ArticlePDF Available

An overview of the GCC Unified Water Strategy (2016-2035)

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are situated in one of the most arid regions in the world, with extremely poor endowment of freshwater resources. Despite the water scarcity, the GCC countries have done well in providing water for their ever-increasing population and rapidly expanding economic base. However, this has been achieved only by resorting to relatively very expensive and costly investments in water supply sources and infrastructures manifested by desalination, water treatment, dam constructions, as well as groundwater overdrafting. Being an important vector for socioeconomic development, there is a need for the establishment of an efficient and sustainable water management system to ensure that the water sector can continue to serve the countries’ development needs. However, currently the GCC countries are facing several major challenges that are threatening the water sector sustainability. These include increasing water scarcity, increasing costs for infrastructure and service delivery, resources deterioration, increasing environmental and economic externalities, and many others. The main driving forces of these challenges are population growth and changing consumption patterns, low supply efficiencies, lower rates of water reuse and recycling, and low energy efficiency in the water sector. The intensity of these challenges is expected to increase in the future due to the additional driving force of the impacts of climate change. Realizing these challenges, the GCC Supreme Council has issued in its 31st summit (2010) the directive of “serious and speedy steps should be taken and endorsed by the GCC Supreme Council toward a long-term comprehensive Gulf water strategy”. In 2016, a GCC Unified Water Strategy, 2016–2035 (GCC UWS) has been finalized by the GCC Secretariat General and approved by the GCC Supreme Council. This paper presents the main challenges facing the sustainability of the water sector in the GCC countries, the formulated GCC UWS (main themes and strategic objectives and their policies, key performance indicators and targets), the potential financial, economic, and environmental benefits from its implementation, and its expected overall contribution to the water sector sustainability in the GCC countries.
Content may be subject to copyright.
* Corresponding author.
1944-3994/1944-3986 © 2017 Desalination Publications. All rights reserved.
Desalination and Water Treatment
www.deswater.com
doi: 10.5004/dwt.2017.20864
81 (2017) 1–18
June
An overview of the GCC Unied Water Strategy (2016–2035)
Waleed Al-Zubaria,*, Abdulaziz Al-Turbakb, Walid Zahidb, Khalid Al-Ruwisb,
Ali Al-Tkhaisc, Ibrahim Al-Muatazb, Ahmed Abdelwahabd, Ahmed Murade,
Meshari Al-Harbif, Zaher Al-Sulaymanig
aWater Resources Management Program, College of Graduate Studies, Arabian Gulf University, PO Box 26671,
Manama, Bahrain, Tel. +973 17239880/+973 39433811; email: waleed@agu.edu.bh
bKing Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
cShura Council, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
dTexas A&M University, Doha, Qatar
eUnited Arab Emirates University, Al Ain, UAE
fKuwait University, Kuwait City, Kuwait
gOman Water Society, Muscat, Oman
Received 2 April 2017; Accepted 2 May 2017
abstract
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are situated in one of the most arid regions in the
world, with extremely poor endowment of freshwater resources. Despite the water scarcity, the GCC
countries have done well in providing water for their ever-increasing population and rapidly expand-
ing economic base. However, this has been achieved only by resorting to relatively very expensive
and costly investments in water supply sources and infrastructures manifested by desalination, water
treatment, dam constructions, as well as groundwater overdrafting. Being an important vector for
socioeconomic development, there is a need for the establishment of an efficient and sustainable
water management system to ensure that the water sector can continue to serve the countries’ devel-
opment needs. However, currently the GCC countries are facing several major challenges that are
threatening the water sector sustainability. These include increasing water scarcity, increasing costs for
infrastructure and service delivery, resources deterioration, increasing environmental and economic
externalities, and many others. The main driving forces of these challenges are population growth and
changing consumption patterns, low supply efficiencies, lower rates of water reuse and recycling, and
low energy efficiency in the water sector. The intensity of these challenges is expected to increase in the
future due to the additional driving force of the impacts of climate change. Realizing these challenges,
the GCC Supreme Council has issued in its 31st summit (2010) the directive of “serious and speedy
steps should be taken and endorsed by the GCC Supreme Council toward a long-term comprehensive
Gulf water strategy”. In 2016, a GCC Unified Water Strategy, 2016–2035 (GCC UWS) has been finalized
by the GCC Secretariat General and approved by the GCC Supreme Council. This paper presents the
main challenges facing the sustainability of the water sector in the GCC countries, the formulated
GCC UWS (main themes and strategic objectives and their policies, key performance indicators and
targets), the potential financial, economic, and environmental benefits from its implementation, and
its expected overall contribution to the water sector sustainability in the GCC countries.
