Sheikh Nahyan urges UAE residents to change water habits

The Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research made the plea yesterday as he opened the UAE-Swiss Research Day, a forum on sustainable water usage.

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ABU DHABI // Residents were yesterday urged to change their habits to cut the country’s “alarmingly high rate” of water consumption.

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, made the plea yesterday as he opened the UAE-Swiss Research Day, a forum on sustainable water usage hosted by the Emirati-Swiss Friendship Forum.

Diplomats, government officials, researchers and students gathered at Zayed University’s campus in the capital for the launch.

Sheikh Nahyan highlighted the UAE’s challenges in managing water. With few renewable resources, the country relies on desalination for the vast majority of its water needs.

The minister also referred to the “alarmingly high rate of consumption” of water in the UAE. “We must all change our habits,” he said.

Problems over access to water of suitable quality are man-made, Sheikh Nahyan said.

“We humans have eliminated half the world’s wetlands since 1900,” he said. “We humans are permitting two million tonnes of sewage to drain into water systems every day.

“We humans are apparently content with the fact that at least one in every seven people has no access to clean water. We humans can change that deplorable situation.”

The Emirati-Swiss Friendship Forum aims to promote cooperation between the countries.

While Switzerland has 267 times the renewable water resources of the UAE, both nations recognise the need for sustainable use of water resources, Sheikh Nahyan said.

The event continues in Dubai today with scientists presenting research from United Arab Emirates and Zayed universities, the American University of Sharjah and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.

The audience will also hear representatives from the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich and Lausanne.