lauren Greenlee, Executive Vice President of the Food + Water + Waste Domin at the XPRIZE Foundation, USA; Leon Awerbuch, President & CEO, International Desalination Consultancy Associates LLC, USA; David Lloyd Owen, Managing Director of Envisager, UK; and Virgilio (Perry) Rivera, Jr, Managing Consultant, WatSan Analytics, The Philippines.


Professor Cecilia Tortajada Professor in Practice, School of Social & Environmental Sustainability, University of Glasgow, UK; and Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. She is a past president of the International Water Resources Association, and Member of the OECD Initiative on Water Governance and of the International Selection Committee of the Millennium Technology Prize, Technology Academy Finland. The main focus of her work is on impacts of global events on water resources, food, environment and societies.


Uzma Khan is Vice-Principal for Economic Development and Innovation, and Deputy Chief Operating Officer at the University of Glasgow, which she joined in November 2020.  Her role includes overseeing several corporate functions that support the University’s approach to delivering its latest strategy ‘World Changers Together - Strategy 2025’ including Strategic Planning, Research and Innovation Services. In her capacity as Vice-Principal, Uzma has responsibility for ensuring delivery of the University’s innovation ambitions and in articulating the contribution and impact of innovation activity on the city, region and national economy. Uzma currently holds a number of non-executive director and trustee roles including at the David Hume Institute, The Poverty Alliance and more recently, has joined CodeBase. Prior to joining the Higher Education sector, Uzma spent 20 years in the civil service as a professional economist in Scottish Government, providing economic advice and analysis across a range of sectors and portfolios, including economy, health, transport and lifelong learning.


Lauren Greenlee is the Executive Vice President of the Food + Water + Waste Domain at the XPRIZE Foundation. XPRIZE is the world’s leader in designing and operating incentive competitions that set audacious goals, drive technology innovation, and aim to solve humanity’s grand challenges. Lauren leads the foundation’s work across food, water, and waste and brings 20 years of experience working in national laboratory, academic, and startup environments. Before XPRIZE, Lauren served as the Chief Technology Officer for sHYp, an early-stage startup company developing technology to produce green hydrogen from seawater sources. Lauren holds a B.S.E. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan, an M.S. in Environmental Engineering and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Certificate in Strategic Leadership from the Pennsylvania State University.


Leon Awerbuch is President & CEO, International Desalination Consultancy Associates LLC, Past President, Member of the Honorary Council of the International Desalination and Reuse Association. He has been involved in the desalination and energy industry for more than 45 years. Joined Bechtel Group in 1972 in R&D followed by increased responsibilities for power and water as International Bechtel Co. Vice President and Senior Regional Representative for the Middle East. During his 35-year career with Bechtel, he oversaw R&D, design, engineering and EPC of desalination and power projects. Currently involved in providing technical and commercial consultancy to leading suppliers and utilities covering Reverse Osmosis and Thermal Desalination and Energy, Advanced Water Reuse, and assessment of new desalination technologies. He was Chair of six International Desalination Association (IDA) World Congresses. Director of the Association for 44 years, Chair of IDA’s Technical Programs for 26 years. Chair of IDA Energy and Environment Committee for 21 years, first Dean of IDA Academy for 7 years. US representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) appointed to serve on the Technical Working Group on Nuclear Desalination. Granted twenty-eight patents, received life achievements awards, and voted one of Water & Wastewater International’s top twenty-five industry leaders, and awarded 51 Most Impactful Leader in Water and Water Management.


David Lloyd Owen is Managing Director of Envisager, a strategic consultancy based in West Wales advising governments, multilateral institutions, financiers and companies on water and wastewater market, policy, regulatory, environmental and management drivers. Projects have ranged from the potential for capital efficiency opportunities with the World Bank, to project dispute arbitration and exploring various aspects of sludge handling and management. David started following the water sector as an equity analyst in 1989, originally at BNP Paribas and is a member of the Advisory Board for the Pictet Water Fund, the world’s first and leading water equity fund. Since 1996, he has worked as an independent consultant. He dabbles in databases, in particular one monitoring the status of all known private sector operating contracts worldwide and another that explores the global cost for attaining universal access to safe and sustainable access to water and sanitation along with the potential scope for innovation and efficiency in mitigating these costs. David has written ten books on water finance, technology, markets and management. These include “Global Water Funding: Innovation and Efficiency as Enablers for Safe, Secure and Affordable Supplies” (Springer Nature, 2020) and “Smart Water Technologies and Techniques: Data Capture and Analysis for Sustainable Water Management” (Wiley, 2018) along with 14 editions of the Pinsent Masons Water Yearbook and InDepth, for Arup. He is a columnist for Global Water Intelligence and contributes to GWI’s “What’s next for UK water?” series about the sector’s current and forthcoming challenges and how these can be addressed. He has a doctorate in applied ecology from Oxford University, a degree in environmental biology from Liverpool University, a Chartered Environmentalist (MCIEEM, CEnv) and Chartered Geographer (FRGS, CGeog), and a Court Assistant of the Worshipful Company of Water Conservators, where he oversees the Company’s responses to consultations.


Virgilio (Perry) Rivera, Jr is the founder and managing consultant of WatSan Analytics, a management consulting firm catering to the water and sanitation sector. At present, he advises UK-based Container-based Sanitation Alliance, World Bank, and Global Water Intelligence (GWI). Mr. Rivera has also been a resource speaker on public policy and regulation, PPP and water utility management and economics for more than 27 years, and was recently engaged by GWI and Global Water Leaders Group as Regional Champion and Steering Committee Member. His expertise includes utility economics, design and implementation of large-scale water PPP with a focus on BOT/Concession and Management Contract models, corporate strategy, public policy and regulation, conducting price reviews, preparation of master plans for city-wide utility operation, international business development and general management in a highly regulated water utility setting with P&L accountability. Mr. Rivera was employed by Ayala Corporation, a leading Philippine conglomerate, for over 33 years with the highest position of Managing Director. He was seconded to Manila Water Company, Inc. (MWCI) in 1997 and held leading roles such as COO for New Business/Subsidiary Operations and Business Development, and President and CEO of Manila Water Philippine Ventures and Manila Water Asia Pacific. He was an Independent Director of the Toilet Board Coalition, a Founding Member of The Academy of Regulatory Professionals, and an Adjunct Professor at the Global Change Institute at University of Queensland. He served as a Board Member and an active Fellow of the International Water Association and member of the Sanitation and Water for All and its advisory council on Mutual Accountability Mechanism program. In 2014, ADB published his book "Tap Secrets: The Manila Water Story—An Exercise in Successful Utility Reform in Urban Water Sector."

 Panel - Water Webinar 6

First published: 20 March 2024