Keywords: Groundwater; Desalination; Wastewater; Municipal; Agricultural; Industrial; Security;
Governance
W. Al-Zubari et al. / Desalination and Water Treatment 81 (2017) 1–182
1. Introduction
Over the past four decades, the GCC countries have wit-
nessed an unprecedented economic and social transformation
characterized by increasing population (Fig. 1), high rates of
urbanization, and accelerated industrialization. During this
period, human development indicators, such as life expectancy,
literacy rates, per capita income, and many other well-being
indicators have substantially increased, and have reached
developed countries standards, with some indicators in some
GCC countries considered among the highest in the world.
As it is well known, oil plays a major role in the economies
of the GCC countries, accounting for about a third of total gross
domestic product (GDP) and three-fourths of government reve-
nues and exports. A significant share of these revenues has been
used to modernize infrastructure and improve the living stan-
dards of the population. Water supply and sanitation services
have been made accessible to a large percentage of the popu-
lation, reaching levels considered as the highest in the world.
However, such fast-paced socioeconomic development
and its associated rapid population growth has been associ-
ated with substantial increases in water demands; sustainable
water provision to the various development activities has
grown to be one of the most challenging tasks faced by the
GCC countries. This challenge is expected to grow with time
due to many pressing drivers, including population growth,
changing lifestyle and consumption patterns, increasing food
demand, prevailing general subsidy system, anticipated cli-
mate change impacts, and many other drivers, forcing these
countries into more expensive and costly investments in
water supply sources and infrastructures (i.e., desalination,
water treatment, dams, and groundwater wellfields). The
heavy financial, economic, and environmental costs, as well
as social costs associated with the provision of water supply
cannot be overemphasized.
The GCC countries are experiencing a future of increasing
water scarcity and water supply costs, which might not
only threaten their future development, but also the preser-
vation and sustainability of their past economic and social
achievements. Therefore, the means and approaches to face
the challenges of the water sector, as a strategically vital
resource and essential input in the development process, will
have a significant impact on the sustainable growth of these
countries in the coming decades.
In this paper, the overall water resources conditions
(i.e., resources and uses) and the main challenges facing the
sustainability of the water sector in the GCC countries are
presented. Then, an overview of the newly formulated GCC
Unified Water Strategy is illustrated, and by using a number
of key performance indicators (KPIs) and set targets the
anticipated major benefits of its implementation are indicated.
2. Water resources
The GCC countries are located in one of the driest
regions of the world. With the exception of coastal stripes
and mountain ranges, the region is essentially desert with
harsh environment. It is characterized by low and erratic
rainfall (70–150 mm/year), as well as high evaporation rates
exceeding 3,000 mm/year, creating impossible conditions for
a perennial surface water system to exist.
Under such extremely poor endowment of water
resources and the ongoing trends in population growth, the
region is increasingly becoming one of the most water-stressed
regions of the world. It has one of the lowest per capita
renewable freshwater resources in the world that continue to
decline rapidly due to escalating population growth (Fig. 2).
Overall per capita freshwater availability in the GCC countries
has been rapidly declining from 678 m3/year in 1970 to
176 m3/year in 2000, and is currently at about 120 m3/year,2 con-
siderably below the absolute water poverty line of 500 m3/year.
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
45
50
1950 19601970 1980199020002010
Million
Fig. 1. Trends in GCC countries population, 1970–2010.1 Data
source: World Population Prospects, The 2015 Revision, UN
Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations
Population Division (UNPD), available at: https://esa.un.org
/unpd/wpp/.
1In 2012, the population has increased to about 49 million
(Bahrain = 1.3, Kuwait = 3.8, Oman = 3.6, Qatar = 2.1, Saudi
Arabia = 29.2, and UAE = 8.9 millions.
2Per capita renewable freshwater for the countries varies.
