The deterioration of water resources is a significant social, economic, and environmental problem in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Thus, water supplies are of the critical importance for these arid countries because of their role in meeting the populations’ demands for the fresh water, development of agriculture and irrigation systems, and the growth of industries in the region.
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Still, the level of deterioration of water resources in the GCC countries is extremely high, and this situation prevents the public from using all available water resources efficiently. The quality of water in the GCC countries decreases because of such factors as the overexploitation of ground waters, the ineffective work of desalination systems and plants, the soil pollution, and the discharge of the wastewater and industrial waters in the subsurface (AlRukaibi 2010; Al-Zubari 2009).
Thus, the problem is in the inadequate control of water deterioration processes and the inability to manage the exploitation of water with the focus on increasing its quality. This paper aims to analyze the current status of water resources in the GCC Countries, discuss future challenges in this region focusing on consequences of the water deterioration processes, present the SWOT analysis, and provide the recommendations to address negative outcomes of the water resources deterioration.
The GCC Countries Profile and Status of Water Resources
Countries that are included in the Gulf Cooperation Council are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). These drought territories are characterized by the shortage of water resources to cover the populations’ needs in the fresh water and the agricultural and industrial water (Kannan 2012, p. 10).
According to Dawoud, “natural water scarcity is further worsened by rapidly growing demands, unsustainable use patterns, increased water pollution and weak management institutions and regulations” (Dawoud 2006, p. 189). Rare rainfalls, long summers, and extremely high temperatures are causes of the high level of evaporation, and the GCC region authorities need to find new approaches to address the demands of the growing population.
Thus, the highest levels of the fresh water consumption are observed in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar (more than 0.400 billion m3 annually) because of actively developing agricultural and industrial sectors along with the constant increase in domestic demands (Al-Rashed & Akber 2015, p. 119; International Monetary Fund 2015, p. 24).
Therefore, the population of the UAE consumes more than 500 liters of water a day (Ramzi 2011, para. 4). The minimal water consumption is typical for Bahrain, Oman, and Kuwait (about 0.170 billion m3 annually) (Al-Zubari 2009). The surface water resources are minimal in these countries, and the lack of the renewable water is a typical problem.
In addition, the quality of those water resources that are used for agricultural and industrial purposes is often very low because these resources are results of seawater desalination processes. However, desalination is necessary because more than 80% of industries in these countries depend on the desalinated water, and it is also important to provide about 50% of the fresh water for the public needs (Al-Rashed & Akber 2015, p. 119; Dawoud 2006; Ramzi 2011).
Authorities in such countries as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait discuss the problem of the intensive water consumption in the agricultural sector focusing on the negative impact of desalination processes on the environment (Dawoud 2006; Ramzi 2011, para. 4). As a result, there are also discussions on correlating the active economic development of the region with the high demand for water resources.
Future Challenges for the GCC Countries
The constantly increasing consumption of fresh water and the high demand for developing industries and irrigation systems in the GCC countries can potentially lead to the extreme shortage of the ground and desalinated water resources. The quality of these resources will also decrease significantly because of the high probability of pollutants and wastewater discharges (Achieving a sustainable water sector in the GCC 2014, p. 4).
The problem is in the fact that the growth of the population and public demands for the water is rather unmanaged. Natural water supplies will become non-efficient to address the problem in the nearest future. It is possible to predict the situations when the orientation to desalinating more water for usage will lead to the extreme decrease in the water quality (The GCC in 2020 2010, p. 13).
In addition, the possible inability to desalinate the water effectively will lead to the soil pollution because of salinization of grounds. Furthermore, today the wastewater reuse is not actively implemented in industries. On the contrary, the main focus is on the geological exploration and mining for receiving more ground water resources (Koncagül 2015; Shahid & Ahmed 2014).
The negative consequences of such processes that can be observed today and in the future are the depletion of water reserves, the environmental pollution, and the further deterioration of the water quality. As a result, the sustainable growth of the GCC countries can become questioned.
The SWOT Analyses
The SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis needs to be conducted for the case of the GCC countries in order to examine the aspects of the water resources deterioration in detail.
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The first strength is in the fact that water deficiency is actively addressed in the GCC countries with references to the activities of desalination plants (Raouf & Luomi 2015). The other strength is in the possibility to spend financial resources on overcoming the water resources shortage and predicting the environmental problems.
Currently, natural water resources cannot address the high demand for the fresh water that is necessary for domestic needs and irrigation systems. Therefore, much attention is paid to the geological exploration of ground water resources, but poor management practices lead to increasing the risk of the environmental pollution (Al-Rashed & Akber 2015). In addition, the recycling systems are not implemented effectively in the region, and the wastewater reuse remains to be an underdeveloped procedure.
In order to address the environmental and economic problem of the water resources deterioration, the GCC countries can use the potential associated with developing and implementing new, environment-friendly technologies for recycling, cleaning, and reusing the wastewater, desalinating the water, and mining the groundwater supplies (Achieving a sustainable water sector in the GCC 2014, p. 4). Thus, the GCC countries can use their economic resources to increase opportunities for the resolving the problem of the water shortage and deterioration.
The main threat causing the further water resources depletion is the active industrial growth in the GCC countries’ oil and gas sector. The reason is that it is associated with the extensive use of desalinated water and with further mining activities (AlRukaibi 2010, p. 2). As a result, the risk of the soil pollution can increase significantly.
Thus, referring to the SWOT analysis, it is possible to state that the problem is in the threat of the further shortage of desalinated and high-quality water resources with the focus on the deterioration problem and the possible soil pollution and salinization.
Solutions and Recommendations
The problem of the water resources depletion and deterioration in the GCC countries with the associated environmental pollution and uncovered demands can be resolved with the focus on developing and implementing appropriate policies for the water utilization in the region.
Each country needs to start with improving the policies regarding the distribution of water resources among domestic, agricultural, and industrial sectors and revising the current poor management practices (Al-Rashed & Akber 2015, p. 2; The GCC in 2020 2010, p. 12). The next step is the enhancement of conservation and water recycling techniques and technologies with the focus on the active use of the renewable water resources.
Therefore, concentrating on the ways to solve the identified problem in the GCC countries region, it is necessary to propose the following recommendations: (1) the development of national policies regarding the water consumption and water resources management; (2) the increase of the investment in researching non-conventional water resources; (3) the investment in improving and using water desalination and recycling technologies; and (4) the enhancement of water conservation practices.
These recommendations are oriented to predict the growth of further social and environmental problems in the GCC countries associated with the ineffective use of the water resources. Moreover, the propositions are based on the current practices and perspectives for the approach development in the region.
The shortage of water resources and their deterioration is a significant problem for the GCC countries, and it requires the effective solution. On the one hand, the economic development of these Arab countries affects the development of industries and technologies appropriate for cleaning and desalinating the water positively.
On the other hand, the progress in the oil and gas industry is one of the main causes of the water deterioration because of the associated pollution. The solution to the discussed problem should be complex and include the improvement of the existing policies regarding the use of water supplies and the supported development of technologies that are efficient to improve the process of the water conservation, cleaning, and recycling.
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