Water Resources in the United Arab Emirates

Subject: Environment
Pages: 7
Words: 1687
Reading time:
7 min
Study level: Bachelor


Current water sources in the territory of the UAE (United Arab Emirates) can be divided into two major categories (conventional and non-conventional). Conventional water sources imply natural methods of collecting rain and groundwater. Non-conventional resources are usually made by humans and are based on filtering or the appropriate treatment of saltwater from seas and oceans. Among conventional resources, the Middle East country benefits from seasonal floods, rains, springs, and rivers that flow in its territory.

Approximately 25% of the clean water is delivered to local citizens with the help of these methods. The other 75% of the necessary supply is provided to the country’s population with the use of non-conventional resources, including desalinated water, and treated wastewater. It would be proper to mention that the entire amount of water gathered by the UAE since 2001 amounted to 130 MCM by 2010. There are 24 dams constructed in the country to maintain this water source efficiently.

With the help of this industrial solution, people in the United Arab Emirates benefit from having groundwater recharge, conserving the floodwater that could be lost, and protecting some cities from the possible damage by floods. The following paper is intended to evaluate the water security situation in the UAE, discuss various issues, and propose sound solutions to them, which is crucial for the Middle East country as its areas are dry and the question of clean water provision is critical in its territories now.

Water Security and Governance Concepts

To begin with, it would be proper to state that the United Arab Emirates is one of the driest territories in the world that always has limited water resources. However, the situation became even more critical recently due to the tremendous growth of its population and the development of local agricultural companies (Saif, Mezher, & Arafat, 2014). Nowadays, the use of water exceeds the rechargeable norm of the country’s ground resources. Therefore, appropriate water governance and security is essential for the nation’s wealthy future.

The primary concepts of water security and governance in the United Arab Emirates include the following considerations:

  • Making the population aware of the problem with the lack of water resources in the UAE is one of the most essential activities performed by the country’s government. Once the nation knows its challenges, people will address the problem by using less water and contributing to sound solutions regarding the issue (Saif et al., 2014).
  • Ensuring the provision of clean water to the population (regardless of various difficulties with its governance) becomes harder every year due to the growth of the population.
  • The necessity to conserve the delineated water and provide it to consumers in metropolises is essential because this is the major water resource in the UAE’s cities (Maraqa & Ghoudi, 2015).
  • All sources must be effective and beneficial for gathering water in the UAE. Otherwise, particular health and other needs of citizens might not be met.

The most important point that the concept of water security focuses on implies the appropriate measurement of both the quantity and availability of water resources situated in a particular country (Saif et al., 2014).

This evaluation is necessary for people to understand how many liters of water they can use to make a certain resource rechargeable and sustainable. “Water security at any level from the household to the global arena means that every person has access to enough safe water, at affordable cost, to lead a clean, healthy and productive life, while ensuring that the natural environment is protected and enhanced” (Alhafli, 2016, p. 22). Another aspect of water security in the UAE implies the monitoring of all the possible vulnerabilities and hazards to prevent tremendous leaks of national water reserves.

Factors Impacting Water Security in the UAE

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, there are four main concepts that must be followed by the government of any country to maintain its water security (sustainability, the satisfaction of human needs, awareness of vulnerabilities, and available quantity). Unfortunately, many adverse factors are impacting these concepts of water security in the UAE:

  • Climate. Air temperature in the UAE is always high, and hence local water reserves slowly evaporate if they are not used.
  • Water reserves. There are not many capacities for water conservation in the country, which makes it impossible to preserve all the available clean water at once (Maraqa & Ghoudi, 2015).
  • Rapidly growing population. Tourists and immigrants to the UAE consume approximately 30% of national water reserves at the present moment.
  • Agricultural needs. As farmers need water to grow their export products, almost 80% of all the available groundwater in the country is delivered to their fields.

It is necessary to mention that the government of the United Arab Emirates is obliged to solve the issue of low water quantities in the country as the nation might face particular economic difficulties if the problem is not eliminated in the nearest future. It must be stated that the growth of the local economy also impacts water security (Saif et al., 2014). “With the usage of advanced technology for economic development, natural and environmental resources depletion, environmental degradation, and health risks also increase” (Alhafli, 2016, p. 26). Therefore, the country’s politicians have to come to a compromise when choosing between water sustainability and economic growth of the UAE.

