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United Arab Emirates

Water use

Total water withdrawal was estimated at 3 998 million m3 in 2005. Distribution by sector is not available at national level but in the Abu Dhabi Emirate, where total water used was 3 382 million m3 in 2003, 83 percent was used for irrigation (agriculture, forestry and amenities), 15 percent for municipal purposes and less than 2 percent for industrial purposes (Figure 1). Over 70 percent of the total water withdrawal was primary groundwater (including fossil water), 24 percent was desalinated water and around 6 percent was reused treated wastewater (Table 5 and Figure 2). Historically, all the Abu Dhabi Emirate’s water requirements were met solely from primary groundwater obtained from shallow hand dug wells and the traditional falaj system, comprising human-made channels used to collect groundwater, spring water and surface water and transport it, by using gravity, to a demand area. Since the entire Emirate’s aflaj irrigation tunnels are now dry, a system of borehole support has been developed over the last 5–10 years (Brook et al., 2006). In 2003 the former Ministry of Electricity and Water (current Ministry of Environment and Water) reported that 76 556 wells were in use throughout the UAE.

Groundwater depletion is hard to estimate because there is no information on the possible annual recharge of groundwater entering from neighbouring countries (for example from the Eastern Arabia Aquifer). In any case, the overextraction of groundwater resources is real and has led to a lowering of the groundwater table, while sea water intrusion is increasing in the coastal areas.


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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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