Global Water Scarcity – United Arab Emirates

Posted: October 17th, 2013

Global Water Scarcity – United Arab Emirates






The paper examines global water scarcity, especially in the United Arab Emirates. It looks at the causes and effects of water scarcity around the world. It offers solutions on how to solve the problem of the water shortage in the affected countries. The economic principles of demand and supply apply in solving the water crisis. People have to reduce their demand for water, or increase the available supply to avert the crisis. Although the UAE does not have enough water sources, it is one of the top ranking countries in water consumption. The paper highlights the dependence of United Arab Emirates on desalinization. Desalinization is an expensive process of obtaining water. Although the country uses groundwater, the available sources are not enough, and they cannot sustain the population. The paper shows the negative effects of water scarcity in the short and long-term. Water scarcity affects many areas of human life, including health, education, and economy. It also highlights the importance of good distribution in ensuring that everyone has access to water. The paper concludes by observing the importance of good water management and accountability to ensure that there is sufficient water for coming generations.









Global Water Scarcity – United Arab Emirates


            The world population has continued to grow exponentially over the years. There are currently more than six billion people in the world today. As the population grows, the available natural resources have become more scarce. Water is one of the most important and essential elements for humanity. The world continues to experience water scarcity, because people do not have new water sources. The available water is not enough to cater for the increasing human population and it therefore follows that in most regions people are suffering from lack of water. The demand for water increases, as the population continues to grow. This is despite the fact that a large part of the world is comprised of water, in forms of seas, oceans, lakes, rivers and other sources. According to UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), 2 billion people in over forty countries are facing water shortage, and 1.1 billion people do not have sufficient drinking water (Dannreuther, 2007). The United Arab Emirates is part of the Middle East, one of the hottest places in the world. The area has few water sources, and the government has to desalinate water from the sea to ensure that people have enough water. This is an expensive process. Many countries around the world are experiencing water shortages, and all have to be involved to ensure that the problem does not persist.

Literature Review

Water scarcity affects one in three people on every continent. About 1.2 billion people live in areas where there is no sufficient supply of water (WHO, 2009). Water scarcity is a major problem around the world, especially in countries in the arid regions. Almost all Arab and Middle East countries suffer from water scarcity. Tigris-Euphrates, Nile and the Jordan River, are the three main water systems in the Middle East. United Arab Emirates is one of the countries facing absolute water scarcity. Other countries in this category include Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Singapore, Kuwait, and Libya (Baba & Tayfur, 2011). These countries have an abundance of other natural resources, but water remains one of the most vulnerable resources. Some of the countries in the Arab region such as Jordan and Lebanon get fresh water from perennial rivers.

In the United Arab Emirates, the people depend on the seawater, which is desalinized to ensure that it is fit for consumption. There are about seventy desalinization plants in the UAE, and this represents about 14% of the world’s total desalinized water (Emirates247, 2011). The people also get water from intermittent rivers and surface water (Unesco, 2012). Surface water evaporates quickly because of the high temperatures in the region, which are constant for most of the year. Countries in the arid region spend many resources, such as money to ensure that they have sufficient water. They often depend on desalinization as the main source of their water supply, although this is an expensive process. For the countries that depend on ground water, they face the risk of using contaminated water, and this can affect their health. This is because some of the fertilizers and pesticides used in the farms pollute the ground water when they penetrate the ground. This kind of pollution is dangerous for human beings and for the environment because it kills the fish and it causes eutrophication (Unesco, 2012).

Groundwater and desalinated water production in the UAE

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The consumption of water in the UAE is high. About 76% of the water in the country is used for agriculture. The country is mostly dry, and it uses a lot of water for irrigation purposes. The country’s population is growing at a steady rate, and this is increasing water demands. Since most of county is dry, most of the people live in the urban areas. Consumption of water in the urban areas is therefore very high. The country is also growing economically, and this requires a lot of water consumption. Coupled with this, is the fact that the country spends a lot of water in oil production (Emirates247, 2011). The UAE is one of the major oil producers in the world, and it mostly depends on oil production to ensure economic growth.