UAE Institutions and Laws Concerned with Water Security

As the UAE is a federation, the governance of water resources is decentralized in its territories. According to the country’s Constitution, all the natural resources available to local citizens belong to their provinces (United Arab Emirates Government, 2017). However, the UAE Constitution does not contain a law that would precisely indicate people’s and the government’s responsibilities as to water management and conservation. Article 23 of the legal document says that “Community shall preserve and utilize in a good way those resources and wealth for the interest of the national economy” (United Arab Emirates Government, 2017, p 35). Hence, such an institution as the Federal legislature and its executives are responsible for all the policies regarding water collection and conservation in the territory of the UAE.

It must be mentioned that the powers of the Ministry of Environment and Water were extended in 2016. From this point, the institution’s employees have a right to regulate all factors that are related to both domestic and foreign affairs regarding various changes in climate (Maraqa & Ghoudi, 2015). Hence, these politicians are obliged to protect all the environmental systems that purvey water to the local populations.

The entire structure of water governance in the United Arab Emirates consists predominately of stakeholders, relevant laws, and some formal institutions. Laws must be followed by these organizations with the help of certain procedures prescribed in the Constitution (United Arab Emirates Government, 2017). Their main goal at the present moment is to change the behavior of all the water consumers in the country (farmers, businesses, citizens, and so on). However, societal norms also must be considered in these policies’ implications. Therefore, the aforementioned water governing organizations are recommended to collaborate for the least benefit of the country’s water management.

UAE Water Governance and Management Strategies

The current analysis of water security strategies in the United Arab Emirates is conducted with the help of the resource’s governance principles presented by the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) (OECD, 2015). It is necessary to mention that the main considerations of these regulations include adherence to the engagement, effectiveness, trust, and efficiency in all strategies regarding water conservations and extractions in the Arab country.

Citizens of the UAE understand that water is one of the most valuable supplies that have to be allocated among all people in the country as it cannot be simply replaced by other liquids (Maraqa & Ghoudi, 2015). Also, water is necessary for public health. All the institutions responsible for the country’s water governance base their strategies on the given principles and their ethical considerations that might vary.

At the present moment, the government of the UAE follows the GCC-UWS (Gulf Cooperation Council – Unified Water Strategy), which allows politicians to assess the situation regarding water supplies in several Member-States to use their conservations economically and effectively (Maraqa & Ghoudi, 2015). However, there are several challenges to this strategy as their primary goal is to build deeper and wider vessels for water underground, which is a long-term approach (Morillo et al., 2014).

Also, the UAE government follows a Water Conservation Strategy established in 2010. This project aims to make water sources in the country more sustainable by 2021. Its stakeholders have been working on 8 key initiatives promoting efficient water governance (for instance, improving the management of local water resources, revising water expenses of the state’s citizens, and developing agricultural businesses). Therefore, the strategy can become successful at that time.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Currently, inhabitants of the UAE face certain challenges regarding sustainable water resources in the country. It appears that the major part of water supplies is purveyed to agricultural businesses. However, there is a tremendous lack of drinkable water in the state’s territory due to its dry climate. Therefore, this question is crucial in the UAE today. The main challenges of the country regarding water management include the lack of underground vessels to conserve water for an extended period because it flows into adjacent seas. Moreover, the local population is rapidly growing. Hence the issue becomes more significant every year. Nowadays, there are several organizations that address the problem by building more sustainable water reservoirs and desalinating seawater.

It is highly recommended to the government of the UAE to consider eliminating all the possible leakages of water, investing financial means in new technologies aimed at desalination of seawater, and informing all citizens of the country about the problem so that they could be more economical. A Unified Water Strategy also must be followed, along with legal regulations regarding centralized data collection, subsidies, and the use of water by farmers. Another sound suggestion is to impose additional taxes on immigrants to use their money as investments in practices that are expected to eradicate the issue with the lack of water in all GCC states.


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Morillo, J., Usero, J., Rosado, D., Bakouri, H. E., Riaza, A., & Bernaola, F. (2014). Comparative study of brine management technologies for desalination plants. Desalination, 336(1), 32-49. Web.

OECD. (2015). OECD principles on water governance. Web.

Saif, O., Mezher, T., & Arafat, H. A. (2014). Water security in the GCC countries: Challenges and opportunities. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 4(4), 329-346. Web.

United Arab Emirates Government. (2017). United Arab Emirates’s Constitution of 1971 with amendments through 2004, January 17, 2017. Dubai: Oxford University Press.