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United Arab Emirates

Water resources

The total annual renewable water resources are about 150 million m3, but there are no perennial streams (Table 4). Groundwater resources occur in the upper clastic and lower carbonate formations located in the Bajada region in the eastern part of the country. The aquifers consist of alluvial fan deposits along the base of the Oman and Ras Al Khaymah mountains extending over a large area. The upper aquifer is composed of gravel sand and silt, the lower aquifer of limestone, dolomite and marl. Both aquifers range in thickness from 200 to 800 metres. In addition, the Dammam and Umm er Radhuma formations extend into the western desert areas, with thicknesses ranging from 500 to 1 000 metres. Groundwater quality in the two aquifer systems, particularly in the Bajada region, ranges from 600 to 2 000 ppm. The Dammam and Umm er Radhuma aquifers contain highly saline water (ESCWA, 2001). Average annual groundwater recharge may be estimated at about 120 million m3, most of which comes from infiltration from the river beds.


To increase the groundwater recharge, a number of dams have been built at various locations in the country. In 2003, there were 114 dams and embankments of various dimensions with a total storage capacity of 118 million m3, which is an increase of almost 48 percent compared to 1995, but total water stored was only 12.3 million m3. While most of these dams are basically built for recharging purposes, they also provide protection against damage caused by flash floods.

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 municipal and industrial water demand more plants were installed, particularly in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. In 2002, the total installed gross desalination capacity (design capacity) in the United Arab Emirates was 4 725 346 m3/day or 1 725 million m3/year (Wangnick Consulting, 2002). In 2005, total desalinated water produced was 950 million m3, compared to 385 million m3 in 1995, meaning an increase of almost 150 percent in ten years. Desalination provides most of the municipal supply.

In 1995 the total wastewater produced was about 500 million m3. About 289 million m3 of this water was treated in 2006 of which around 86 percent was reused. The amount of sewage water increases according to the size of the town and its population. The UAE have been pioneers in this field as regards the Gulf Area. Sewage water is subjected to tertiary treatment and then used in landscaping work in and around the towns. Due to the increase in the amount of such treated water, studies and research are being done as to whether this kind of water can be used to irrigate vegetables and fruit trees or can even be injected into the groundwater (MOEW, 2006).

     
   
   
             

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