The UAE's water consumption is now a "huge concern" for the country, the Energy minister said as he set out plans to initiate water-saving programmes across government buildings, schools and hospitals.
Suhail Al Mazrouei told members of the Federal National Council on Tuesday that every member of society must play their part in reducing the amount of water they consume.
The Emirates is among the world's 10 most arid states and about 15 per cent of the world's desalinated water is consumed here.
Mr Al Mazrouei was speaking during a debate on the future of renewable energy sources at the FNC on Tuesday.
He said that Emirati homes alone consume 44 per cent of the country’s water consumption. Emiratis constitute about 10-15 per cent of the population, depending on estimates.
“This is a big percentage and it needs to be reduced to 40 per cent at least,” said Mr Al Mazrouei, who is also the chairman of the Federal Electricity and Water Authority (Fewa).
“We are trying to take advantage of every drop of water that falls over the UAE by recycling it, so when we reach 2036 our use of rainwater would have reached 95 per cent.
“We are trying to find alternative solutions to reduce water consumption.”
He said that work has begun work on water saving programmes, including installing water consumption indicators for UAE nationals, which he said could cut 20 per cent of consumption.
Similar procedures are followed at government buildings and will take place in schools and hospitals soon.
“And we are working on establishing more water desalination stations in the eastern coast," he said.
Fewa is also testing a technology that uses algae to absorb salt from water, and if it proves effective the UAE will be the first country to use that technology, he said.
“The solutions are few, unless we are able to reduce consumption, which is a huge concern for the ministry and authority," he told the chamber of 40 elected and appointed members.
FNC member Faisal Al Thabbahi, who represents Fujairah, had asked the minister what was being done to invest in clean energy and solar power.
Mr Al Mazrouei said the authorities have been actively searching for a huge plot of land on which to build a solar power station.
He also said a federal law is being prepared to install solar panels on the roofs of residential homes and commercial enterprises and factories.
He said the project is under way in Dubai, and will soon be introduced in Abu Dhabi.
The law will set out how the government will use the solar power generated by these panels, “as we are seeking to reach a point where 44 per cent of our electricity is provided by solar power, and every five years we will go over that strategy".
FNC member Afra Al Basti, who represents Dubai, said that Fewa made Dh1.141 billion last year. “Why wasn’t that money used to support nationals?” he asked.
Mr Al Mazrouei said that the authority pays 70 per cent of Emiratis' daily consumption of electricity and 50 per cent of the costs to connect electricity to their homes. He said they spend Dh1bn every year on that.
He also said Dh5bn will be spent on expanding the electricity grid over the next five years, and Dh15bn to generate electricity “so what we make is nothing compared to what we spend”, he said.
Separately at the FNC on Tuesday, members also asked about the spate of tragic fires that claimed the lives of a number of UAE residents this year.
Azza bin Suleiman, also representing Dubai, cited the death of seven Emirati children in Fujairah in January when a fire broke out at the family's villa as they slept.
The minister said the main reason behind such fires is the overloading of circuits,
"And we are on the lookout for such violators and will deal with them," he said.
Also during the session, FNC members voted for a recommendation for a trial that would see companies have to look for a qualified Emirati work candidate before they offer a job to an expat.
The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation last month already introduced such a procedure for the private sector, where 400 jobs at 2,000 large enterprises were selected to apply that procedure to.
However, member Hamad Al Rahoomi, Dubai, insisted that this should be followed by all government, semi-government and private companies, in order to activate article 14 of Federal Law Number 8 that was issued in 1980.
“When I sit in a majlis and find jobless Emiratis, I have to make a move – we nationals are a priority and we cannot find jobs in our country; this is not normal,” he told Labour Minister Nasser Al Hamli.
“Organisations don’t have a database of nationals who are looking for jobs. You are the only one who knows about them,” he said.
“So there must be a link between those looking for jobs and available jobs.”
“If we have 1,000 locals who cannot find work, we cannot stay sitting in these chairs, we must make a move.”