Feature2 » Water Challenges in the UAE

Water Challenges in the UAE

DamTCCF gifPlans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man. - Stewart Udall


One of the most critical issues facing the quality of human life is water scarcity- either caused by poor management of freshwater, or by increased demand for it. All over the world, issues of water supply can range from shortages in times of crisis, rapid population growth to pollution or contamination of water sources.


Water consumption in the UAE was recognized as the highest in the world by a recent UN Global Environmental Outlook report, with 550 liters being used daily per capita. This is approximately 82% higher than the global average. 


A study conducted by the Federal Electricity and Water Authority (FEWA) to measure environmental awareness had discovered that UAE residents ranked water as being of little concern.


The Environment Agency in Abu Dhabi (EAD) suggested last year that if no changes are made, groundwater reserves across the Emirates could be used up within 50 years.


Many reasons have been given for the high consumption of water resources in the UAE, such as the rapid population increase concurrent with the whirlwind economic growth. While the UAE now ranks amongst the wealthiest nations, they face a key issue in physical lack of freshwater supply- with much of the nations water supply being desalinated. The very low levels of precipitation mean that groundwater is not regularly restored.


Aside from the challenge of finding the water, and the growing population, there is also little awareness about prudent water use in the home. FEWA have recently begun to implement the Water Master Plan, which will address the measures needed to decrease the national average consumption to 350 liters per day in the next 5 years.


While more procedures are being put in place to increase awareness about good environmental practices, it is also important that individuals and households carefully consider their own impact. There are many resources that exist to give tips and ideas on how to save water and energy, but starting with very small things can have a big impact on your consumption (and your bills!).


Personal care

  • For every minute the tap runs you lose 6 liters of water down the drain!
  • While brushing your teeth: everyone knows they should brush for two minutes, but even if you don’t make the whole time, try to turn off the tap so you only use it to rinse your brush and your mouth. 
  • While washing your hands: many people leave the tap running to wash their hands, but by turning it off while you lather your hands you could save 3 liters of water.
  • While showering: the average time spent in the shower is 8 minutes, and uses less water than the average bath. By reducing the time in the shower you save water, or by turning off the shower while shampooing, scrubbing or shaving you can also significantly reduce your water consumption.
  • This can also be more beneficial for the skin- desalinated water is known to be drying and cause hair-fall, so minimizing the contact between you and the hot/cold water can actually stop the hair and skin from becoming weak.


In the home


  • Be switched on and switch it off: when washing vegetables or dishes, switch the tap off when you’re not using the water. You could wash your vegetables in a bowl, and then use that water for the garden.  
  • Wait before you wash: Try to not use the washing machine or dishwasher until you have enough to fill it. If there are not enough dishes to fill the dishwasher, wash your dishes in a bowl of hot, soapy water rather than letting the tap run- then you can rinse with running water. 
  • Diluting your dish soap also means that less water is needed to rinse off the soap residue.
  • Washing your car: If you wash your car at home use a bucket, not a hose. 
  • Gardens: if possible, try to use native plants to your region- not only will they survive better, they require less water in the hot UAE climate. You should only be watering plants when it is necessary, and in the early morning and evening.



So many resources exist with helpful advice so that conscious citizens can do everything in their power to give respect to the precious gift that is clean water, free of disease. So many around the world struggle to find what we throw down the drain when we wash dishes, or let our showers run whilst we wash our hair. 


Educate yourselves, your children and your friends on the small things we can all do to collectively create a big impact. 


EWS- WWF is a good place to start with their Water Heroes of the UAE program; they have lots of tips, resources and tools to save water.





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