Bahrain = 83, Kuwait = 44, Oman = 321, Qatar = 28, Saudi
Arabia = 142, and UAE = 24 m3/year.
3This calculation is based only on renewable “natural” water
resources. However, it is customary in the GCC to add to the renew-
able groundwater resources the available non-conventional water
resources, that is, desalination capacity and available wastewater.
Adding these resources would increase the per capita water share
and would give a better picture of the availability of water resources
in the region.
0
200
400
600
800
1000
1200
1400
1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010
cubic meters
Fig. 2. Average annual per capita renewable freshwater in the
GCC countries, 1950–2010.3 Graph data sources: population
data: UNPD, World population prospects, The 2015 Revision;
conventional water resources data: UNESCWA [1]; WB and
AGFUND [2]; and Al-Alawi and Abdulrazzak [3].
3W. Al-Zubari et al. / Desalination and Water Treatment 81 (2017) 1–18
Despite the rapid increase in water demands and the
limitation of its conventional freshwater resources, the
GCC countries have done well in providing water for their
expanding municipal sector by resorting to desalination since
1970s. Furthermore, reuse of treated wastewater, particularly
for irrigation, has started to become an important part of
the water supply sources in many GCC countries since the
late 1990s. Currently (2010/2012), the GCC countries water
requirements, amounting to about 13.5 BCM are met mainly
by groundwater abstraction and surface water harvesting
(78%), desalinated water production (19%), and to a lesser
extent by treated municipal wastewater (3%). Other water
sources, such as irrigation drainage water, treated industrial
wastewater, and fog harvesting, are being used/produced at
relatively very low rates compared with other water sources
and at localized small-scale.
2.1. Surface water and groundwater resources
Due to their locations, topography, and limited areal extent,
Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar either have no surface water or it
is too small to be utilized. However, for Oman, Saudi Arabia,
and UAE, which have relatively vast areal extents and moun-
tainous areas, there are good sources of surface water. Major
efforts and investments are made in Saudi Arabia, Oman, and
UAE to capture surface runoff by dam constructions reach-
ing a total capacity of about 2.4 BCM, which serve multiple
purposes: flood control, water supply, groundwater recharge,
and irrigation. However, the fill rates in some countries show
major fluctuation due to variation in precipitation.
The GCC countries depend primarily on groundwa-
ter to meet their water requirements, which is divided into
two types. The first is the shallow aquifers, developed in
the alluvial deposits along the main wadi channels and the
flood plains of drainage basins. Shallow aquifers are the only
renewable water source in the GCC countries. The second
groundwater source is the non-renewable fossil groundwater
stored in the sedimentary deep aquifers. These store signifi-
cant amounts of groundwater that is thousands of years old
laid down during the rainy Pleistocene and Pliocene geologi-
cal periods, the majority of which are located in Saudi Arabia
and Oman. However, these have a finite life as well as quality
limitations. The quality of the deep aquifers varies greatly,
being suitable for domestic consumption in only few areas.
Most of the water from these deep aquifers is used for agri-
cultural purposes. Tab le 1 summarizes the available water
natural resources in the GCC countries as well as the current
(2012) groundwater abstraction levels.
In all the GCC countries, a prolonged overdrafting of
groundwater (Tab le 2) has resulted in a considerable decline
Table 1
Available conventional water resources in the GCC countries and groundwater abstraction, in million cubic meters (MCM)
Country Annual rainfalla
(mm)
Annual evaporationa
(mm)
Available
surface runoffb
(MCM)
Groundwater (MCM)
Groundwater
rechargec
Abstracted (2012) Non-renewable
reserved
Bahrain 80 1,650–2,050 – 110e103 (2010) Negligible
Kuwait 110 1,900–3,500 160e496 (2011) N/A
Oman 20–300 1,900–3,000 102 900 1,216 102,000
Qatar 75 2,000–2,700 50 250 Negligible
KSA 70–500 3,500–4,500 3,695/2,400f3,850 15,450 428,400
UAE 89 3,900–4,050 150 190 2,300 N/A
aAnnual rainfall and evaporation figures are obtained from Al-Alawi and Abdulrazzak [1].
bData collected from countries reports.
cRecharge figures represent recharge to shallow alluvial aquifers.
dNon-renewable reserves estimates are based on WB and AGFUND [2].
eRecharge to aquifers occurs by underflow from equivalent aquifers in Saudi Arabia, recharge is variable depending on the hydraulic gradient
between the two countries and indicated figures represent steady-state conditions.
fValues indicate uncertainty in numbers.
