Gyeongbuk, SOUTH KOREA // The quality and quantity of water running from rivers into the Arabian Gulf is crucial for the UAE and regional countries, given their reliance on desalination, a minister says.
The country relies on desalinated water for more than 90 per cent of its needs, Dr Rashid bin Fahad, Minister of Environment and Water, told the World Water Forum in South Korea on Monday.
“The surface water that runs into the sea is vital for us,” Dr bin Fahad said. “It is affecting the quality of water we desalinate.”
He was addressing high-ranking officials from countries including Qatar, Israel, Iran, Russia, Peru, Samoa, Japan and the Philippines in a panel discussion at the five-day forum that started on Sunday.
Fresh water into the Gulf comes mainly from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and the Karun river in Iran.
Dr bin Fahad said that how the water in those rivers was allocated and how much of it eventually flowed into the Gulf was important to the UAE and required more regional cooperation.
He said while the UAE did not have a say in how the water from those rivers was allocated, it was indirectly affected.
“They are talking about the vitality of rivers and surface water at this panel but for us, as a country that relies heavily on desalination, the vitality and health of the Gulf is important to us just like a river, because this is our river,” the minister said.
“Trans-boundary water maybe is not affecting us directly but it is affecting our water course, so we hope countries agree on this trans-boundary water because this is affecting also the ecosystem of the Gulf.
“GCC countries, Iraq and Iran – we all share the same water basin.
More than 60 per cent of global desalination capacity is in the region. Also talking part in the Gyeongbuk talks were Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, director of energy and climate change at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Dr Matar Al Neyadi, undersecretary at the Ministry of Energy.
They spoke about how the UAE is managing its water resources, which is still a challenge considering the growing population and high per capita rates of use.
The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi estimates that the capital’s residents use an average of between 550 and 900 litres of desalinated water each a day, compared with the global average of 250 to 300 litres.
The Government has taken steps including a new efficiency label for water fixtures, which has been approved by the Cabinet and will be introduced by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology, said Dr bin Fahad.
The Ministry of Energy is in the process of drafting a water strategy for the country in collaboration with utilities, municipalities, the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority and others, Dr Al Neyadi said. He said behaviour is an important factor that decision-makers are looking at.
“One of the challenges is the human behaviour and how they use water,” Dr Al Neyadi said. “For that, efficiency is an important element in our strategy.
“We count on our people to use this water efficiently and not waste water because water is very costly in our part of the world.