“Water, water everywhere but not a single drop of freshwater to drink!”
Doesn’t this statement hold true in the UAE where we are surrounded by water but are forced to consume desalinated seawater instead of fresh water?
America has the most abundant share of the world’s total freshwater supply with 45%, while Europe and Africa have only 15.5% and 9% of the world’s fresh water supply.
Asia being the world’s largest continent has only 28% of the total freshwater supply available and it is surprising to note that the UAE is one of the top 10 most water-scarce countries in the world, and has one of the highest per capita water usages globally.
Additionally, for the past thirty years the water table of UAE has dropped at the rate of “one meter per year”! At this current rate, the UAE will deplete its natural freshwater resources in about fifty years.
According to the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, 72% of water used in the UAE comes from groundwater, 21% comes from desalination and only 7% is treated water. This groundwater is the best source for obtaining portable water for drinking and to meet our domestic requirements. Unfortunately, nearly close to 72% of this groundwater is consumed in irrigation, for watering plants using sprinklers.
What’s worse, the UAE being a tropical region with an arid land, about 60% of this water GETs evaporated before it is even Taken up by plants.
Thus, only 40% of water supplied for irrigation is being used up by plants, which results in the wastage of precious groundwater. Similarly, irrigation using the drip system consumes 25% less water than that of the sprinkler system, further adding to this massive wastage of water.
Well it is true that the UAE is blessed with water bodies encircling it, making the process of desalination of sea water a good alternative for restoring the 60% of water lost in irrigation and fulfilling the domestic needs of the citizens.
Although desalination looks like a possible option, it is important to note that UAE needs to adjust its water consumption strategies before its energy consumption doubles in 2020.
The Middle East houses 70% of the world’s desalination plants with UAE being one of the Middle Eastern countries that is actively involved in the process of desalination. The seawater that is being desalinated in most plants contains minerals like boron and bromide, which after the process of desalination are dumped back into the ocean, which would disrupt the salinity levels of the water bodies harming the aquatic living organisms. In addition to accumulating salts in seawater, desalination also causes the removal of essential minerals like calcium that is integral for human beings.
According to the Pacific Institute, desalination is the most energy costing water treatment process and thus, makes our water bills soar every year. Encouraging desalination will increase the salt in seawater; making our drinking water devoid of calcium and emptying cash from our pockets at the same time, just causing harm at both ends.
Moreover, the large volumes of harmful gases released by these desalination plants results in polluting the region’s climate causing various health problems and affecting wildlife.
Water scarcity is becoming a major issue especially in a desert region like the UAE and it is very shocking to know that, “It has been reported that in the UAE, per capita water usage is 550 liters per person per day, as compared to a global national average of 250 liters per person each day.” This makes water scarcity a more pressing concern to be closely looked into in the near future. Doesn’t it seem interesting to note that UAE being a country that covers a very small area out of the total earth land area is one among the largest consumers of water in the world!
It is true that water scarcity is indeed a very crucial issue in the UAE and seems nearly impossible to get rid of completely but it is definitely possible to do our little part as citizens of UAE in order to reduce this huge consumption of “550 liters per person per day”. All we need to do is to shrug off our guilt and begin implementing the following habits in our everyday life:
Alter the sprinklers so they water only the grass and smaller plants ensuring that no water is being sprinkled on the sidewalks. Also, reduce the circumference of the sprinklers so as to cover a smaller surface area. This will not only prevent the loss of water to the platforms but also reduce the loss of water due to evaporation during irrigation.
Water your plants during cooler times of the day such as early in the morning or evening in order to avoid the loss of a large amount of water due to evaporation.
Coordinate irrigation with seasonal rains.
Grow plants that thrive well in the given environment. The UAE being arid can best support the growth of drought tolerant plants. Growing drought resistant plants like cactus requires less irrigation and is friendly with the climatic conditions of the region at the same time.
Provide reinforcements either in the form of preferential loan or credit conditions that implement environmentally friendly laws.
Launch different organizations and campaigns that aim at enlightening the farmers and residents of the UAE about water sustainable habits.
Reduce the amount of water consumed to meet your domestic needs.
—Take shorter showers.
Showers waste the most amount of water compared to the other domestic water needs as we lose track of the volume of water that is being wasted by just standing under the shower for more than 5 minutes. Another way to minimize the amount of water that is being wasted while taking showers is to fix limiting filters in the showers that allow only a limited volume of water though the pores of the showers, thus using only little water to be utilized. Another way to reduce the wastage of water in showers is to use a bucket and a mug instead of using a shower. This will help you realize the amount of water that is actually required for you to take a shower and also enable you to realize the amount of water that you have wasted on a regular basis.
— Brush your teeth with the taps closed.
While it is true that we brush our teeth early in the morning usually half asleep dragging ourselves to school or work, it is important to know that a huge amount of water is just going down the drain unused. This does not only give you expensive water bills but also causes significant loss of water.
—Using half-flush toilets.
More than a gallon of water is being flushed out from every home in the UAE everyday by flushing. With this practice being continued the amount of water being wasted increases at an alarming rate. By incorporating a half flush system in your toilets, you can reduce the amount of water that is being wasted by just being flushed out on an everyday basis and eventually contribute to narrowing the margin of water scarcity in the UAE.
“Dubai” an emirate in the UAE is taking a measure to reduce this problem of water scarcity through a program called the ‘Green Mosques’ project, being championed by Green Sheiks. It aims to reduce consumption by 20% and save around AED 6 million.
By actually executing the above steps we can eventually make the size of our water consumption the same as that of our land area!
By Gaayathri Veeraragavan