Table 2
Groundwater abstraction/mining in the GCC countries
Country Renewable volumes
(MCM/year)
Abstraction volumes (MCM) % of renewable volumes
1990 2000 2010 1990 2000 2010
Bahrain 110 167 195 103 152% 177% 93%
Kuwait 160 143 393 491 89% 246% 307%
Oman 900 1,204 1,240 1,216 134% 138% 135%
Qatar 50 111 270 248 222% 540% 496%
KSA 3,850 15,505 19,680 12,340 403% 511% 321%
UAE 190 1,148 2,673 2,300 604% 1,407% 1,210%
Total 5,260 18,278 24,451 16,698 347% 465% 317%
W. Al-Zubari et al. / Desalination and Water Treatment 81 (2017) 1–184
in groundwater levels/depletion, and significant saltwater
intrusion (by seawater or up-coning) into freshwater aquifers
resulting in degradation of the water supplies, abandonment
of wells, cessation of flows from springs, and other adverse
effects on groundwater-dependent sectors, especially the
agricultural sector. Moreover, fossil groundwater, which
have a finite usable reserve, are being mined extensively to
mainly meet agricultural water demands, without “exit strat-
egy” that include a balanced socioeconomic choices on the
use of aquifer storage reserves and on the transition to a sub-
sequent less water-dependent economy, and the replacement
water resource.
Finally, in some GCC countries, renewable shallow
groundwater is a vital natural resource for potable water
supply in both urban and rural population (e.g., Saudi Arabia
and Oman). However, many shallow aquifers in the GCC
countries are being threatened and polluted by numerous
point and non-point sources of pollution generated from
anthropogenic activities (agricultural, industrial, and
domestic), which pose health risks to the population.
Groundwater protection strategies, for example, vulnerability
mapping and wellhead protection areas restricting land use
from hazardous anthropogenic activities, are missing in
many countries.
2.2. Desalination
Desalination technology was introduced in the GCC
countries in the mid-1950s and has developed very rapidly to
counteract the shortage and quality deterioration in ground-
water resources and to meet the qualitative requirements
for drinking/domestic water standards. At present, munici-
pal water supplies in major cities of the GCC rely mainly on
desalinated water, which are used either directly or blended
with groundwater. Fig. 3 shows the increasing trends in
desalination capacity in the GCC countries. The current total
desalination capacity in these countries amounts to about
4.7 BCM, with the majority of this capacity installed in Saudi
Arabia (35%) and UAE (33%). Moreover, all the GCC coun-
tries are embarking on major desalination expansion projects.
Based on the contracted desalination plants, it is expected
that the desalination capacity of each GCC country would be
doubled by the year 2016 [4].
The primary desalination process used in the
GCC countries is the thermal process, particularly the
multi-stage-flash (MSF) distillation technology. This is an
established technology and is combined with cogeneration of
electricity, which greatly improves the economics of desali-
nation. It also exhibits significant economies of scale which
are critical for large-scale production. In addition, MSF
plants have a useful life of about 25 years that can be nearly
doubled through proper plant maintenance and refurbish-
ment. An alternative thermal technology, the multiple effect
distillation combined with thermal vapor compression, and
more energy-efficient even for smaller desalination plants
than MSF, has been increasing in the region in the past few
years. On the other hand, while the GCC countries continue
to rely on large-scale distillation plans, such as MSF, for
bulk water supply in the foreseeable future, reverse osmosis
technologies, both seawater and brackish water, have been
gradually adopted with some relatively large plants now in
operation in some countries, while in some countries it is
still under evaluation.
2.3. Treated municipal wastewater
The GCC countries have made substantial progress in
providing basic water and sanitation services to most of their
population, which is a commendable effort given their rap-
idly increasing population and urbanization. From a water
management perspective, treated wastewater in the GCC
countries constitutes an increasing water source driven by
escalating water consumption in urban areas.