Consumption of water in different countries




the UAE ranks among the highest consumers of water, despite water scarcity in the country

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The UAE government has taken an active role in ensuring that it manages the available water well, and ensuring that people use water wisely. The government urges the people to use water efficiently in their homes. It holds regular campaigns in schools, companies and households, where it shows people how they can use water more efficiently. Various companies have embarked on projects to ensure that people find useful ways of using wastewater, and preserving the clean water for human consumption. For instance, district cooling stations reduce the amount of water that people would ordinarily spend in air conditioning during the hot season. The UAE is mostly hot during the year, and people use a lot of energy and water in cooling. District cooling stations use sewage water from washing processes (Xuequan, 2012).

Water scarcity in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) receives a mean annual rainfall of about 100-mm. much of the rain falls during the winter months. It has very high temperatures, which can exceed 40°c during summer. It has a high evaporation rate that exceeds 2000mm/yr (Murad, 2011). Of the 83,600 km2 of the surface area, 77,700 km2 is mainland surface area. Ninety percent of the land in UAE is desert area. The country does not have perennial streams. Most of the groundwater comes from infiltration around the riverbeds. The country has extracted groundwater for a long time, and this has led to lowering of the water table. From these statistics, it is clear that there is a huge problem of water scarcity in the region.

Rainfall patterns for seven consecutive years


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This paper intends to find out the extent of global water scarcity, with focus on the United Arab Emirates. The paper will examine the extent of water scarcity in the country. It will examine how, and if this scarcity has affected the country. The paper will then focus on the short term and long term effects of water scarcity. It will then examine the measures that the government and the people are taking to ensure that they handle the water scarcity problem. I have used various sources such as books, articles from reputable organizations and other websites, to have different and descriptive perspectives on these issues. I have used statistics, and I have included different charts and graphs to help in the discussion. The charts and graphs compare the consumption of water in UAE and other countries around the world. They show the rainfall patterns in UAE for seven consecutive years beginning in the year 2000. They also show the water produced from desalinization, and the groundwater produced and consumed in the country over the years.


Effects of water scarcity

Water scarcity affects all the areas of human life including health, the economy, and industries. In areas where there is water shortage, people end up using the available water, which is often contaminated. When they consume this water, it puts them at risk of contracting waterborne diseases such as typhoid, cholera and dysentery. These diseases have caused many deaths, especially to children under the age of five. Water scarcity can also lead to diseases such as trachoma, and it can cause plague (WHO, 2009). In addition, water scarcity can lead to global food insecurity. People in developing regions use a lot of water for agriculture. In most of these countries, the people do not have developed technologies to use in agriculture. When there is no water, the people cannot realize any yields because they do not have water for irrigation. This means that there will be shortage in the food supplied, and over time, there will not be enough food for the people.

Water scarcity affects education, especially for people living in rural areas. Children are forced out of school when there is no water, so that they can look for water for their families. They end up missing school, and this affects their education. Children also miss school when they get waterborne diseases (The Water Project, 2011). Scarcity of water leads to low productivity, and this affects the economy negatively. Many industries depend on water. When there is water scarcity, the industries reduce their water needs, or they look for alternative means of getting water. These alternative means are often expensive. They end up passing the extra costs to the consumers. This in turn leads to an increase in commodity prices.

Most of the countries in the arid regions share the available water, which is often not enough for one country. This has often caused disagreements and conflicts between these countries. The problem of water scarcity in many of these regions is likely to cause political tension and conflict in these regions (Dannreuther, 2007). This is especially the case when two or more regions depend on waters from a major river. The countries in lower regions do not get as much water as countries in the upper regions. Counties in the upper region feel that they have a right to the water. Countries in the upper region can decide to use the water for irrigation or build dams around the river. When the upper countries decide to develop and use the water, it will decrease the amount of water flowing to the lower region. This can often cause conflicts with countries in the lower region. Such cases have occurred in many countries in the past. For instance, Jordan and Israel signed the Jordan treaty, when they had conflicts over the Jordan River. The Jordan River supplies most of the water in Jordan, but Israel also depends on the water for agricultural purposes.

Reasons behind water scarcity

The main reason behind water scarcity is the growing population, which has increased the demand for water. As this demand increases, the people are not finding ways to replenish and renew the water used. Water scarcity is expected to worsen as competition for it grows, in industries, agriculture, commercial and domestic use. Another reason for water scarcity is distribution. According to the World Health Organization, water scarcity occurs even in areas where there is plenty of rainfall and freshwater. In some countries, some of the regions receive very high rainfall, and there are other sources of fresh water. Yet in the same countries, there are regions where people suffer because they lack water. Governments in these countries have not established ways of distributing water effectively. How the people conserve, use, and distribute water will determine whether there is water shortage in a region (WHO, 2009).

