The United Arab Emirates is composed of seven emirates namely Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ras al Khaimah, Umm ul Quwain, Fujairah, and Ajman. It is located in the Arabian Peninsula near the Persian Gulf. It occupies a total area of 83600 square kilometers of which around 77,500 squares kilometers is the main surface area. The total area of islands is around 5900 square kilometers.
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In 1994, more than 66 thousand hectares was occupied by agricultural land, whereas the rest of the territory was occupied by Wetland (Kamil, 2001). There are several sources of water in the United Arab Emirates. The total annual amount of water available from surface runoff, which is produced by rainfall, is around 150 million cubic meters and there are no perennial streams.
It is also approximated that the ground water recharge is around 120 million square meters and this emanates from infiltration from the riverbeds. The total amount of water derived from ground water abstraction is about 1615 million square meters. This shows that ground water depletion amounts to around 1500 million cubic meters per annum.
The recharge does not include the recharge of groundwater flowing from neighboring countries because no figures are available (Warren, 2003). It is important to note that nowadays the country faces serious problems associated with water resources. Population increase and climate change has led to shortage of water resources. Therefore, the country has to work out some effective strategies to solve the problems.
During the past twenty years the seawater intrusion has been increasing in the coastal areas. It was decided to construct several drums to solve the problem. About 35 dams and embankments have been constructed across the entire country. These structures are characterized by a total storage capacity of about eighty million square meters (Warren, 2008).
These dams are constructed for recharge purposes, but they also provide protection against floods. A desalination plant was also erected in Abu Dhabi in 1976. This plant had a total capacity of around 250 square meters per day. There are 35 desalination plants in the united Arab emirates with a total capacity of 1922 cubic meters per day while total actual production is 385 cubic meter per year.
Over total water withdraw was ground water. In the same year, agricultural water withdrawal for crops was estimated to be around 1300 million cubic meters. There are two main sources of water in the United Arab Emirates. These two sources are desalinated seawater and ground (Warren, 2003).
The ground water sources are used for agricultural production. The drinking water is provided almost wholly from desalinated water across the emirate. Ground water contributes around 70% to total water demand for all-purpose. Desalinated water contributes around 25% and treated wastewater accounts for about %.
Reportedly, 8 seawater desalination plants were operating in Abu Dhabi in 2010. Notably, only two freshwater aquifers are operating in the area (Warren, 2003). The saline ground water is still used to irrigate palms. These trees are rather salt-tolerant so ground water can be used for irrigation. The country has constructed recharge dams on Wadis for the purpose of preventing flood water from flowing into the sea.
There is a lot of unplanned and uncontrolled ground waters withdraw specifically for agriculture and forestry. This has led to the reduction in the ground water levels and the quality of water. The construction of large-scale recharge facilities has been going on in Liwa oasis since 2008. This has helped in creating a 90-day reserve drinking water supply compared with the earlier 48-hour reserve for drinking water (Kamil, 2001).
The water production in United Arab Emirates increases during the summer when electricity production increases. It is necessary to point out that the recharge scheme is still under construction. Considerable amounts of wastewater are now being reused to irrigate agricultural lands. Most of these wastewater treatment plants are publicly operated. United Arab people are supplied with water free of charge.
Notably, industrial users as well as foreign residents have to pay for the use of water. Most of the groundwater is used to irrigate agricultural products. The United Arab Emirates have tried to solve problems associated with water scarcity by constructing desalination plants (Alsharhan, 2001). For the last three decades, groundwater has provided the majority of water source for Abu Dhabi emirate despite its heavy utilization.
It is comprised of brackish, fresh sources, desalinated seawater and treated sources. Due to the decline in water levels, protection and conservation of fresh groundwater are very important. The ground water in the United Arab Emirates is mostly used in agriculture, forestry and irrigation. Majority of water produced in the United Arab Emirates is abstracted from boreholes and shallow wells.
The rest of water is produced from desalination of seawater. Water used for domestic purposes is derived from 16 well fields in the eastern region (Warren, 2003). Lack of enough quantities of water is a great problem in the United Arab Emirates. The arid climate of United Arab Emirates plays a very important role in the water resources availability. Rainfall is the main source of water in the United Arab Emirates.
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It is important to note that water supply has become one of the most urgent problems in the United Arab Emirates. It is possible to state that population increase; climate change and increase in agricultural lands contribute greatly to the problem. Apparently, existing desalination plants hardly satisfy the increasing demand. Therefore, it is essential to construct more dams and plants.
Population increase is not confined to increase of water use. It also leads to excessive construction of roads and buildings. This brings to the fore issues concerning reasonable allocation of land. The government should work out the necessary strategies to control land allocation.
Thus, it is possible to claim that issues concerning water resources in the United Arab Emirates require a complex approach on the part of the government of the country. Despite positive changes which have been taking place throughout past three decades, it is important to note that extra effort is still needed.
Alsharhan, S., 2001.Hydrogeology of an arid region: the Arabian Gulf and adjoining. New York. Elsevier.
Kamil, A., 2001. Water in the Arabian Peninsula: problems and policies. Dubai: Ithaca Press.
Peter R., 2008. Water in the Arab world: perspective and prognoses. New York: Harvard university press.
Warren, W., 2003. Water resources perspective: evaluation, management and policy. New York: Elsevier.