A federal-level strategy is being developed to meet the challenge of providing adequate supplies of water in the future, Dr Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad, the Minister of Environment and Water, revealed yesterday.
He said the strategy would cover all water-related issues in the country and a preliminary study was already under way.
Bin Fahad said the high level of consumption in the UAE – particularly in Abu Dhabi, which had the highest rate in the world – was a major contributor to the country's ecological footprint, which was the largest per capita in the world.
"This is largely because almost 100 per cent of our drinking water is desalinated, a very energy-intensive process which releases carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the air and our natural environment.
"These pollutants accelerate global warming and have dramatic impacts on our long-term health, food supplies and other basic needs. So our strategy is to reduce desalination by 50 per cent over the years."
Bin Fahad was speaking at the launch of the Heroes of UAE Water Conservation Campaign, a nationwide drive that is intended to reduce water consumption by 50 per cent. The campaign was launched by the Emirates Wildlife Society in association with the World Wide Fund for Nature (EWS-WWF) and the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), with the support of the ministry, Masdar, the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority and HSBC.
The minister said the shortage of water was the most challenging and serious issue that had to be addressed, and demand in the country was accelerating fast every year.
"There have been many campaigns to raise awareness of the need to water efficiently but the results were not encouraging because of the country's rapid economic growth and the increasing size of the population," he added. "However I am confident we will see results from the collaborative efforts that are being made by both government and private organisations."
EAD Secretary-General Majid Al Mansouri said the agency would instal three different water-saving devices for free in mosques, schools, commercial and government buildings and households during 2010.
The initiative would cover more than 55,000 residential, commercial and government units and buildings in addition to most of Abu Dhabi's mosques.
"These devices will reduce the emirate's water consumption by 30 per cent and will have a significant positive impact on the environment," said Al Mansouri.
Bin Fahad said a similar initiative would be launched at the federal level, and added: "The Abu Dhabi pilot project will be implemented throughout the country to help save water and meet future challenges, which will be severe."
International studies and research papers by academics and analysts agree that a third world war could be fought over water. Millions of children are dying around the world due to dehydration caused by a lack of safe drinking water, and more than a billion people have no access to clean drinking water.
Al Mansouri said: "We face a major challenge. The increasing population and the growth of economy have put pressure on our water resources. Through this campaign, Abu Dhabi wants to reach out to people with the message that it is high time we save water. We want the community to never underestimate the power of their individual efforts."
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