Arabian peninsula water reserves depleting fast : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Arabian peninsula water reserves depleting fast

By Meraj Rizvi COUNTRIES of the Arabian Peninsula are using up their water resources over three times as fast as they are being renewed, the Dubai-based International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) said in a report.

The report said that the water tables have already dropped dramatically across the Peninsula and readily available water resources will be exhausted within the next 20 years unless consumption of fresh water is reduced.

However, it stated that the Gulf countries are experiencing a water deficit of 15 billion cubic metres which experts say will touch 31 billion cubic metres by 2025.

A document presented at the Fifth Water Conference indicates that the annual average consumption of water reached 22 billion cubic metres in the six Gulf states in 1995. If the present pattern of consumption continues, the Gulf states will require 49 billion cubic metres a year by 2025.

The report pointed out that a five-fold increase in population in 50 years has led to an increase in water consumption in the Gulf states in the last two decades. Five decades ago the AGCC population stood at five million and now the population is in excess of 25 million, indicating a three per cent growth every year. The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Yemen make up the Arabian Peninsula.

The UAE has been ranked the second largest per capita consumer of water in the world after the US. The per capita water consumption of UAE is 500 litres, second only to the US.

"The situation has been alarming since 70 per cent of the water consumed in the country is desalinated water which not only is an expensive and complex process but has its environmental implications," an official said.

Cautioning against over-extraction and misuse of unsustainable underground water, ICBA official pointed out that the only way this could be achieved was by improving water-use efficiency in current agricultural systems and developing novel systems that use alternative sources of water.

"According to 1994 figures, the biggest water consumer in the UAE was the agricultural sector at 950 million cubic metres followed by the household sector at 512 million cubic metres." This is where ICBA has a clear role to play, in developing productive agricultural and environmental greening systems that use non-conventional water resources such as saline and brackish water, the official said.

The Centre, established as a research institute in Al Ruwayyah near Dubai jointly by the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the UAE's Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in cooperation with the Agriculture ministries in the Gulf countries, addresses the problems relating to saline water irrigation of the member countries and later scale up to deal with similar problems in other Islamic countries elsewhere in the arid, semi-arid and Mediterranean regions.

The official disclosed that saline and brackish water resources are far more abundant than fresh water and are being little used at present in the region. ICBA is aiming to bring these resources into sustainable productive use to offer opportunities to increase food security in many of the most needy regions of the world.

The Centre is focusing 80 per cent of its efforts on irrigated agriculture land in the region with an effort to replace it with salt-tolerant plants and crops that can be cultivated in brackish water. Such salt-tolerant plants with high forage potential could dramatically increase the productivity of under-utilised saline environments and increase forage production for domestic animals and wildlife. This will reduce grazing pressure on natural desert vegetation and conserve freshwater resources that are currently used in intensive forage production systems, the ICBA report observed.

-- Martin Thompson (, July 10, 2001

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