Free Essay: Water Resources in UAE
According to studies by the World Bank, the Middle East and North Africa regions are the ones that have the highest cases of water scarcity. Countries like the United Arab Emirates have in many occasions been faced with water shortage problems. This has negatively affected the society and stalled various economic activities like farming. This has prompted the government and citizens to work hand in hand towards ensuring that water resources in UAE and the entire region have been appropriately conserved to avoid water shortages in the future.
This paper will look at the various factors that that have impacted water resources in the UAE with a focus on Abu Dhabi Emirate. It will provide a brief profile of the water resources across the region. Besides, this paper will also provide a forecast of the projected problems facing water resources in the area. It will further incorporate a SWOT analysis of the water resources in the region and give recommendations and solutions to the water challenges in the region in the times to come (Rizk, 2003).
Water resources are essential for the survival of any society across the globe. One of the reasons for this is because water is an important life component. Without water, life would be impossible. The Middle East also requires water just like any other region in the world. However, the region is among those that have been identified as facing acute water shortages in the world. As a result of this, various organizations and institutions have embarked on the formulation of strategies of ensuring the conservation of the little available water. It should be noted that the greatest percentage of water in the region is acquired from non-conventional water resources with a little supplement from conventional water resources. The conventional resources of water in the region include springs, ground water, falajes and seasonal floods. The steady increase in the demand for water has pushed the region to begin tapping water from non-conventional resources. This increase in demand has been triggered by population growth. Other non-conventional water resources that the region depends on include treated sewage water and desalinated water (Al Mulla, 2011).
Just like it is done in other regions, the UAE also depends on water for agriculture. The water is used for irrigating farms owing to the extreme water shortage that is faced in the region. In the ancient times, water was viewed as an infinite commodity but today, it has significantly become one of the commodities that are quite hard to find in plenty. Many people in the region have suffered the consequences of water scarcity. This has encouraged the region to undertake measures aimed at conserving the existing water resources and hindering their depletion. Water is also used in the industrial sector in the region with the major beneficiaries being the manufacturing plants, chemical processors, ore refineries, oil refineries, hydroelectric dams, thermoelectric power plants among others.
On the other hand, water is also used in the region for domestic needs which account for an estimated 8% of the available water resources. Domestic uses of water include cooking, gardening, sanitation, drinking and bathing. There is also the growing recreational water usage in the region. Most of the recreational uses of water are in reservoirs. Other recreational uses include water skiing, swimming, angling and adventure. However, it has been established that recreational activities are a waste of water. For example, it has been discovered that the use of water in golf courses to keep them green leads to lots of wastage (Al Mulla, 2011).
This shows the value of water resources in the region. The importance of water in the area is a reflection of the global need for the conservation of water resources. It is in this regard that the governments in the region have formulated and implemented policies seeking to conserve and protect the water resources in the region. This has been critical in making sure that the population does not experience acute water shortage. However, these policies have not been very effective as a result of discrepancies. Even though some nations have been able to successfully manage their water resources, there are some that in the region that have continuously faced extreme water shortage. As a result of the political instability that has prevailed in the larger Middle East, some people have had to undergo a lot of struggle in order to access basic water.
It should also be noted that the UAE region experiences a type of climate that makes it hard to access water. The acute shortage of water has resulted into sharp conflicts that have turned out to be armed conflicts. Despite the imperativeness of the countries in the region to join hands in addressing the problem of lack of water, conflicts have also been enhanced through the act of some countries trying to encroach into the water redistribution resources of their neighbors. Even though the region is experiencing political instability and rivalry between the neighboring countries, the development and management of water resources has been highlighted as a key factor in reducing the regional tensions to some minimal levels (Ministry of Environment and Water, 2012).
Middle East Region
Middle East is faced with a precarious water situation that has been attributed to the growing population and developmental needs in the region. Just like other countries across the globe, UAE continues to register an increasing population that directly impacts its water resources. According to forecasts, it is expected that the supply of renewable water resources in the region will have dropped from 3, 430 cubic meters in 1960 to 667 cubic meters in 2005. Besides, it is also expected that many countries in the region may have acquired renewable water resources that will not be able to meet the people’s basic needs (Dawoud, 2012).
Water resources in UAE. Source http://kanat.jsc.vsc.edu/student/conant/.
Lack of international commitment in addressing the issue of water shortage in the region is among the reasons why it continues to suffer from such problems. Several countries are often faced with the burden of being able to address their own water problems. This is so even though most of the water resources in the region are not limited to a particular country but shared amongst all. Political boundaries do not impact the tapping of water from aquifers and rivers. In fact, there are more than 200 river basins that are shared by more than two countries. These river basins account for an estimated 60% of the global land mass. Due to the fact that aquifers are shared on an international grid, problems of water shortage have been accelerated by various countries that unfairly use the water resources.
The water crisis that is facing the world has been so for several years. As a result of this, there have been various profound damages to the water resources across the world. This global crisis has been showcased in the Middle East where water bodies are shared between many countries. Despite the growing population in the UAE, it continues to suffer the problem of water shortage because of the arid climate in the region. This intensifies the competition for the natural water resources among the different emirates (ERWDA, 2002).
