Abu Dhabi is considered a “water-stressed” area as the emirate’s per capita availability of fresh, natural and renewable water resource is less than 100 cubic meters. The areas with less than 500 cubic meter availability of fresh water fall under this category, a conference in the capital heard on Tuesday.

Experts from the UAE and USA discussed “Climate Change and the Future of Water” at the conference organized by the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) and the University of Maine in the US.

While welcoming the gathering, Dr. Jamal Al Suwaidi, Director-General of ECSSR, warned that the impact of water scarcity and climate change could trigger conflict in the region.

Dr. Mohammad Dawoud, adviser on water resources and environment quality at the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi, said as Abu Dhabi faces acute water scarcity, minimizing demand is the long-term solution. About 100,000 wells across the emirate serving around 25,000 farms and another 60,000 wells for the forestry sector add huge pressure on scarce groundwater resources. About 95 per cent of groundwater is used by agriculture and forestry sectors in the emirate, he said.

Water scarcity problems will severely affect Arab region as eight Arab countries have the lowest per capita availability of water and the UAE is one among them. Of the three water sources in Abu Dhabi, groundwater contributes to 65 per cent, desalination around 30 per cent and recycling about five per cent only, he said.

However, only five per cent of the groundwater is recharged annually. In agricultural areas groundwater is depleted by five meters every year. If this trend continues, groundwater will be totally depleted in the near future, Al Jaberi said.

Dr. Paul Andrew Mayewski, Director of Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, warned about possible droughts caused by climate change in water-scarce areas. Climate records of thousands of years show that devastating droughts can occur abruptly and stay from decades to centuries, he said.