Why hang on to that drop of water

The UAE along with other GCC countries will be the world’s most water-stressed countries in the next 25 years, according to a study released last Wednesday.

By 2040, majority of the world’s most water stressed countries will be in the Middle East, led by Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, San Marino, Singapore, UAE, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Oman, say researchers from the World Resources Institute (WRI).

Annual rainfall in the UAE stands at 78 millimetres, 15 times less than what the UK sees in an average year.

The UAE’s Ministry of Environment and Water is seeking to harness scientific research in various fields in order to find alternative and unconventional solutions to rationalise water consumption for the local population, fulfil water needs for the agricultural sector and preserve the country’s water resources, said Mariam Saeed Hareb, Acting Assistant Undersecretary for the Water Resources and Nature Conservation Department.

The UAE accounts for 14 per cent of the world's desalinated water and is the second largest producer after Saudi Arabia.

The country has 33 desalination plants that provided 42 per cent of its needs, according to a 2013 report by the environment and water ministry.

But groundwater represents 44 per cent of used water, putting immense pressure on the country's reserves.

Another 14 per cent of water usage comes from treated wastewater, mostly for irrigation and landscaped green areas.

The Middle East region, already arguably the least water-secure in the world, draws heavily upon groundwater and desalinated sea water, and faces exceptional water-related challenges for the foreseeable future.

Fourteen of the 33 likely most water stressed countries in 2040 are in the Middle East, including nine considered extremely highly stressed with a score of 5.0 out of 5.0: Bahrain, Kuwait, Palestine, Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Lebanon, according to the think-tank analysis.

While they will probably not face the extreme water stress blanketing the Middle East in 2040, global superpowers such as the US, China and India face water risks of their own.

“High water stress in all three countries are projected to remain roughly constant through 2040. However, specific areas of each, such as the south-western US and China’s Ningxia province, could see water stress increase by up to 40 to 70 per cent,” the researchers said.

(With inputs from AFP)

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