This is an indication that the Middle East region has been experiencing a continuous water crisis for several decades. Besides, this crisis has also been further stamped by the different militant organizations that are seeking to take control of the natural resources in the region.
United Arab Emirates
There are some countries that have significantly enjoyed the breath of stability over the years. The UAE is one of the countries that have been politically stable for a long time and registered good economic growth. However, the countries will still be faced with the problem of water shortage if they fail to alter their current approach. The country has adopted various policies that have given it a better placement in the region compared to other countries. Besides, it has also put in place certain initiatives aimed at averting the water crisis so as not to impact the growth of the country’s economy (Al Mulla, 2011).
For example, there are reports that Abu Dhabi farmers are working hand in hand with the government on various ambitious plans seeking to reduce the usage of water in agriculture across the country. This is one of the initiatives that have been formulated towards prioritizing the conservation of water in the emirate. The United Arab Emirates is a country that is made up of seven emirates. Abu Dhabi is the largest in the federation and also acts the capital city of the UAE. Six of the emirates are found on the Persian Gulf coast. An estimated 80% of the country is a desert, meaning that the country should improve its water resources conservation in order to avert the water problem (Brook, n.d).
Water resources and water usage in UAE.
The use of water for agriculture in the UAE increased from 1994 to 2003. This is because the agricultural areas in the region increased almost three fold during that period such that the country today has about 260 732 ha. The country’s climatic inclination is arid and characterized by high temperatures in summer. The country experiences an annual rainfall of about 78mm. Besides, it has a total renewable water resource that is estimated at 150 million cubic meters. However, there are no permanent streams in Abu Dhabi. Ground water resources that are found in the country are mainly in the lower carbonate formations and upper clastic formations on the eastern parts of the country. The country also has aquifers ranging from 800 meters to 200 meters thick. Besides, the state also has ground water aquifers that range from 600 to 2,000 ppm. The country’s average recharge of ground water is approximately more than 120 million cubic meters. Most of the ground water is generated from infiltration from the various river beds that are spread across the country (Food and Agriculture Organization, 2008).
The country has constructed several dams to enhance the recharge of water that is harvested from the ground. In 2003, UAE had already put up 114 dams that have been linked to various embankments with a total capacity of 118 million cubic meters. This has impacted an increase of 48% from the total capacity of the reservoirs in 1995. The dams are often used to recharge ground water even though they also act as protection from flush floods (Food and Agriculture Organization, 2008)
Abu Dhabi also has a desalination plant that was constructed in 1976 with a daily capacity of 250 cubic meters. However, more desalination plants have been put up in Abu Dhabi and Dubai to enhance the increasing demand for water. In 2005, the desalination projects in the country were able to produce a capacity of up to 950 million cubic meters of water.
The United Arab Emirates has also been in the spotlight for producing waste water. In 2006, the country treated an estimated 289 million cubic meters produced from its waste water. This is an implication that in that year, the country treated approximately 86% of all the waste water and pumped it back for re-use. As a result of the increasing numbers in population, the volume of waste water produced has also been on the rise. UAE has been listed by FAO as a leader in the field of sewage water treatment. The treated waste water is passed through a tertiary treatment and then used in landscaping work in the cities and also other projects. The government has found that it is important to also ensure the use of treated water on other areas. However, it still needs to research on the viability of using the water for irrigation of fruit trees and vegetables or the possibility of injecting the water back into the ground to be harvested (Food and Agriculture Organization, 2008).
The country has plans and initiatives for educating the people on ways of minimizing water usage in the households. The country has also focused on putting up more dams to facilitate the storage of more water. Besides, it has also embarked on a project aimed at enhancing and increasing the number of desalination plants. Research is also underway to determine the best approaches to the application of waste water in other uses other than the current ones.
Possible Future Challenges
Increasing population is one of the possible challenges faced by the country. As a result of the growing population, the country should make sure that lots of water is made available. The significant population growth will impact a situation whereby the use of water for agriculture and domestic needs will go up over time. This will result from the increased food production, industrial production, sanitation and food production from virtual water. Virtual water is the water that is used for producing a kilogram of food or food products. It is estimated that population growth will shoot up the per capita usage of water above the organizations’ resources in the times ahead. It is estimated that the country had a population of 4.5 million people in 2005. Its population growth stands at 6.7% (Food and Agriculture Organization, 2008). A greater percentage of the people live in urban areas. According to the United Nations economic and social affairs, there are prospects that in 2020, the urban population will grow to about 7.9 million (Everington, 2013).
Water Resources Deprivation
Many parts of the world are faced with this problem. However, the latest statistics indicate that Abu Dhabi and the rest of the UAE are currently focused on using its water resources in such a way that if there is no intervention from the government to prevent depravation of the resources, the country may be faced with a water crisis in the next two or three decades. The country has registered increasing population over the years and if this is combined with water usage in agricultural, industrial and other sectors, they can be a case of over usage giving way to dry taps. The country has notably used its ground water resources 24 times more than the rate at which the water is replenished, thereby putting the country at a risk of depleting its ground water resources within a period of five decades (Time out Dubai, 2013).
