Rain in UAE: Cost-effective cloud seeding offers water security, says top official

The country has been carrying out more than 300 missions annually for the past few years, resulting in an increase of 10 to 15 per cent in rainfall


Ashwani Kumar

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Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Published: Fri 22 Mar 2024, 8:42 AM

Last updated: Sun 24 Mar 2024, 10:00 PM

Innovative and cost-effective solutions like cloud seeding have emerged as a driving force to effectively tackle water scarcity, said a top official from the National Centre of Meteorology (NCM) in Abu Dhabi.

According to the UN, global freshwater demand has been predicted to exceed supply by 40 per cent by 2030. As per estimates, about 4 billion people experience severe water scarcity for at least one month each year, and there are still about 2 billion people around the world without access to safely managed drinking water services.

Dr Abdulla Al Mandous, Director General of the NCM and President of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) noted that reliable water resources are a “matter of societal, agricultural and national security”.

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“The international community is eagerly looking for new ways to efficiently allocate and use water in a manner that is sustainable, equitable, and beneficial for both human beings and the environment,” Al Mandous said while marking World Water Day observed on March 22.

Dr Abdulla Al Mandous
Dr Abdulla Al Mandous

“While solutions such as desalination and greywater recycling are viable options, communities need tangible solutions to increase rain and groundwater recharge.”

How does cloud seeding work?

Proactively, the UAE commenced its cloud seeding programme in the 1990s, and the NCM through the UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science (UAEREP) is dedicated to pioneering rain enhancement research as a sustainable solution for water security.

“Rain enhancement technology, also known as cloud seeding, offers water security through harnessing precipitation processes to augment rainfall in regions facing water scarcity. Rain enhancement technology capitalises on the natural cycle of water vapour condensation and cloud formation, resulting in an environmentally safe, adaptive, and uniquely cost-effective option to address water security challenges. As an arid region committed to pioneering water solutions, the UAE has embraced rain enhancement technology while finding resourceful ways to highlight the importance of fresh water.”

The UAE has been carrying out more than 300 cloud-seeding missions annually for the past few years resulting in an increase of 10 to 15 per cent in rainfall.

$22.5 million-worth investments

Since its initiation in 2015, UAEREP has funded 14 unique rain enhancement projects, resulting in collaborations in more than 85 countries and over $22.5 million of rain enhancement investments.

“The UAE has come a long way in rain enhancement since its first official operations in the 1990s. We now have more than 60 networked weather stations, an integrated radar network, and five specialised aircraft for seeding operations.”

The UAE also has a factory to produce high-quality flares in the region.

Al Mandous noted that the UAEREP is keen to establish scientifically validated technology platforms and verification techniques that enhance rainfall and water security in arid and semi-arid regions across the world.

“We have continually raised our technology readiness levels in distinctive areas such as optimising seeding materials, autonomous technology, geo-engineering, and nanotechnology, as well as advanced models, software, and data. These specialised focus areas act as a roadmap towards refining the strategic elements that will bolster rain enhancement operations in our region and beyond.”

Recently, the UAE announced the Mohamed bin Zayed Water Initiative, designed to confront the urgent challenge of water scarcity, enhance awareness, accelerate technological innovation, and expand the scope of international cooperation.

“At NCM, we realise that finding such innovative solutions to this global challenge is no easy task, and all the collaborators, scientists, researchers, and meteorological experts deserve our heartfelt appreciation for their unwavering commitment and dedication. Together, we are not just addressing the challenges of today; we are shaping a more resilient and water-secure future for generations to come,” Al Mandous underlined.


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