Water Shortage in UAE


The United Arab Emirates experiences many ecological issues, which currently include water shortage. The water resources have become more and more inadequate, especially for many people who presently do not have access to the hygienic water. The problem that the UAE is facing is unique, and it requires global and immediate attention. The number of UAE residents has  significantly increased; thereby, meeting the demand for water distribution remains a concern. In the country where the arable ground accounts for 0.1 percent of the entire area, shortage of natural resources along with high daily consumption trigger concerns regarding the future. Moreover, agriculture uses 85% of the water in the region. In addition, frequent droughts in the UAE contribute to the varying landscape. As a result, the overuse of water in cultivation is affecting the already stunted water resources of this country. This study is aimed at exploring the concept of water shortage in the UAE. The study also suggests local solutions to this problem.

The country has small amount of the groundwater because it is located in the desert area with deficit of rivers and rainfall. As a result, the UAE government has to depend entirely on the other resources of water, which are produced, for instance, from sea water desalination. Besides its neighboring location with other countries, it still lacks water resources, and there is a poor water management all over the nation. The UAE, located on the Arabian Peninsula, is famous for its luxurious cities filled with plentiful resorts, attractions, and shopping lures. The living status of extravagant Emirates may make people suppose that the problem of water shortage is not real because of its affluence. Nonetheless, a severe depletion of the available freshwater resources confronts the UAE.

For example, reports suggest that the country has the uppermost water usage per person in the world. Moreover, the region’s water level has dropped roughly one meter each year for the last thirty years. Therefore, high water consumption by the Emirati people in the farms and houses accounts for this water deficiency. People in the United Arab Emirates do not ponder on the quantity of wastewater because they receive water for free. For example, large puddles of water cover the sidewalks and street sites in Dubai. These water pools originate from the attempted plants and green spot irrigation, which is a big waste. Consequently, one may assume that the UAE has plenty of water to spare. However, the country experiences a short water supply, belonging to the top ten of the most water-scarce states in the world, with the highest water usage per person.


Water management in the UAE is a problem since the Emirati people have a tendency towards overuse of the innate water sources. The UAE has a climate characterized by high humidity and temperature, as well as low precipitation levels. Although the nation experiences low rainfall rates and high temperatures, its rapid urbanization and growth have triggered an unprecedented water demand. Additionally, luxurious lifestyle of the UAE residents together with the lack of water conservation measures have brought about high water usage as well as tremendous wastage. Reports indicate that in the UAE, the residents consume 550 liters per person each day, which is more than double the world national standard of 250 liters per person daily.

The Dubai Water and Electricity Authority points out that the supply of water was raised by 4.58 percent between 2009 and 2010. Recent reports on energy, water, technology and environment also state that UAE has the biggest water consumption in the agricultural sector, which accounts for 67 percent. Furthermore, the private household water use in the UAE accounts for 24 percent while the industry uses only 9 percent of the water. However, the private households’ water use accounts for about 60 percent in Dubai. While the need for water in the UAE keeps growing, the country has limited natural resources. Moreover, estimates indicate that by 2050, availability of water per capita will fall by half in the region, seriously affecting the already stressed natural hydrological systems and aquifers.

The UAE faces many challenges due to its present water resources, requiring an effective solution to create an optimistic environmental arrangement for the future. Furthermore, at the current rate, the country will deplete all its innate freshwater resources in approximately fifty years. Regardless of a number of desalination plants aimed to decrease the deficiency of water, the country still needs to regulate the water usage habits. One of the solutions to the water shortage is the installation of water meters in the households. The water meters would help to track utility bills that will in turn aid in the management of the water usage by private households. The residents would then receive messages once they have reached the average limit, which would serve as warnings for the people to become more careful with water consumption. Besides, the Emirati people require to plan and balance the water use from the available resources.

Another solution to the water shortage is cultivating crops that can grow in saltwater as well as survive without water. The wastewater can be recycled for irrigation instead of ground water or clean water usage for agriculture in addition to drip irrigation. The UAE residents can use perforated tubes placed along the ground or buried next to the roots of the crops to deposit water directly to the plant roots. As a result, the amount of water used for irrigation would reduce by 25 percent, which will also help to conserve it. Above all, people should be educated about the seriousness of the problem through different campaigns all over the UAE. It will help to make water usage environmentally conscious. If the shortage of water continues to escalate, there will be no adequate water for equal distribution amongst the UAE citizens. Thus, they need to keep away from water wastage.

Plan Implementation

Water meters were installed in sampled households to record the water usage. Once the families reached the threshold, they were sent warning messages to remind them to reduce their water consumption. Additionally, farmers also planted drought tolerant crops that can grow in saltwater. Moreover, they were also given perforated tubes which they placed along the floor or buried near the roots of the crops to deposit water directly into the plants, that is, they replaced spray irrigation with drip irrigation systems. A number of campaigns were also carried out which educated the residents and farmers about environmentally sensible water usage. Recycled water was also installed in some places to irrigate crops instead of fresh water.


Collecting Data

The researchers collected remote sensing, hydrological and selective data. A descriptive naturalistic design was chosen for the study to portray the accurate characteristics of the water scarcity situation in the UAE. In addition, both quantitative and qualitative methods were utilized to study the water scarcity issue in details. The study took qualitative design as the primary method, which permitted the researcher to examine the issues surrounding the water demand and water supply in UAE. The researchers then proceeded to measure the hypotheses after obtaining a clear understanding of the kind of questions, which should be included in the quantitative study. The method allowed subjective assessment of the opinions of the Emirati people and stakeholders. The use of in-depth interviews, surveys and questionnaires as qualitative research tools also helped to answer the research question and solve the research problem.

