The UAE will find it increasingly difficult to meet its growing population's water and waste demands, experts have warned, with Dubai's sewage plant operating at 60 per cent over capacity.
Scarcity of natural water supply and increasing waste from a soaring population and the real estate boom have placed more pressure on the UAE's resources in recent years.
Dubai Municipality's Sewage Treatment Plant is expecting a 15 per cent year-on-year increase in the volume of waste it handles.
Aisha Al Abdooli, head of operations at the Sewage Treatment Plant, said: "In Dubai we're facing a challenge to deal with sewage.
"We are currently working at 60 per cent above capacity in the existing treatment plants. We are under pressure but we're still surviving. The 60 per cent will not reduce in the coming years.
"Every year we are expecting an extra 15 per cent incremental increase in the sewage water produced," she said on the sidelines of the Middle East Waste and Water Congress in Dubai.
The designed capacity of the existing plants in the emirate stands at 260,000 cubic metres per day, whereas the actual operating capacity is more than 480,000 cubic metres a day.
"Dubai's population is booming, so they are producing more sewage water, and our challenge is to receive and treat this as soon as possible in order to cope with the development that is taking place," Al Abdooli said.
Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Al Ain and Sharjah all have designated treatments plants, but Ajman, Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain and Ras Al Khaimah are in the process of installing facilities, according to her. She said of the four emirates that have treatment plants, all are operating above their installed capacities. The Jebel Ali treatment plant, currently under construction at a cost of Dh1.4 billion, is expected to boost Dubai's capacity by 300,000 cubic metres per day. The facility is expected to be operational by 2010.
Dr Mohamed Abdel Raouf Abdel Hamid, senior environment researcher at the Gulf Research Centre, said the UAE is reaching crunch point unless action is taken to address rising demand. "Issues such as increasing population, urbanisation and recently climate change, are all having a serious impact on water resources. So by 2015, if we don't take any necessary measures, we'll face a huge problem.
"New urban areas are planned but they don't take into account water needs. They will build a city for 15,000 people but where will they get the resources?" Hamid said.
Abu Dhabi expansion
Abu Dhabi has said it has earmarked more than Dh4 billion to extend its drainage and sewage systems. The emirate's population is expected to hit nearly 3.17 million by 2030 from around 1.3 million at present. It is funding its wide-ranging expansion plan using record oil income.
International contractors will be invited to bid for the project.