UAE water consumption one of the highest in the world

Moushumi Das Chaudhury
Filed on July 22, 2005

DUBAI — UAE has one of the highest water consumption levels in the world compared to Western countries due to climatic conditions and high per capita income, according to a study by Emirates Industrial Bank.

The demand is increasing year-on-year due to growth of population and growth in tourism , as the UAE also supports 'transit population' which increases the demand of water consumption.

Moreover, the UAE also has the highest per capita consumption of bottled water (265 litres per year) which is due to many factors including economic prosperity as well as the presence of excellent local brands of bottled water, according to Richard Hall, chairman of Zenith International, organisers of the second 'Global Bottled Water Congress' which will be held in Dubai this September.

According to sources, Water production in the UAE reached more than 195 gallons in 2004 and demand is more in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The increasing demand is due to growth in hotel industry, agriculture and construction sector which has increased the number of labour camps and residential buildings.

According to Statistics available from Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, (DEWA), The total production of water in 2004 was 61,478 MIG(million imperial gallons) and the total consumption was 53,504 MIG which is higher compared to other cities in the Gulf.

A senior official from DEWA, told Khaleej Times, DEWA delivers water to almost 225,000 customers across the emirate of Dubai and meets the growing demand for water by advanced planning, preparing the necessary groundwork for several projects as per safety requirements and environmental standards.

In the UAE, supply of water comes usually from two sources, wells (ground water) and desalinated water. Moreover, there are constraints on utilisation of both sources. Desalinated water comes with a high price tag although it is produced by using associated gas. In 2002, the production of water was 181 billion gallons at a cost of Dh 3426 million , according to statistics provided by the UAE Ministry of Water and Electricity.

Meanwhile, ground water is constrained by its total reservoir in the country as ground water depends on rainfall for stock replenishment which is both scanty and erractic in the UAE. Desalinated water is largely used to meet the requirement of the inhabitants and industry in the urban areas.

Although, water production has gone up during the past six years, there is increasing demand for desalinated water as the reverse osmosis process which till the late nineties was the key process to make sweet water from seawater and brackish groundwater has slowly lost its importance.

To fulfill the requirements of water , Dewa will invest Dh20 billion which will expand its capacity by 2010 and will increase desalinated water capacity to 110 million gallons per day (gpd).

Apart from this, this year in February, DEWA launched a campaign to rationalise power and water consumption and avoid wastage.

According to Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, managing director and chief executive officer of DEWA, “The culture of rationalisation of water and electricity consumption and avoiding wastage are given priority as they constitute an important pivot in Dewa's strategic plan.’’

The demand for water is likely to grow in the coming years but investments and planning are going on this area and as more than 50 per cent of the world's desalination projects are in the Gulf, the UAE has an opportunity to become a specialist in applying this technology and fulfill the requirements of the emirates, which are densely populated and specially in rural areas, where the challenge is distribution as well as production.

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