At present, all the six countries are operating modern
treatment facilities with tertiary and advanced treatment
capabilities (Quaternary, e.g., Sulaibiya Water Treatment,
Kuwait). The total designed treatment capacity of the
major treatment facilities has increased from 1.1 BCM/year
in the mid-1990s to about 1.4 BCM/year in 2008, and is
currently (2011) at about 1.9 BCM/year. Most of the waste-
water facilities are managed and operated by govern-
ment authorities, with an emerging trend of privatization
in most the GCC countries. All the GCC countries have
adopted a centralized wastewater system; however, in the
past few years some countries have started to move to a
decentralized system.
3. Water demands
During the past four decades, total water demands in
all GCC countries have increased dramatically as a result of
high population growth and urbanization, improvements in
the standard of living, industrial development, and efforts
to increase food self-sufficiency. The total water use for all
sectors in the region increased dramatically from about
6 BCM in the 1980 to about 27 BCM in 2000 (Table 3), while
during the same period the population has increased from
about 14 million to about 30 million. The major component
of the total water demands in the GCC is the agricultural
sector consumption. This period (1980–2000) has witnessed
economic policies in most of the GCC countries that gave
priority and support to the development and expansion
of irrigated agriculture by mainly utilizing groundwater
resources. Food self-sufficiency was the major economic goal
Fig. 3. Trends in desalination capacity in the GCC countries,
1990–2012, in MCM.
5W. Al-Zubari et al. / Desalination and Water Treatment 81 (2017) 1–18
and it is used to justify the expansion of certain grains and
crops characterized as water intensive. Economic policies in
some countries encouraged overpumping of groundwater
for irrigation use.4 These policies have resulted in substantial
increases in groundwater abstraction volumes. In all GCC
countries, the abstracted volumes far exceeded the renewable
amounts of groundwater and the water deficit has been met
by either overdrafting renewable groundwater resources, or
mining of non-renewable groundwater sources.
While this trend continued with varying degrees in many
GCC countries, in 2000 Saudi Arabia has made major review
of its food self-sufficiency policy (phasing out wheat produc-
tion) and irrigation water conservation programs,5 which have
resulted in a general decline in its irrigated areas and ground-
water abstraction, which is reflected on the country’s total water
demands in 2010, as well as on the total GCC water demands,
as shown in Table 3. However, the total water demands contin-
ued to increase in most of the other GCC countries.
Tab le 4 illustrates the sectoral water consumption in the
GCC countries for the year 2010, as well as their share to
the total water demands in each country. The overall agri-
cultural sector water consumption constitutes about 77% of
the total water demands, which is dominant in the coun-
tries of Oman (85%), Saudi Arabia (83%), and UAE (68%),
while it represents about 40% of the total water demands
for Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar. In the latter three coun-
tries, the municipal sector is the main water consuming
sector (over 50%), with an overall share of about 18% in
the region. In all the countries, the municipal water share
has been observed to be increasing with time, which might
probably hint toward competition on water resources in the
future.
The water consumption of the industrial sector6 rep-
resents the least share in the total water demands with an
overall 5.3% share, varying between 10.4% in UAE to 1.7%
in Kuwait. However, it should be noted that these figures
do not account for the actual water use of the sector, where
many industries have their own desalination plants and
some are using the municipal water supply. It is expected
that under the current GCC countries’ plans to expand
and diversify their industrial base to non-oil industries,
the current industrial water consumption are much higher
than the reported ones and the future would see rapid
increases in demand for water in this sector. However, it is
also expected that the majority of the water requirements
of the industrial sector would be met by its own desalina-
tion plants.
Table 3
Total water demands development in the GCC countries, 1980–2010, in MCM
Country 1980a1990aGrowth rate
(1980–1990)
2000bGrowth rate
(1990–2000)
2010 Growth rate
(2000–2010)
Bahrain 138 223 162% 269 121% 450 167%
Kuwait 186 383 206% 993 259% 1,179 118%
Oman 665 1,236 186% 1,303 105% 1,822 140%
Qatar 110 194 176% 433 223% 653 150%
KSA 2,362 16,300 690% 20,800 128% 17,446 84%
UAE 789 1,490 189% 3,506 235% 4,600 131%
Total 6,230 19,826 318% 27,304 138% 26,150 95%
aAl-Alawi and Abdulrazzak [3].
bWB and AGFUND [2].
