The UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science promises to open up exciting new avenues in its field. Research leading to the development and refinement of high-tech and environmentally-friendly sustainable water solutions is a key challenge that must be overcome for the sake of those at risk of water scarcity. Human considerations and our shared goals as co-inhabitants of planet earth necessitate that we help those in need to gain access to this most basic of resources.
The United Nations estimates that by the year 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. In addition, much of the projected total global population increase of three billion over the next three decades will occur in developing countries, putting severe pressure on already limited supplies of potable water.
2015 marks the end of the UN’s ‘decade for action on water scarcity’, the culmination of efforts to fulfil the targets of the Millennium Declaration on water and water-related issues. Now is the time in which we must renew our efforts to conserve our water resources and guarantee the development of our societies and economies. Sustained and strategic investment in the water sector is crucial for our common future.
There are many challenges faced by arid regions, such as: lack of natural water resources; limited renewable water resources; low rain fall; high population growth (high demand); exponential industrial growth; urbanization (new cities thus increase in demand); high temperatures; and the need to utilize ground water for agriculture. But most important objective is to maintain the sustainability and security of water for countries at risk of water scarcity. The problem is that today’s arid regions mainly depend on seawater desalination technologies which are highly energy intensive.
The main challenge facing arid regions is water scarcity caused by a low amount of rainfall and high rate of evaporation accompanied with heavy groundwater usage. In addition to that, population growth can apply stress on natural water resources. Also, water loss in water distribution networks is another concern. Many of the challenges faced can be solved by simultaneously taking several measures to safe guards the interest such as proper water management, building new plants for water treatment, conservation of water (educating people to avoid wastage), cooperation with other countries on the development of new technologies which are cost effective, environment friendly and less energy intensive.
For the arid countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, water sustainability has become one of their most urgent economic and security challenges given projected demand from rapidly expanding populations. With groundwater supplies decreasing rapidly throughout the MENA region, the consequent rise in production of desalinated water is imposing further energy costs that are already straining national budgets.
The current rapid rate of water depletion across MENA may see the region categorised as one with ‘physical water scarcity’ by 2030. Poor agricultural productivity and finite water resources are undermining the region’s food security, according to the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) 2014 annual report. With 13 Arab countries classified as being already severely water scarce, the AFED report stresses the fundamental importance of the relationship between food security and water sustainability.
At a time of rising global populations and diminishing water resources, the need for solutions to ensure global water security has never been greater. As water security is an essential element of national security, there is an increasing imperative for countries to strengthen their water resilience by promoting research and development, investment in new technologies, more efficient resource conservation and effective international partnerships.
While most of us take free water for granted, we must remember that it is a precious and finite resource. By striking the right balance today between supply and sustainability, we can safeguard tomorrow for our future generations.
By taking a leading role in rain enhancement innovation, the UAE is playing its part in revitalizing a scientific field that has significant unrealized potential. The task now is to encourage the international scientific community to adopt the UAE model and support the country’s efforts in managing our planet’s abundant water reserves for the benefit of all.