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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.
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.
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.
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.
 Ministry of Environment and Water. Water resources management, internal reports and author adjustments.
 Ministry of Environment and Water, 2015. UAE State of Environment Report.
 Compiled by the author from various sources.
 World Bank, 2005. A Water Sector Assessment Report on the Countries of the Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf. Available at http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTMNAREGTOPWATRES/Overview/20577193/GCCWaterSectorReport–Englishversion.pdf, accessed 22 February. 2017.
 Adapted from Rizk, A., 2010. Water desalination in UAE: Problems and Solutions. Ajman Science and Technology University, KSA.