GEOGRAPHY AND POPULATION
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Umm ul Quwain and Ajman. It is situated in the eastern corner of the Arabian peninsula and is bordered in the north by the Persian Gulf, in the east by the Gulf of Oman and Oman and in the south and west by Saudi Arabia. Six of the seven Emirates lie on the coast of the Persian Gulf, while the seventh, Fujairah, is situated on the eastern coast of the peninsula and has direct access to the Gulf of Oman.
The total area of the United Arab Emirates is about 83 600 km², of which 77 700 km² is mainland surface area, where the population lives. The total area of the many -and generally uninhabitedislands is about 5 900 krn2. Over 90% of the land is desert. In 1994, the agricultural area was estimated at 72 374
ha, of which 66 682 ha were available for agricultural production, while the remaining 5 962 ha were occupied by farm buildings and surrounding wasteland. In 1993, the total cultivated area was estimated at 54 512 ha, of which 21 683 ha consisted of annual crops and 32 829 ha of permanent crops.
The total population is about 1.9 million according to UN estimates (1995), of which only 16% is rural. According to the 1995 national census of the Ministry of Planning. the population was about 2.4 million, including both nationals and foreigners. Unofficial estimates suggest that over 80% of the population is made up of nonnationals. The table below shows the distribution of the area and the population, including resident foreigners, over the different Emirates in 1993.
TABLE 1 - Basic statistics and population
|Area of the country||1995||8 360 000||ha|
|Cultivable area||1993||66 682||ha|
|Cultivated area||1993||54 512||ha|
|- annual crops||1993||21 683||ha|
|- permanent crops||1993||32 829||ha|
|Total population||1995||1 904 000||inhabitants|
|Water supply coverage:|
Mainland area and population by emirates (estimate by the Ministry of Planning, 1993)
|Emirate||Mainland area (excl. islands) (km²)||As % of total area||No. of inhabitants including foreigners||As % of total population||Population density (inh./km²)|
|Abu Dhabi||67 340.0||86.7||871 000||41.8||12.9|
|Dubai||3 885 0||5.0||548 000||26.3||141.1|
|Sharjah||2 590.0||3.3||342 000||16.4||132.0|
|Ras Al Khaimah||1 683.5||2.2||141 000||6.8||83.7|
|Fujairah||1 165.5||1.5||68 000||3.3||58.3|
|Umm Al Quwain||777.0||1.0||30 000||1.4||38.6|
|Total||77 700.0||100.0||2 083 000||100.0||26.8|
TABLE 2 - Water: sources and use
|Renewable water resources:|
|Internal renewable water resources||0.15||km³/yr|
|Total (actual) renewable water resources||1995||0.15||km³/yr|
|Total (actual) renewable water resources per inhabitant||1995||79||m³/yr|
|Total dam capacity||1995||80||106 m³|
|- agricultural||1995||1 408||106m³/yr|
|Total water withdrawal||2 108||106m³/yr|
|per inhabitant||1995||1 107||m³/yr|
|as % of total (actual) renewable water resources||1 405||%|
|Other water withdrawal||-||106m³/yr|
|Average groundwater depletion||1995||1 495||106m³/yr|
|Wastewater - Non-conventional water sources:|
|- produced wastewater||1995||500||106m³/yr|
|- treated wastewater||1995||108||106m³/yr|
|- reused treated wastewater||1995||108||106m³/yr|
By far the largest emirate is Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi City is the capital of both the emirate and the whole country. It also has the largest population numerically, but at the same time the lowest population density among the emirates. Dubai, which has the highest population density, is considered the business capital and the most important port in the country. Over two-thirds of the total population are concentrated in these two emirates. Average annual population growth has been estimated at over 3.5%, including both nationals and foreigners. The male population accounted for over 66% of the total population in 1995, mainly because of male immigrant labour force.
In 1994, agriculture employed an estimated 9% of the labour force and accounted for less than 2% of the country's GDP. The main source of income is the revenue from oil exports. The last five-year plan concentrated on the manufacturing sector, in order to attain a balance in growth with other industries and a diversification of sources of income. Besides development planning at the federal level, each emirate follows an independent development strategy. The federal government is the driving force behind the economy through large public spending.
CLIMATE AND WATER RESOURCES
The climate is arid with very high summer temperatures. The coastal area, where the bulk of the population lives, has a hot and humid climate in the summer (May-October) with temperatures and relative humidity reaching 46°C and 100% respectively. Winters are generally mild with temperatures between 14 and 23°C. The interior desert region has hot summers with temperatures rising to about 50°C and cool winters during which the lowest temperature may fall to 4°C.
