Our Water Week series has highlighted how much water matters in our lives. It’s essential for everything from health, household, industry and agriculture to maintaining our ecosystems. Even the average adult human body is 60 per cent water, yet we often treat water supply and conservation as little more than an afterthought.
According to UN estimates, nearly two billion people will struggle to make a living in countries or regions affected by water scarcity by 2025. Little wonder then that water management and access to water resources have become an enormous issue, affecting social and political relations across the world. The challenge will only grow, which could lead to global conflicts and instability.
As for our region, the biggest challenge is to produce sufficient drinking water at a reasonable cost. Unfortunately, almost all the water consumed in our country, and the rest of the region, has to be extracted from seawater, using energy-intensive processes that consume precious fossil fuels.
It’s a cause for concern that water consumption here and other parts of the region is among the highest in the world, because of the hot weather, a rapid rise in the population and habits of wasting. This explains the rising water-supply gap in the region that experts predict could be nearly 35 billion cubic metres in 2030.
Efficiency in production and sustainable use can address these issues. The UAE has taken some important steps in this direction by capitalising on renewable resources such as solar and geothermal energy to improve the efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of the desalination process. Other simple and small steps – such as the use of grey water – also help protect this precious commodity. It’s also hardly surprising that other countries, such as Australia, called on this region’s expertise, as an environmental engineer pointed out in this newspaper earlier this week, when it sought to build a desalination plant.
Last year the UAE lifted utility subsidies as it seeks to significantly reduce water wastage. However, ensuring the sustainable use of water is not just the Government’s responsibility. We all need to understand the magnitude of this issue and work together to protect this precious resource.