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Water Supply in UAE
The United Arab Emirates has a limited resource of fresh water. Since decades water supply in UAE has been a major major challenge to the UAE government.
United Arab Emirates (UAE)
UAE is located in the eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula.
UAE is a federation of seven emirates
UAE has a total area of about 83,600km.
The capital city, Abu Dhabi, is an island located in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The latter represents almost 87% of the mainland area.
It’s divided into three ecological areas:
The north-eastern mountain area
Marine coastal areas.
Eighty per cent of the country is desert.
The total population is around 9 million and expected to reach around 13 million by 2050. Currently, around 90% of the population lives in urban areas.
The gross domestic product (GDP) grew by an average of 4.76% from 2000-2015. It’s forecasted to rise 4-5% from 2017-2020. Industry and the services sector contribute 99% of GDP.
The rainfall in UAE is scarce combined with a high rate of evaporation.
Due to the UAE’s location in a dry belt region, rainfall is limited.
Annual rainfall ranges between 80-160mm and the average precipitation is 78mm per year
The country don’t receive no rainfall for months because of extreme storm patterns.
The urbanization and consumption of water has led to deficits in the water budget.
60% used for irrigated agriculture of total water use and is the primary water consumer.
39% used for productive agriculture.
11% used for greening and landscaping and 10% for forestry.
40% used for household and industrial purposes.
The amount of municipal is of total water consumption.
Water resources in the UAE can be classified into two main categories:
Conventional and non-conventional.
Conventional, such as surface water (including aflaj water systems, springs and dams) and groundwater (shallow and deep aquifers)
Non-conventional, such as desalinated water, treated wastewater and cloud seeding.
The surface water includes water retained in dams, streams, ponds and spring water.
The average annual surface water flow through valleys (wadis) ranges from 23 million cubic metres (MCM) to 138MCM.
Groundwater is the main natural water resource.
The total volume of groundwater is quite significant at around 640 BCM,
(Billion Cubic Metres).
Only 3% of it (around 20BCM) is fresh.
Groundwater resources occur in the aquifers located in the Bajada region, in the eastern part of the country.
The aquifers consist of rich deposits along the base of the Oman and Ras Al-Khaimah Khaimah mountains that extend over a large area.
The upper aquifer is composed of gravel sand and silt, the lower aquifer of limestone, dolomite and marl.
Both aquifers range in thickness from 200 to 800 metres. Besides the Dammam and Umm Er-Radhuma aquifers, which extend into the western desert areas, contain saline water.
The recharge of shallow aquifers depends on rainfall events and surface run-off. It might vary year to year.
In recent years, aquifer conditions have improved. As a result of measures taken to reduce groundwater abstraction to sustainable levels.
The high evaporation rates during the summer increase the accumulation of salts in the root zone.
Non-conventional water sources
To meet both the qualitative and quantitative requirements for drinking water standards,
domestic water supplies rely on desalinated water (around 99%). which is used either or blended with groundwater.
After Saudi Arabia, the UAE has the highest desalination capacity globally.
Most of the desalination plants use co-generation multi-stage flash (MSF) technology or multiple-effect distillation (MED). whereas only two plants use reverse osmosis (RO) technology. As of 2015, there are 33 major water desalination plants in the UAE.
The availability of desalinated water at low costs may also be an attractive means of meeting industrial water demand.
Renewable energy can play a key role in lowering the cost of desalinated water.
The UAE is very progressive when it comes to developments and innovations in green technology.
Food and water security are important issues for the country, which already imports more than 90% of its food.
Furthermore, the UAE aims to increase its total renewable energy by 24% by 2021.
The water demand is expected to grow about 30% by 2030, and seawater desalination requires ten times more energy than surface water production.
Treated wastewater represents one of the most important alternatives to meet some of the present water requirements and lessen the long-term supply-demand imbalance.
Thanks to the completion of wastewater treatment facilities and the expansion of urban sewage networks, large volumes of treated wastewater have become available. Due to environmental considerations, wastewater is treated completely or, regardless of its intended use.
At present, the UAE operates modern treatment facilities with tertiary and advanced treatment capabilities.
Treated water is used for urban purposes, such as irrigating gardens and highway landscaping. Municipalities are responsible for building and managing sewage systems, creating networks for storm water collection and reusing treated wastewater.
The UAE is one of the countries pioneering cloud seeding and artificial rainmaking in the MENA region.
Cloud seeding usually takes place over the eastern mountain ranges on the border with Oman and aims to raise levels in aquifers and reservoirs in the area.