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World Water Day highlights the need for new thinking to ensure water security for all

By: Alya Al Mazroui, Director, UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science

This year’s World Water Day on 22 March is an opportunity for us to reflect on the crucial importance of water security and work together towards protecting this vital resource.

Water shortage today affects every continent. The scale of the problem is illustrated by the World Health Organization’s estimation that 844 million people already lack access to a basic drinking water service and that half the world’s population could be living in water stressed areas by 2025.

To raise awareness about what it regards as a critical challenge of the 21st century, the United Nations has focused international attention on the issue through the annual World Water Day, which aims to encourage leaders, stakeholders and innovators to address this critically urgent issue by working together to find innovative solutions.

In response to this global concern, the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science aims to enhance its international success in developing the capabilities necessary to advance innovation and enhance global efforts in the field of water security. The program is an essential part of the water pillar of the UAE’s National Innovation Strategy.

In the context of this strategy, the country is leading an innovative response to the water security challenge by driving new scientific and technological advances in rain enhancement.

Reflecting the potential offered by such methods, the Ministry of Presidential Affairs launched the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science as a US $5 million program overseen by the National Center of Meteorology (NCM) and designed to encourage scientists and researchers to explore new horizons in developing new rain enhancement techniques.

Rain enhancement offers the solutions needed to increase rainfall amount in those regions most affected by droughts, making dry areas more water-secure and productive.

The UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science is already making a real difference by improving the effectiveness of targeted cloud seeding operations to offer a viable, cost-effective supplement to existing water supplies.

Since the Program was launched, strong links have already been developed with numerous research institutions through ongoing outreach, engaging with more than 450 researchers from over 200 global institutions. At the recent 8th World Water Forum in Brasilia this month, a roadshow delegation took the opportunity to share the Program’s achievements in advancing rain enhancement research with distinguished delegates from leading international organizations committed to strengthening global water security.

The Program’s current awardees are already carrying out a range of ground-breaking work in a range of areas, including employing new algorithms to enhance precipitation understanding, using nanotechnology to accelerate water condensation, analysis of ice production processes in cumulus clouds, the role of atmospheric aerosols in precipitation enhancement, and modification of the electrical properties of clouds.

Further projects commenced this year dealing with the creation of artificial clouds to induce rain; targeted observation and seeding through unmanned aerial vehicles; and advanced experimental-numerical approaches to rain enhancement.

Now established as the most prominent international scientific initiative of its kind, the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science is committed to intensifying its quest to accelerate the scientific and technological solutions needed to tackle the urgent water security challenge and ensure that humanity can access the fresh water it needs.

In cooperation with international experts from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the program is currently reviewing its impressive achievements to date and formulating strategic goals for the next stage of its quest to advance rain enhancement science. Through this process, we are also identifying research overlaps, publishing and disseminating ongoing research results around the world, and allocating the resources needed to inspire the next generation of talented scientists that will lead the way to further innovation.

Through the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science, we will continue to utilize the UAE’s immense knowledge capacities and resources to provide the solutions needed to ensure a better quality of life for those at risk in arid regions and beyond around the world.

As we mark this year’s World Water Day, the UAE has once again demonstrated its inspiring and generous vision and commitment to making a real difference by leading the common effort to tackle water security as the basis for sustainable development and security for all.