The Principal of Environment, Water and Energy Institute at the Ajman University of Science and Technology (AUST), Dr. Zain Al Abideen Al Sayyid Rizq has warned against excessive use of water in the country in general and in Fujairah and the Eastern Region in particular.

By Salah Al Debarky

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Published: Sun 4 Dec 2005, 1:40 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:09 PM

Drought had adversely affected cultivable areas in the region, turning some into dry patches, especially those located along the extension of the Eastern and Western Coast due to the increasing salinity levels, he said.

Dr. Rizq, in a study carried out by him, brought out some important factors on water shortage.

Generally, the country depends on non-traditional and traditional water resources to meet the increasing needs of population, coupled with the high cost of living, he said, pointing out that the traditional resources do not cater to the needs of population.

These are the seasonal torrents, springs, man-made canals and ground water, he said, adding that subsequently, dependence was much more on non-traditional water resources, especially those which are generated by water purification plants, though there are permanent resources of surface water.

Though the desert areas are characterised by what he called the torrents or floods, a major portion of the rainwater turn into surface flow, and these are stored in dams as well as subterranean water canals.

Stating that these dams also protect roads and buildings from the dangers of unexpected floods, he said the total storage capacity of the present dams stood at 75 million cubic metres. Several dams were also under construction, and a number of them are expected to come up within the next few years.

Other traditional water resources include permanent springs, which produce three million cubic metres of water annually. These springs vary in salt content depending on the level of rainfall, he said, adding that this varying levels of salinity in spring waters made it unsuitable for irrigation purposes.

Springs, which till recently served as lifeline, had contributed to the establishment of permanent human settlements, he said, adding that agriculture depended mainly on springs as a source of irrigation whether in the past or at present.

Dr. Rizq said that many man-made canals, which are locally known as "Aflaj," had dried up due to excessive pumping of groundwater, which feed the main water wells and other areas.

Groundwater is one of the most important water resources in the Eastern region. It accounts for 109 million cubic metres per annum, while 880 million cubic metres is pumped out for irrigating plants and farms, he said.

The amount of water and the excessive use of the same for agricultural purposes had created a state of imbalance. The problem is compounded as the aquifers had dried up and the level of concentrated salts increased in groundwater producing areas.

This, he said, also led to the drying up of several shallow water wells as the intermingling of saline water, which amount varied from 230 to 1000 milligram per litre in the areas of Masafi, and between 1000 to 3500 milligrams per litre in Dibba. In other areas, water salinity was in the range of 3500 to 6500 milligrams per litre.

Citing statistics, Dr Rizq said the amount of rainfall in the country was in the region of 700 million cubic metres, while seasonal floods accounted for 125 million cubic metres, permanent springs water three million cubic metres, seasonal spring water 22 million cubic metres, canals 20 million cubic metres. Groundwater recharge stood at 109 million cubic metres, he added.

Coming to non-traditional sources of water, he said water desalination plants countrywide produced 475 million cubic metres per annum, while treated sewerage stood at 175 million cubic metres.

The number of water desalination plants in the country rose from one in 1973 to 65 in 1995, he said, adding that treated sewerage water played an important role as a substitute for purified water in irrigation and industry.

These waters were now being used to water public parks, fountains and other areas.

On the cost of water production, Dr Rizq said the total production of one cubic metre of purified water in the UAE stood at Dh5, while the cost of cubic metre of treated sewerage water stood at Dh2.

The production of treated sewerage water rose from 1.5 million cubic metres in 1973 to 142 million cubic metres in 1994, he said.

Dr. Rizq said the depletion of natural aquifers in many areas was regarded as one of the serious problems.

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