Reducing Levels of Rain
In the wake of Global Warming, most parts of the world have experienced rainfall shortage. It is important to note that the country lacks a significant rainfall that it can depend on in the future. This is an implication that it will need to assess the future problems that may be caused by the increase in water usage. Rainfall shortage is a major problem that will need to be addressed by the government. Environment conservation will be instrumental in making sure that the country eliminates the challenge of water shortage in the times to come. The world experienced a steady monthly average rainfall between the years 1990 to 2009 only. Today, the month of February that usually has more rainfall has declined below 20mm; a mark that is previously surpassed (The World Bank, 2012)
Source: The World Bank.
Increased Industrial Activity
It is also important to bear in mind that the country’s economical needs will require lots of water to support the increased industrial and power sources for development. With regards to this, the country will experience acute water crisis in the future if the government fails to address the problems that are linked to the use of water resources within the organization. It should also be noted that that swollen population will increase the production of waste water across the country. This waste water may end up being not being used entirely if the country does not initiate investments in sewage treatment in the country. As of 2012, the industrial and amenity water usage in the Emirates stood at 956 MCM which is a significant increase from the past decade (Hamidan, 2013).
- Availability of technology that is essential in making sure that the country’s water resources are improved.
- A highly skilled labor force that can be used in the water industry to improve the application of safety measures in the use of water resources.
- Progressive government with the ability to formulate ideal water policies for development.
- A conservative population that is not concerned with water conservation activities
- Lack of grassroots technology for enhancing the population to engage in water preservation.
- Overreliance of the government on international technologies instead of local expertise that has proper understanding of the country’s needs.
- Available technologies from overseas that can enhance the preservation of water resources
- Plenty of ground water resources across the region
- Possibility that other water resources might be discovered in the region with time.
- Encroachment of the country’s water resources by its neighbors
- Depletion of the water resources by various sectors in the region
- Conflicts from neighboring countries that may lead to the depravation of the resources.
Solutions and Recommendations
Abu Dhabi and the other countries in the UAE have adopted various solutions for the likely challenges that it may be faced with in the future. The challenge of significant population increase can be solved by the government’s step towards formulating strategies aimed at ensuring that the population is well informed of the possible means of water resources conservation. The government will also need to educate the population on the possible measures of ensuring good usage of water in order to shield the country for future crisis.
An increase in population means that the country will be generating larger amounts of waste water. This is an implication that the government will need to initiate more technologies for adequate treatment of waste water so as to minimize wastage. The government should also make sure that it has invested in research and development focused on the identification of various ways of using the treated water.
Research and Development
Te government should also embark on carrying out comprehensive research aimed at addressing the possibility of the treated water used for agricultural activities to cut down the amount of water used in farming. This will also be instrumental in ensuring the injection of water back into the ground (Hamidan, 2013).
Policies and Regulations
The government needs to formulate regulations and policies that place restrictions on unnecessary water usage for industrial purposes. Industries have been highlighted to use a lot of water even though they can be economical in the way that they are using the available water without incurring losses (Hamidan, 2013).
The government and various city authorities should create planning systems that will curb the loss of water. This can be achieved by making sure that the government formulates legislations that will give the local authorities, the ability of creating efficient means of water distribution and collection of waste water (Hamidan, 2013).
For the country to eliminate the challenges that it is likely to face in future, the government will need to devise plans and policies that are sustainable. The citizens will require education on the various means through which they are able to practice water sustainability like recycling water that can be used again for domestic purposes, and not forgetting to close the tap when not using the sinks (Al Mulla, 2011).
Operations and Technical Solutions
Operations and technical solutions can effectively work when applied to the government and bodies charged with the task of water distribution across the country. This suggests that the government needs to create policies for streamlining water distribution as well as the collection of sewage and waste water. Waste water should not only be dedicated to construction projects but also used in industries, agriculture and for domestic needs (Al Mulla, 2011).
The government also needs to engage stakeholders who can devise better solutions of the usage of water in the country. Stakeholders include citizens and those who run the industries. Citizens can effectively ensure enhanced domestic water usage in such a way that a significant volume of water is saved from going to waste. The industrialists are the people who have greater mandate. It is important to ask them about the roles that they can play in improving the sustainability of water in the country (Hamidan, 2013).
Despite the location of the country in a region that is likely to experience water crisis anytime in future, the government has created water preservation technologies that are important in the safety of the country in terms of water supply. However, it should be noted that with the swelling population, the country may be faced with problems in the times to come that might expose it to unprecedented water crisis. The government needs to invest in research that will assist the country in alleviating a crisis like this. The country should also be at the top of its voice in advocating for stability in the region so as to avert the water crisis that has been established to have links with the political instability and violent activities across the region. This will be instrumental in making sure that the country takes the lead in regional water preservation and peace efforts.
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