Investigators recorded data in textual form based on interactions with the respondents, as well as analyzed it and attempted to find out the patterns and models that can solve the problem. The ideas generated from qualitative research were also used as hypotheses to study the problem quantitatively. The study also utilized an interactive policy planning as well as analysis approach that helped in the exploration of the trade-offs, and the future water resources demand on a national level. The approach aimed at fostering dialog, as well as stakeholder participation, providing a basis for the multi-sector planning and analysis. The data collection focused on the social, political and economic impacts of the nation. Both primary and secondary data were collected. Data analysis employed inferential statistical and single variable distribution analyses, using SPSS software.

Analysis of the Results

The groundwater dependency in the UAE is approximately 45 percent of its total yearly renewable groundwater resources. The annual recharge of groundwater is roughly 350 Mm3 while the yearly groundwater pensiveness is around 2668 Mm3. Severe decline in the quality of groundwater resulted from massive groundwater over-extractions in some UAE regions. The findings indicate that the current groundwater potentiality in both deep and superficial aquifers is approximately 757.6 km3 of the groundwater resources. However, only less than 7.5 percent is fresh water and, due to the current abstraction rates, the brackish and fresh water reserves will become exhausted within 50 years.

The UAE has the most developed desalination production as well as distribution systems worldwide. It first desalination plant was installed in Abu Dhabi in the 1960s. The total capacity of this plant was 250 m3 per day. More plants were established in Dubai and Abu Dhabi due to the increase in the industrial and domestic water demand. Currently, 35 desalination plants exist in the UAE, with 1922 m3 per day or 700 million m³/year installed capacity and the total actual production of 572 m3 per year. This year, water consumption in the UAE reached 995 million m³ per year. Agriculture ranks number one in the use of water supplied in the UAE, followed by domestic usage, industrial and landscape consumption.

Discussion and Reflection

The United Arab Emirates highly depends on the groundwater for fresh water supply. The groundwater resources are either renewable or non-renewable. In the UAE, renewable groundwater resources frequently occur in the superficial alluvial aquifers while the deep aquifers account for non-renewable groundwater resources. Groundwater in UAE occurs in either unintegrated or integrated surface deposit aquifers or structural or substratum aquifers. Water availability in superficial aquifers is comparatively small because it primarily depends on the rainfall that varies from year to year. The drop in the levels of yields and the decline in the groundwater quality in many UAE areas have made substantial impacts on the public water supply. The drop in groundwater level and quality has also affected the existing forestry and agricultural development. Lessening the extraction from the primary aquifers is an indispensable requirement for the management of the water resources and their future availability in the country.

Water Demand

The current population of UAE is 9.34 million people. However, it is anticipated to reach nearly 11.5 million by 2025. This population rise will put more pressure on the nation’s already strained water and food resources. Food consumption has also continued to grow. Hence, over-consumption and food waste further increase the demand for food in the UAE, which is also connected with a crisis in the water sector. Regardless of its arid climate and shortage of renewable resources of water, the UAE ranks the third largest water consumer in the world. Residents of the UAE consume 550 liters of water per day, which is much higher as compared to the 250 liters on global average.

Water Supply

According to the UN, a country is water scarce when it has 1000 or less cubic meters of water available per capita annually. The natural water supply of UAE is below half this level, making the country one of the most water-scarce states across the globe. The majority of the UAE groundwater resources are obtained by the fossil aquifers that do not receive any water renewal. Twenty-five liters of water are withdrawn from each liter that flows back into nation’s groundwater reserves from the occasional rainfall. This water shortage has many adverse effects on the environment, including the swamps, rivers, lakes and other freshwater resources. Additionally, the resulting overuse of water that causes the water shortage, which frequently occurs in irrigation areas, also harms the environment in many ways, for instance, increases salinity. Nutrient pollution can also occur due to water shortages. Furthermore, the lack of water makes the management of water flow for rehabilitation of the municipal watercourses problematic.

Some of the solutions did not have the expected results because of the provision of subsidized or free water, which does not create any incentive to utilize it wisely. The residents just use water wasteful method regardless of the awareness of the water shortage. Moreover, the farmers could not utilize recycled wastewater for irrigation because of the fear that the residents might refuse to eat crops irrigated using recycled wastewater. As a result, the UAE urgently needs to concentrate on ensuring future sustainable water supply. Therefore, it is crucial to reduce the water financial support for the farming sector because it will ensure that the users realize the cost of water. Fresh water should also become priced to reflect water scarcity. The installation of meters somehow managed to slow down the rate of water usage. Again, drip irrigation also reduced the amount of water used for irrigation by about 25 percent compared to spray irrigation.

One obstacle faced during the study was quantitative data because numbers continuously evolve and are updated. Again, dealing with the research data became a challenge in terms of the collected information elucidation. Another impediment to the study was to find the research participants in addition to organization of the investigation team to support the researchers. Involving institutions and stakeholders in participation in the investigation hindered an active process of the study. Furthermore, the selection of accurate methodology and the most efficient procedures to conduct the study also presented an additional challenge.

If I was to carry out this challenge again, I will launch water exhibitions to raise awareness to the residents about water preservation efforts. I will also increase the campaigns to educate the residents and farmers about conscious water usage and remind them that water scarcity is a very serious problem. I will also advise farmers to irrigate their crops during the cooler times of the day, that is, earlier in the morning and late in the evening to avoid evaporation and wastage. Additionally, I will advocate that the farmers coordinate irrigation with the seasonal rains.