Water of the Middle East and North Africa

Water Use in UAE

استهلاك المياه في الإمارات العربية المتحدة UAE- Burj Al Arab Water Use in UAE
Photo 1: Burj Al Arab Hotel , Dubai, UAE (Source: Sam Valadi, Flickr).

Photo 1: Burj Al Arab Hotel , Dubai, UAE (Source: Sam Valadi, Flickr).

Table 1 shows the water supply resources in the UAE. These include conventional water resources, such as surface water and groundwater, and non-conventional sources, such as desalinated water and treated wastewater.[2]

The agriculture sector accounts for less than 1% of GDP. Irrigated agriculture is the primary water consumer, with an average of around 60% of total water use, where 39% is used for productive agriculture, 11% used for greening and landscaping and 10% for forestry. The amount of municipal use for household and industrial purposes is 40% of total water consumption (Figure 1)

Irrigation water is generally used in a wasteful manner, mainly through traditional flooding and furrow irrigation techniques and for cultivating low-value, high-water-consumption crops, without considering the economic opportunity costs for potable and urban/industrial purposes.

In this predominantly desert country, losses can exceed 50% of pumped groundwater.[4]

Agricultural subsidies for wells, fuel and other inputs, price support programmes and trade protection in some countries, along with a lack of controls on or charges for groundwater extraction have drastically increased the irrigated areas and contributed to the depletion of aquifers.

Table 1: Water supply by source (2013).[1]

SourceQuantity (MCM)Percentage (%)
Treated water61514.5
Desalinated water1,75041.4
Surface water160.4

Figure 1. Water consumption by sector (2015).[3]

The UAE has taken important steps to improve irrigation systems, introducing new irrigation techniques that are more efficient, such as drip irrigation, which use 35% less water than traditional systems. Table 2 shows the water usage by sector, including projections to 2050.

Table 2. Water usage by sector.[5]

Household (MCM)830.71,045.51,571.92,363.23,274.64,923.26,646
Industrial (MCM)332.9381477.1597.3715.1895.41,791
Agricultural (MCM)2,340.62,7533,637.84,865.56,207.18,5618,561
Total (MCM)3,504.24179.55,686.87,82610,196.814,379.619,138

[1] Ministry of Environment and Water. Water resources management, internal reports and author adjustments.
[2] Ministry of Environment and Water, 2015. UAE State of Environment Report.
[3] Compiled by the author from various sources.
[4] World Bank, 2005. A Water Sector Assessment Report on the Countries of the Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf. Available at–Englishversion.pdf, accessed 22 February. 2017.
[5] Adapted from Rizk, A., 2010. Water desalination in UAE: Problems and Solutions. Ajman Science and Technology University, KSA.