By: Ghada S. Fayek
Bin Nakhira &Partners.
During years, awareness of, and concern about “Water” has been increasing. Water scarcity comes on the top challenges facing our planet. It is witnessing a constantly decrease due to the huge demand.
What is worrying in this matter is the predictions that the world’s population will increase by 50% to reach 9.5 billion by 2050. Which raises many questions as to whether there will be sufficient water to support population increases of this magnitude. What about the water situation in the countries that are located in arid and semi-arid areas and have an economic development which is likely to fuel increased demands for water? What about the needs of nature from water, which is critical in supporting the production of ecosystem services and biodiversity? What about the impacts (of failure in conserving adequate amount of water for environmental services) on the agricultural sector as the largest consumptive water use? What about the negative effects of this failure on the capacity of the environment to provide food and to support modern agricultural practices?
All of the above questions are expanding widely and raising in the arid Arabian Peninsula, home of GCC countries, where the value of water is even more pronounced and every drop of it must be carefully used in an economically and environmentally feasible manner.
Studies and statistics conclude that GCC countries by 2050 will be able to satisfy only 23% of their water demand with their water resources.
Water consumption in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is the highest in the world (forecasts indicate that water demand will increase to be more than 30% by 2030). Desalinated water in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is the main water resource for potable uses while groundwater is the main water resource for agriculture, forestry, and amenity, but this resource is extremely limited and at a danger level.
Hence, and since the water situation is fragile and since at lot of freshwater is unavailable and there is no practical way to access all of freshwater, agriculture sector will suffer.
In a speech on the occasion of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2013, the message of UAE leaders to the world was “The future depends on us“, considered that water is more important for UAE than the oil, and stated that the need to come up with ways to meet future water demand and preserve natural resources for future generations is an urgent need that can not be denied.
Therefore it is critical for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, as the largest Emirate in the UAE, to leverage wastewater treatment and reuse it as an alternative source for irrigation and to look into this matter as a necessity not only an option.
The Government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi spares no effort to meet water challenges by looking forward towards the reuse of treated wastewater as an alternative resource, but these efforts will not be the panacea, and will not be effective unless the people are aware of the magnitude of water challenges and therefore accept to reuse treated wastewater in agricultural irrigation.
Thus, the fundamental aspect to deal with treated wastewater for agriculture crops should address all aspects even if there is an adaptation for the best technology and social aspect, one of the aspects that should not be ignored.
Until this date there are no statistics nor data regarding the public perception, except a quick view sample of people showed they provided a significant awareness to conserve water, and a great interest to change their behavior. They trust in Abu Dhabi government regulations, visions, plans and strategies regarding the agricultural aspect, and therefore, they revealed their enthusiasm to accept treated wastewater to consume crop products irrigated by this water.
At the end, public awareness campaigns must have the priority in any future strategic plans. There is a need to develop clear policy regarding the optimal use of treated wastewater realizing that using if TWW has to be based on priority basis, giving crop production watering more priority compared to watering the landscaping sector.
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