Water, the Scarce Commodity

Fresh and ground water reserves in the UAE will be depleted by 2050 at the current rate of use. This, indeed, is serious and scary and has to be treated with urgency. With the average rainfall in the UAE being just 77 millimetres per year, and with the lack of other conventional water resources, it’s time the country came up with an efficient water management system at the earliest.

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Published: Mon 23 Mar 2009, 9:39 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 12:33 AM

Growing population and rapid infrastructure developments are adding strain to the already depleting resource. Top that with a continuous supply, giving a feeling of copiousness like all else in the country, and you have a population that consumes about 550 litres per day on an average, which is amongst the highest in the world. In comparison, Britain consumes 330 litres a day, Spain 300 litres, France 215 litres and Jordan 150 litres.

One of the options the UAE has been resorting to is desalination. While ground water withdrawal is about 2.8 billion cubic metres, desalinated water produced is about 1 billion cubic metres per year in the country. But desalination comes with its own set of problems. The plants guzzle up energy and it makes the production of water more expensive. Also, converting seawater into fresh water is not a welcome option by environmentalists. As the country moves forward with its development plans, maintaining the water levels assumes utmost importance. Water saving techniques and better ways to reuse treated water should be considered.

A well-planned, water conservation drive right from the grassroots level is the need of the hour. Educational institutions should step in and take the process forward. The need for conservation should be instilled at an early age, and from there taken up to the family units and passed on to society. Cutting subsidies is a sure means of curtailing consumption. While it takes Dh3 to produce a cubic metre of water, the charges passed on to consumers are a mere fraction. Setting slabs on consumption would make the consumers more cautious and put a stop to taps left open and leaky pipes.

More than just being a feel-good endeavour, water conservation should be taken up in all seriousness. Water should be treated as the most scarce commodity. Every drop counts might sound clichéd, but that is the truth. Every drop has to be treated with extreme care. For, there is no substitute for water.

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