TABLE 3 - Irrigation and drainage
|Irrigation potential||1993||66 682||ha|
|1. Full or partial control irrigation: equipped area||1993||66 682||ha|
|- surface irrigation||1993||25 382||ha|
|- sprinkler irrigation||1993||3 748||ha|
|- micro-irrigation||1993||37 552||ha|
|% of area irrigated from groundwater||1993||100||%|
|% of area irrigated from surface water||1993||0||%|
|% of area irrigated from non-conventional sources||1993||0||%|
|% of equipped area actually irrigated||1993||81.7||%|
|2. Spate irrigation area||-||ha|
|3. Equipped wetland and inland valley bottoms (i.v.b.)||-||ha|
|Total irrigation (1 +2+3)||1993||66 682||ha|
|- as % of cultivated area||122||%|
|4. Flood recession cropping area||-||ha|
|Total water managed area 11 + 2 + 3 + 4)||1993||66 682||ha|
|- as % of cultivated area||122||%|
|- increase over last 10 years||-||%|
|- power irrigated area as % of water managed area||-||%|
|Full or partial control irrigation schemes: Criteria|
|Large-scale schemes > 5 ha||1993||0||ha|
|Small-scale schemes < 5 ha||1993||66 682||ha|
|Total number of households in irrigation||1993||21 194|
|Total irrigated grain production||1993||1 052||tons|
|as % of total grain production||1993||100||%|
|Harvested crops under irrigation (full or partial control)||1993||54 512||ha|
|- permanent crops: total||1993||32 829||ha|
|- annual crops: total||1993||21 683||ha|
|. vegetables||1993||12 927||ha|
|. fodder crops [alfalfa, green fodder)||1993||7 808||ha|
|. other annual crops||1993||207||ha|
|Drainage - Environment:|
|as % of cultivated area||-||%|
|- drained areas in full or partial control irrigated areas||-||ha|
|- drained areas in equipped wetland and i.v.b||-||ha|
|- other drained areas||-||ha|
|- total drained area with subsurface drains||-||ha|
|- total drained area with surface drains||-||ha|
|Area salinized by irrigation||-||ha|
|Population affected by water-borne diseases||-||inhabitants|
Mean annual rainfall is about 100 mm, ranging from less than 40 mm around Liwa in the southern desert to 160 mm in the north-eastern mountains. Almost 90% of rainfall occurs during the winter (October-March) and the wettest month is February. Spring and summer witness only occasional concentrated heavy rainfall. The rainfall distribution is highly variable over space and time. Rainfall tends to be more reliable in the north-eastern mountain region.
The total annual surface runoff produced from rain is about 150 million m³, but there are no perennial streams. The average annual groundwater recharge is about 120 million m, most of
which comes from infiltration from the river beds. The total groundwater abstraction during the year 1995 is estimated at l 615 million m³. This means that groundwater depletion probably amounts to almost 1500 million m³/year. However, this figure does not consider the possible annual recharge of groundwater entering from neighbouring countries (for example from the Eastern Arabia Aquifer), as no figures are available. In any case, the over-extraction of groundwater resources has led to a lowering of the water table by more than one metre on average during the last two decades, while sea water intrusion is increasing in the coastal areas.
To increase the groundwater recharge a number of dams have been built at various locations in the country. There are about 35 dams and embankments of various dimension having a total storage capacity of 80 million m³. While most of these dams are basically built for recharge purposes, they also provide protection against damage caused by flash floods.
Figure 1 - Water withdrawal (total: 2 108 million m³ in 1995)
Desalinated water and treated wastewater
The first desalination plant was installed in Abu Dhabi in 1976 with a total capacity of 250 m³/day. Because of a rapid increase in domestic and industrial water demand more plants were installed, particularly in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. At present there are 35 desalination plants in the UAE, with a total installed capacity of l 922 m³/day or 700 million m³/year, while total actual production is 385 million m³/year.
It is estimated that about 500 million m³ of wastewater were produced in the urban areas during 1995, of which 108 million m³ were treated and reused.
Total water withdrawal was estimated at 2 108 million m³ in 1995 (Figure l). Over 76 % of the total water withdrawal was groundwater. Agricultural water withdrawal for crops was estimated at about l 300 million m³/year (all from groundwater), while landscape irrigation used 108 million m³ (all treated wastewater). Total water withdrawal for domestic and industrial purposes was estimated at 700 million m³, of which 385 million m³, or 55%, consisted of desalinated water and the remaining part of groundwater (Figure 2).
