GCC countries 'face drastic water shortages'

18 February 2020

The GCC countries face urgent and drastic water shortages within just the next three decades, according to a report.  

At current population growth rates, authors of the report Orient Planet Research (OPR), predicts the GCC’s water needs will reach 33,733m cubic meters per year by 2050, but the region’s projected future storage is only 25,855m cubic meters. This means the region needs to boost its water by 77% to meet the requirements of its populations 30 years from now.

“There are more than 50 million inhabitants across the GCC today and this number could increase by approximately 14 million by 2050,”  said Nidal Abou Zaki, managing director, Orient Planet Group. He added: “The water-intensive lifestyle that is prevalent in the Gulf countries as well as their steady economic progress are going to further widen the demand-supply gap in the future.” 

According to the report, projected shortages are not helped by current low levels of water reuse and recycling, which are already putting intense pressure on the region’s water industry.

Better water investment needed

Investment is happening however. The report comes the week after UAE announced it had approved a series of dam and water canal investments worth $44.1m.

Projects will include the construction of a dam in Wadi Naqab, Ras Al Khaimah, valued at $7.32m, with capacity for one million cubic metres, according to state news agency WAM. The dam aims to control the flow of water to residential neighbourhoods and improve groundwater storage in agricultural areas. The UAE has also approved several dams, water canals and urgent protection works in areas off the eastern coast, as well as in Masfout, Siji and Shawka, worth $33.38m. 

Overall GCC governments have invested $76bn in water projects, but while desalination is often seen as the answer, it is also expensive, energy intensive and contributes to environmental degradation. 

That said, some 57% of global desalination plants are currently found in the GCC compared with 3% in other parts of the Middle East and 40% in the rest of the world, according to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. 

Over the next five years the combined desalination capacity of GCC countries is expected to rise from 18.18m cubic meters a day to more than 25m cubic meters a day. In the UAE alone, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority aims to increase the emirate’s total production capacity of desalinated water from 470m gallons per day (migd) to 750 migd by 2030.

The report suggests GCC governments must start seeking more sustainable alternative sources of water to reduce their heavy reliance on desalination plants.

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