Table 4
Water consumption by sector in the GCC countries in MCM (2010)
Country Municipal Industrial Agricultural Total
Bahrain 231 (51.3%) 29 (6.4%) 190 (42.3%) 450
Kuwait 646 (54.8%) 20 (1.7%) 513 (43.5%) 1,179
Oman 182 (10.0%) 94 (5.2%) 1,546 (84.8%) 1,822
Qatar 370 (56.7%) 22 (3.4%) 261 (39.9%) 653
KSA 2,283 (13.1%) 753 (4.3%) 14,410 (82.6%) 17,446
UAE 983 (21.4%) 477 (10.4%) 3,140 (68.2%) 4,600
Total 4,695 (18.0%) 1,395 (5.3%) 20,060 (76.7%) 26,150
4Subsidized prices of gasoline and electricity, subsidized credit for
buying water pumps and irrigation equipment, exemptions of tariffs
on imported fertilizers and equipment, subsidized prices of certain
agricultural products, protection against foreign competition in the
domestic markets, are all examples of the tools used to implement
these agricultural-based economic policies. It is obvious that none of
these policies have been subject to serious assessment in terms of their
impact on the sustainability/longevity of groundwater resources.
5Since 2000, the Saudi government has taken major steps to lower
irrigation water consumption such as stopping land distribution and
reducing input subsidies in order to reduce groundwater depletion,
encourage efficient irrigation water use and reduce fiscal burdens. It
has also provided incentives for the use of water-saving technologies
such as drip irrigation and soil moisture sensing equipment.
6There is a need for a clear and unified definition for the industrial
sector in the national accounts of the GCC.
W. Al-Zubari et al. / Desalination and Water Treatment 81 (2017) 1–186
4. Main water sector challenges
The overall major challenge faced by the GCC countries
is the continuous increase in water scarcity and the increasing
financial, economic, and environmental costs associated with
providing sectoral water supplies, which are rapidly expand-
ing and rather competing on limited and relatively expensive
water resources. This challenge is expected to grow with time
and under the current policies and management approaches
due to many pressing “external drivers”, including rapid
population and urbanization growth rates, increasing food
demand, prevailing general subsidy system, anticipated cli-
mate change impacts, and “internal drivers” including unsus-
tainable consumption patterns, relatively large water losses,
inadequate water recycling and reuse, and the continuous
deterioration and depletion of groundwater resources. All
these driving forces are working against the achievement of
an efficient water management system and its sustainabil-
ity,7 for that the financial, economic, and environmental cost
are increasing with time, without any major counter driving
forces, unless water policy reforms, and strong management
interventions are made.
In the majority of the GCC countries, to reduce the gap
between available water resources and escalating water
demands, water management efforts have been primarily
concentrated on the development of water supplies and
addressing all water resources problems from the supply
side. These are manifested by the expansion of desalina-
tion and wastewater treatment plants, expansion in dam’s
capacity, and increasing groundwater abstraction. Other
efforts to enhance the efficiency of the supply system,
such as reducing physical losses in the water distribution
networks, have also been made. Demand-side manage-
ment efforts, that is, directed toward influencing water
demands, in the GCC countries are very few and quite lim-
ited. Demand management8 tools9 are generally absent in
most of the GCC countries, or, if they exist (e.g., tariffs)
have been ineffective in influencing demands. The follow-
ings summarize the main challenges faced by the main
water-related sub-sectors.
4.1. Municipal water supply sector
Meeting the escalating water demands under the cur-
rent rapid growth rates of population and urbanization and
high per capita consumption patterns. The increase in water
demand will require the construction of more desalination
plants, and more exploitation of groundwater, which are fossil
with limited recharge and are rapidly depleting and deteriorat-
ing. Currently, all the GCC countries have an established pol-
icy of providing their municipal/drinking water supply from
desalination and reduced their dependence on groundwater.
This has led to significantly large share of drinking water is
supplied by desalination plants in all GCC countries (Table 5).
The costs associated with desalination expansion would be
enormously manifested by: (1) the required energy (oil and
gas) for desalinated water production (including its opportu-
nity cost and in situ value); (2) financial and energy/electricity
cost of every stage in the operation of the water cycle system
(i.e., production, transmission, and distribution); and (3) envi-
ronmental costs in terms of thermal brine discharge by desali-
nation plants and their impacts on the surrounding coastal
and marine environment, and air pollution by burned fossil
and their impacts on human health and the environment. On
the other hand, expansion in groundwater abstraction means
more overexploitation and further deterioration of groundwa-
ter resources.