Increased industrialization and economic development in many countries have led to scarcity of water. There are many sectors and industries competing for water, yet there are no increased sources for water. This has caused scarcity of water in these countries. Bad agricultural practices have led to depletion of water sources, although it is good for economic growth. For instance, some types of irrigation require one to use a lot of water, and this has reduced the available water. Environmental destruction is another reason for water scarcity. Failure to protect the environment, such as the water catchments areas, has led to the drying up of rivers, or the reduction of water in those rivers. Climatic changes experienced in many parts of the world have led to water scarcity. High temperatures have led to increased evaporation, and this has contributed to the draining of the surface waters. The changing climatic conditions have affected the rainfall patters. Some regions are experiencing low and irregular rainfall, and this has reduced their water supply.

Solving the Problem of Water Scarcity

Reducing the demand for water or increasing the water supply will ensure that there is abundant water for everyone. Good management of water will help solve some of the problems of water scarcity. Some people do not know how to conserve water, or how to use it wisely. The government, or the relevant authorities dealing with water management in such regions, should introduce high prices to ensure that people are more keen regarding water conservation. Adopting good agricultural practices, such as drip irrigation, will ensure that people reduce their demand for water. Areas that are prone to drought use a lot of water in irrigation. In such areas, the farmers need to plant drought resistant crops, which will ensure that they use less water.

People can ensure that they have enough water, when they harvest the rainwater, instead of letting it run to the seas, where it becomes unusable. People should understand the importance of using water wisely. This will enable them to avoid wastage, by reducing the amount of water they use. One of the main causes of water scarcity is distribution. Having the proper infrastructure and technology will ensure that more people have access to water. Unfortunately, many countries, especially in the developing areas, do not have the required knowledge to ensure that all the people have enough water. Industries need to improve their production methods. They need to introduce and implement methods, which do not use a lot of water.


It is clear that the world is experiencing global water scarcity. This is a serious issue, which everyone needs to address. Many countries around the world continue to experience water shortages. This problem is worse in the arid areas, where the sources of water are very few. The main problem of water scarcity is the increase in world population. Therefore, to counter the negative effects of the water scarcity, people will need to reduce the demand for water, or increase the supply. Reducing the global demand for water, seems like the most viable and feasible option. Countries in the arid regions, which have access to seawater, depend on desalinization to produce water fit for human consumption. Desalinization may not be the most practical solution, since it has various negative effects. The seawater contains huge amounts of boron and bromide, yet the processed water lacks essential minerals such as calcium. When the process of desalinization is complete, the salt extracted from the seawater goes back to the ocean, and this makes the ocean water more saline. This affects the ocean’s ecosystem and environment.


It is important for people to realize the importance of water conservation. Governments should take a more active role to ensure that it urges the people to use water wisely. It needs to educate the people on the serious issue of water crisis. It should ensure that people reduce their consumption of water. Industries should implement innovative methods of ensuring that they do not use less water. Farmers should adopt better agricultural methods. They should avoid using irrigation where possible, and if irrigation is necessary, they should use drip irrigation because it does not use up much water. They should plant crops that are better suited to their environment, as this will ensure they do not use much water.










Baba, A., & Tayfur, G. (2011). Climate change and its effects on water resources: Issues of national and global security. New York, NY: Springer

Dannreuther, R. (2007). International security: The contemporary agenda. United Kingdom: Polity

Emirates247. (2011). UAE, Kuwait, Oman face acute water scarcity: New research reveals that scarcity could fuel surge in oil prices. Retrieved from

Murad, A. (2011). Water scarcity issues at the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Retrieved from

The Water Project (2011). Statistics of the water crisis. Retrieved from

Unesco. (2012). The United Nations world water development report: Managing water under uncertainty and risk. France: UNESCO

WHO. (2009). 10 facts about water scarcity. World Health Organization. Retrieved from

Xuequan, M. (2012). Water scarcity in UAE pushes high-tech firms to innovate. Retrieved from

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