Figure 2 - Origin of water used by sector (total: 2 108 million m³ in 1995)
IRRIGATION AND DRAINAGE DEVELOPMENT
The UAE has very limited potential for agricultural development since over 90% of the land is desert, there are no perennial surface water resources and rainfall is meagre and erratic. However, in spite of the harsh weather conditions and soil and water constraints, remarkable progress has been made in the agricultural sector, particularly during the last two decades. The cultivable area increased from 15 050 ha in 1977 to 66 682 ha in 1994. The land is usually developed by transporting suitable soil to areas where water is available and for this reason the term 'cultivable land' is somewhat relative and may change over time. For the same reason the irrigation potential can be estimated at 66 682 ha but may change over time. The main agricultural areas are located in the north-east (Ras Al Khaimah), in the east along the coast from Kalba to Dibba (Fujairah), in the south-east (Al Ain/Abu Dhabi) and in the central region (Dhaid/Abu Dhabi).
Figure 3 - Irrigation techniques f/p (total: 66 682 ha)
In 1994, the total water managed area was 66 682 ha (equal to the cultivable area), of which 41 300 ha were equipped with modern irrigation systems (sprinkler irrigation and micro-irrigation), while on 25 382 ha surface irrigation (basin and furrow) was practiced (Figure 3). All irrigation water is groundwater.
Prior to the introduction of modern irrigation systems all the agricultural land was irrigated by traditional flood and furrow methods. Extensive research was carried out during the period 197681 to select suitable irrigation systems and a pilot farm was established in 1983 to introduce sprinkler irrigation and micro-irrigation systems and a subsidy was given to the farmers. These irrigation systems are believed to have saved about 60% of the irrigation water.
Apart from the government's experimental farms, nurseries, afforestation schemes and public gardens, all the agricultural land is owned and developed by private owners. There are 21 194 farm holdings. The government provides subsidies, extension services and other incentives to the farmers. All crops are irrigated and the main crops grown are dates, fruits, vegetables and fodder crops (Figure 4). In 1994, the actually irrigated area was 54 512 ha, or 82% of the equipped area. Every year a part of the total equipped area is left fallow, a kind of shifting cultivation being practiced.
The cost of irrigation development has decreased considerably during recent years, mainly due to the local production of pipes and irrigation equipment. The average cost of irrigation development is about $US 3 250/ha and the annual operation and maintenance cost is about $US 400/ha. There are no irrigation water charges levied by the government, but the farmers pay for the drilling of boreholes on their farms and the pumping of the groundwater.
Figure 4 - Irrigated crops f/p (total: 54 512 ha)
Over-abstraction of groundwater leads to a rapid fall in the water table, especially near the coast, resulting in increased salinity of the soil and water. Encroachment of sea water had already been reported in 1982, when it apparently penetrated as far as 20 km inland in the northern emirates. As a result, several farms are going out of production.
There are five main institutions involved in water resources management:
TRENDS IN WATER RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
Groundwater has been affected adversely, both qualitatively and quantitatively, due to overabstraction. At present, all water used to irrigate agricultural products is groundwater, while treated wastewater is used for landscaping purposes. Future irrigation development using groundwater is very limited and attempts are being made to alleviate the problem of water scarcity by constructing desalination plants and dams, the latter mainly for the recharge of groundwater.
Local food production currently satisfies about one-fourth of UAE's food demand. The emirates are now self-sufficient in some winter vegetables and, in fact, a surplus is produced at certain times of the year. Overall, the government will continue to encourage agriculture, but is also aware that complete self-sufficiency in food is impossible.
Within the national strategy for water management, priority is given to sustainable and economically viable agricultural products and to research on the growth of salt tolerant crops. Utilizing all the possible options, the ultimate aim is to maintain the present level of growth if further development is obstructed due to water scarcity.
MAIN SOURCES OF INFORMATION
Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Department of Statistics. 1993. Statistical Bulletin.
Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Department of Soil and Water. Annual Hydrological Reports 1982-1993.
Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Department of Soil and Water. 1993. Meteorological Yearbook No 3.
Ministry of Planning. Annual Statistical Abstracts 1992-1993.
Mohammed Saqr Al Asam. 1995. United Arab Emirates Water Resources Use in Agriculture and Conservation.
Water and Electricity Department, Abu Dhabi. 1995. Development of Desalination Plants in the United Arab Emirates.