Of the 22 Arab League nations including the UAE, 8 have the lowest water availability per capita in the world though the UAE is one of the highest water consuming countries.
Dr Unnikrishnan Karumathil, Data Manager and Geophysicist, RAK Gas, quoting figures from the Federal Electricity and Water Authority (Fewa), explained that an average UAE resident uses 550 litres of water against the international average of 170-300 litres of water per day.
“This must be understood in the context of how potable water is produced in the UAE. Desalination is the major source of potable water in the UAE. Dubai alone uses 98.8 percent of the water from desalination. Only 1.2 percent comes from ground water.”
Desalination of water produces its own carbon footprint. Without desalination there would not be enough drinking water in the UAE. “Large quantities of fossil fuel are used in the production of desalinated water and this causes the release of various forms of carbon compounds to the air, thus contributing to the global warming effect,” he said.
Dr Karumathil explained that the UAE cannot depend on rains which are very low, highly unpredictable and erratic. “The effectiveness of cloud seeding is debatable as there is still no convincing scientific proof of the efficacy of intentional weather modification as it only has 30 per cent or less chance of success.”
It can be noted that the peak water demand steadily increases from 2004 to 2014 in Dubai with a slight decrease in 2011. Potable water demand in Abu Dhabi also shows a similar trend with values ranging from a little over 1,000 million litres per day in 2000 to 3700 million litres per day in 2012.
It is expected that the demand for water in Abu Dhabi will increase for up to about 5,000 million litres by 2030.
The Environment Agency and Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (ADWEA) is planning to inject desalinated water into strategic underground reserves called Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) schemes. Storage of water in these existing aquifers will ensure adequate reserves of potable water (up to 90 days) in times of peak demand or as a backup system in case of emergency.
“The government must set certain standards for the usage of water saving installations, pipes, faucets and fittings.
Less water using closets, water saving-low-flow shower heads, water free car washing and so on are to name a few things which can be made mandatory for a country where per capita water consumption is the highest in the world,” Karumathil suggested.
“The government may also consider concession/discounts for those who use water below a set minimum required limit.”