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Al Mubarak: The issue of water scarcity and water security is only getting more urgent

posted on 22/01/2014: 3464 views

The demand for water is so high and the recharge rate so low that we know our use of groundwater is unsustainable. The issue of water scarcity and water security is only getting more urgent. Today we have less water in our aquifers than we did last year and we are therefore one year closer to running out.

This statement was made by Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General of the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD), while speaking yesterday at the International Water Summit 2014 (IWS) that is being held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) from January 20-22, 2014.

Delivering her keynote speech entitled "Achieving Integrated Water Resource Management through Effective Water Governance" Al Mubarak said: "This sounds alarmist, but I know we are not alone. According to the United Nations Water Programme, water scarcity already affects almost every continent and more than 40 per cent of the people on our planet. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world's population could be living under water stressed conditions. We feel this acutely in the Arab region; of the 22 Arab League nations, 8 have the lowest water availability per capita in the world".

"Groundwater in Abu Dhabi is essentially a non-renewable resource and our groundwater was laid down as long as 10,000 years ago during the last Ice Age. Fortunately, in the UAE, we have the financial resources to desalinate water for drinking and sanitation, but our groundwater resources are critical for our agriculture as well as to support our natural ecosystem, on which new economic sectors such as tourism rely," Al Mubarak said.

Talking about Abu Dhabi Government efforts to tackle this issue, she said: "During 2013, under the direction of the Higher Steering Committee of Agriculture and Water the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi worked with the water community of Abu Dhabi to develop a 5 year Water Resource Management Strategy - to plan how we allocate our water budget. This strategy covers our three sources of water, desalinated water, recycled water and groundwater and addresses issues around both supply and demand." "EAD is the competent authority for managing groundwater so our specific responsibility within this strategy is to ensure more sustainable use of groundwater. We will use water as efficiently as possible, where technically and economically feasible we will replace groundwater with another source, preferably recycled water and we need to plan to balance our water use with our water budget," she said.

Al Mubarak said "we have made a good start to address our water issues here in Abu Dhabi and I'm sure that many of you from other parts of the region or the planet will say the same. But we don't have all the answers and the problem we are trying to tackle is not static, on the contrary it is very dynamic. If we continue to over use our water now, our future water budgets will be smaller at the very time our populations and our economies are growing and as a result demanding more water. As leaders it is important that we stay focused on this issue and ahead of the game, and this is why I am very pleased to be part of this summit. By continuing to collaborate, to share, to listen and to learn we can all be part of a collective solution," she concluded.

Al Mubarak also participated in the Panel Discussion held at IWS 2014 together with other panellists representing Abu Dhabi government entities concerned with the water issue where they shared their knowledge and expertise on how to overcome the challenges.

Other experts from EAD also participated in the conference's panel discussions including Dr. Mohamed Al Madfaei, Executive Director for Integrated Environment Policy and Planning Sector; Darryl Lew, Executive Director of the Environmental Quality Sector; Dr. Simon Pearson, Senior Advisor, Integrated Environment Policy '&' Planning and Dr. Mohamed Dawoud, Water Resources Advisor.

EAD is also participating in the IWS 2014 exhibition to raise awareness about water conservation efforts and its regulatory role when it comes to conserving this limited resource and to discuss potential cooperation opportunities with key global players to address this issue.

Throughout the exhibition EAD will showcase the Emirate's first initiative to reuse recycled water to irrigate agriculture, starting with Al Nahda's 216 farms. The project was completed and runs now by Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company (ADSSC).

In addition, EAD will highlight its efforts to monitor groundwater use and manage this resource sustainably by promoting the use of water meters fitted to wells, where data will be used to better understand and manage water efficiently for optimum crop production in farms and forests. - Emirates News Agency, WAM


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