In the recent years, many countries have faced water crisis and water management challenges. The U.A.E. is no different as there are severe challenges including the high cost of producing drinking water, reduction in groundwater reserve levels, and treating wastewater. The problem arises since the demand for water is on the rise and is in no mood to come down, creating significant pressure on managing the water infrastructure of the country to meet the current demand and avoid a shortage shortly. The challenge here is the budget cuts due to low oil revenues have had a significant impact on the existing and future projects. Several research agencies have conducted extensive researches and forecasted that fresh and underground water from the UAE would face an extreme shortage in the next fifty years if the case is not arrested immediately.So, water scarcity in UAE is a major problem.
As an initiative, the government has utilized the wastewater for increasing the optimization of water use for irrigation and other commercial purposes. On records, the U.A.E. population consumes the highest per capita water in the world, that is approximately 550 liters each day. Another initiative taken by the government is educating and creating awareness among the youth to reduce the cost by investing in new technology for producing desalinated water efficiently and effectively. As a result, the desalinization capacity of the U.A.E. is expected to increase over time steadily, which is the primary source of drinking water in the U.A.E. The production of desalinization water would touch 2.19 billion cubic meters by 2019.
At the same time, the government cannot depend on just one type of producing drinking water; they will have to dig deep in finding alternative energy efficient ways to provide clean drinking water. Four water technology companies were given the responsibility to building four small-scale desalination plants designed to test the solar energy-desalination processes. If the project is successful, there would be a drastic reduction in energy consumption, carbon footprint, and thus increase the production of renewable energy. The government has also provided cut subsidies for water and power in the year 2015 and then again in 2016.
The Abu Dhabi government has taken a pivotal initiative to establish a Strategic Tunnel Enhancement Program (STEP) to store and treat wastewater that is discharged commercially and through households. With an investment of AED 5.36 billion, the government is expecting to meet the future demand that has seen an increased wastewater collection and treatment from 450,000m3 currently to 800,000m3 shortly in a day. Since wastewater can be reused 45 percent with the remaining 55 percent being dispersed in the environment. However, they are still falling short of funds as this treatment has a higher potential for reuse. The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) has installed water transmission network costing AED 444 million along with a 300 km long water transmission network that cost additional AED 210 million. This network is expected to meet the increasing demand currently and in the future across the Emirate as it is designed to the highest international standards.
Solution and Prospects
- The investments in groundwater infrastructure need to be reduced as aquifers are deteriorating. The Abu Dhabi is enhancing desalination, especially at farm levels.
- The U.A.E. government is looking to introduce new desalination technologies like nuclear and solar power to produce clean drinking water. There have been initiatives in harvesting brine water using desalination units for the production of salt.
- Wastewater recycling related technologies have grown by leaps and bounds as it is cheaper to produce and maintain in comparison to desalination plants. Also, they are also environmentally friendly and can easily cater to both irrigation and industrial use. Thereby, stocking more freshwater and desalinated water for domestic purposes in the process.
What are the opportunities in hand?
- Water scarcity continues to take center stage even though Technology, creativity, and innovation are pivotal in the development of U.A.E. New Green Technologies would play a crucial role in producing clean drinking water, storage solutions, and wastewater treatment efficiently. Solar-powered and nuclear desalination technologies are upcoming technologies that need to be harvested upon.
- Ideas can also be incorporated using separation of black water and grey water networks and then treating them separately at the plant level and district level respectively.
- The demand for water monitoring equipment like Autosamplers, water efficient faucets, flow meters, low leakage flushing toilets and pipes have hit a new high in the recent past. Helping in the optimization of water usage in the country.
The Groundwater levels in different regions of the U.A.E. have dropped by more than an average of 60 meters, a severe threat to the primary water source in the country. The luxurious lifestyle and lack of conversation techniques have further compounded the water scarcity issues. If new green initiatives are not put in place on priority, by 2030, the U.A.E. will face severe water issues that may ruin its status as the modern tourist hub of the world.