By Chandra Dake, Executive Chairman and Group CEO, Dake Group
According to a World Health Organization report, over 663 million people in the world lack access to ‘improved’ drinking water. More than 40% of the global population lives in water-stressed conditions, which is projected to rise to 65% in the next five to six years. With global water requirements for basic needs, food production and industrial use growing exponentially, the world needs an effective, coordinated and urgent approach to manage increasingly scarce water resources.
Water Governance and Management
In its Global Risks Report 2016, the World Economic Forum listed water security as one of the top 10 global risks. In a complex and constantly changing economic and environmental scenario, the scarcity of water resources threatens the livelihood of countless communities worldwide, especially populations living in the arid regions of the world.
Managing an increasingly scarce resource like water requires an ethical approach – by everyone, for everyone. Governments around the world invest billions of dollars each year on water services and infrastructure. But their initiatives fail to keep pace with the increasing demand because of abuse of resources and ineffective management. The concept of water integrity has to be at the core of efforts to develop strategies and infrastructure, to ensure better governance of this sector. Improved transparency, accountability and participation in water service delivery is the only way to fulfill the dream of giving all humans access to clean water and sanitation.
The Arabian Peninsula is over 87% desert, and its access to renewable water is limited to one-eighth that of the global average
Challenges to Water Security in the UAE
The United Arab Emirates has undergone tremendous economic growth in recent years. Although this is an obvious positive, legacy models of growth have created a great deal of stress on the nation’s natural resources. Due to the UAE having a large desert area, as well as its arid climatic conditions, the lack of potable water sources has been a continuous cause of concern. To add to the problem, the per capita water use in the UAE is three times higher than the global average. The country has been heavily dependent on technological solutions to tackle these issues. However, the infrastructure that supports these solutions is also very expensive and unsustainable.
Desalinated water is the major source of water in the UAE. Although it continues to support the country’s growing water needs, it is worth pointing out that the desalination process involves high usage of resources like natural gas and diesel. Not to mention the extent of air pollution it causes, in addition to a negative impact on marine life.
The World Economic Forum listed water security as one of the top 10 global risks
While evaluating the water requirements of any population, having sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation is usually the number one priority. However, the proportion of water use that falls under this segment is relatively small compared to water used for agriculture and industrial purposes. This is where intuitive and sustainable practices, such as rainwater harvesting, can contribute to water security with minimum investment and maximum benefits.
The Arabian Peninsula is over 87% desert, and its access to renewable water is limited to one-eighth of the global average. Many Arab countries, including the UAE, invest in highly costly technologies to source and supply water.
Rainwater harvesting, in essence, introduces low-cost technology that empowers communities to manage their water needs in a decentralized fashion. The practice of collecting rainfall to service the human demand for freshwater has been an established one – especially in desert and water-scarce regions. What is needed today is applying this approach with added innovations to upscale and optimize the infrastructure that will be required.
More than 40% of the global population lives in water-stressed conditions
Fortunately, several new innovative products are making it easier than ever before to harvest and source the precious rainfall in the UAE. For instance, the IDer range of products, developed by innovative sustainability solutions provider Dake Rechsand, helps efficient rainwater harvesting. The company’s innovative, ‘breathable sand’ technology can be implemented to collect rain that falls on roads, streets, paved areas, offices, schools, parking and even playgrounds. Dake Rechsand’s Honey Comb water harvesting systems allow water to be stored for up to seven years – keeping it fresh, without developing algae, with zero chemicals and absolutely no energy input.
Rainwater Harvesting Key to Water Security
A majority of nations worldwide are yet to implement a truly comprehensive system to track the provision of water and sanitation. This lack of transparency – down to the last mile and the end-user – eventually leads to improper water management strategies. Factors like climate change and population growth will continue to present challenges to the sustainability of the world’s water resources – complicating the issue further. The energy abundant Middle East has traditionally resorted to high input process such as desalination to ensure water supply. With cloud-seeding become more and more prevalent in the region, creating a network of rainwater harvesting infrastructure is likely to emerge as the more sustainable and efficient alternative.