New strategies call in water security push

MAKING full use of treated waste water to ensure water security is an untapped opportunity for the GCC countries, according to an expert.

The depletion of groundwater resources and deterioration of its quality posed considerable challenges to water security in the region, said Arabian Gulf University’s (AGU) water resource management co-ordinator Dr Waleed Zubari.

He was speaking at a remote scientific seminar organised by the UAE University’s National Water Centre, in which environmental, water and epidemiological experts from all around the world took part.

The seminar, ‘Water Security and Coronavirus Disease (Covid-19)’, discussed major challenges and risks facing water security in the Gulf countries.

“The main challenges and risks facing water security in the Gulf countries is the depletion of groundwater, the deterioration of its quality and its loss as a strategic stockpile,” Dr Zubari told the conference.

“There is also a lack of desalination technologies in the Gulf despite the almost complete dependence on them to provide domestic drinking water.

“Full utilisation of treated waste water is also an untapped opportunity for GCC countries considering the scarcity and water costs they are bearing.”

The seminar also reviewed a study on water security in the GCC countries in light of social, economical and political challenges arising from the current pandemic which has negatively impacted all aspects of life.

According to Dr Zubari, the pandemic has led to a shortage of human resources due to people contracting the disease, quarantine and lockdown, as well as restrictions on movement in and out of the country.

“There are concerns over the possibility of virus transmission through drinking water or wastewater network and whether the treatment of purified water is appropriate or sufficient.

“The pandemic also affects the level of water demand which changes due to lockdown and changes in individuals’ daily activities.”

Water security at the national level has five main dimensions: domestic water security (access to safe drinking water and waste water management); economic water security (water productivity in the consuming sectors); urban water security (the proportions of waste water treatment and disposal); environmental water security; and capacity to deal with natural disasters and emergencies.

Dr Zubari also highlighted that water emergency challenges were two-pronged – the first related to the hate of desalination plants for several reasons including sea pollution, nuclear radiation and red tides while the second related to risks associated with the water supply system such as power cuts, epidemics and system hacks.

“Challenges associated with water security amid the Covid-19 pandemic include the management of manpower, provision of spare parts and consumables as well as cyber security for communication systems along with changes in the consumption patterns and peak times.

“The most important lesson learned at the strategic level is investing in the national human element, enhancing development plans, localising desalination techniques as well as manufacturing spare parts and producing locally consumed resources.

“At the operational level, it is important to review emergency plans and carry out simulations of emergencies periodically, enhancing cyber security and monitor consumption patterns to benefit from them in the operations of running water supplies.

“Water security in the GCC must be addressed through two approaches – the developmental approach and the risk-based approach – and to follow them in an integrated and balanced way to create an efficient and flexible water management system.”




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