In addition to these cost, other externalities and costs
related to the municipal water consumptions itself exist,
the most important of which are those related to the
volumes of the generated municipal wastewater. These
are manifested by the financial and energy costs of the
wastewater treatment process, in addition to the environ-
mental costs when hydraulic loading occurs, impacting
treatment efficiency, and increasing carryover volumes to
the coastal and marine environments.
Generally, low water efficiency of the municipal water
sector in both the supply side and demand side. On
the supply side, many GCC countries experience high
non-revenue water (NRW10) in the municipal distribution
network, particularly real losses (i.e., physical leakage),
while recycling in the sector is negligible. For example,
the physical leakage in Saudi Arabia is estimated to be
Table 5
Trends in desalination water share in the municipal water supply
in the GCC countries, 1990, 2000, and 2010
Country 1990a2000a2010
Bahrain 54% 66% 90.9%
Kuwait 79% 90% 84.2%
Oman 37% 33% 73.6%
Qatar 98% 100% 97.3%
KSA 47% 41% 55.1%
UAE 63% 81% 100%
Total 55% 56% 74.3%
aWB and AGFUND [2].
7A sustainable water management system can be defined as (Al-Zubari
[5]) “a system that can supply adequate amount of water with the
required quality to the various development sectors, under the lowest
financial, economic, social, and environmental costs, to achieve max-
imum socioeconomic benefits in terms of use added-value and con-
tribution to the overall national development, on a long-term basis.”
8The adaptation and implementation of a strategy by a water institu-
tion or consumer to influence the water demand and usage of water
in order to meet any of the following objectives: economic efficiency,
social development, social equity, environmental protection, sustain-
ability of water supply and services, and political acceptability.
9Economic tools: price-signaling mechanism: metering, pricing,
incentives/disincentives; technological tools: water-saving devices;
legislative tools: building codes and bylaws.
10NRW is the difference between the volume of water put into a
water distribution system and the volume that is billed to custom-
ers. NRW comprises three components: real losses, apparent losses,
and unbilled authorized consumption. Real losses are through leaks,
sometimes also referred to as physical losses. Apparent losses are
through theft, metering inaccuracies, data-handling errors, etc.,
NRW will be discussed in detail in the next two paragraphs on cost
recovery.
7W. Al-Zubari et al. / Desalination and Water Treatment 81 (2017) 1–18
ranging from 20% to 40%, and in Bahrain it is about 30%,
leading to significant financial and economic losses.11 On
the demand side, the per capita water consumption in
the domestic sector in most of the GCC countries is high.
The average daily water consumption per capita in these
countries ranges between 238 and 59012 L, which at its
high levels ranks the highest in the world. This volume
has dramatically increased over the last three decades.
Such losses represent an opportunity lost as well as use of
water without an economic or social purpose.
Non-existence of a price-signaling mechanism to influ-
ence water use in the majority of the GCC countries.
The currently prevailing political economy in the GCC
countries, where a general subsidy system exists, makes
the use of economic incentives/disincentives difficult.
Despite the existence of tariffs for municipal water con-
sumption in all the GCC countries the current tariff is not
effective in influencing water consumption and does not
encourage water savings.13
Moreover, the existing very high rates of subsidies for the
municipal water services and consumption results in very
low cost recovery percentages (Fig. 4). This creates a heavy
financial burden of the municipal sector on the fiscal budget
and also makes the sector captive to government allocations,
which might impact its performance in some countries.
Currently, the adopted desalination technology, that
is, cogeneration power desalination plants, is energy
intensive, with energy cost representing about 85%
of their running cost, as well as placing strain on the
environment. Desalinated water production along with
the other components of transmission and distribution
is claiming a sizable portion of the energy resources
in the GCC countries. Available figures indicate that
in Kuwait desalination consumes about 55% (Darwish
et al. [7]) of the total energy used in the country, in
Bahrain it is about 30%, in Saudi Arabia it is about 25%
(Al-Hussayen [8]). Energy consumption by the munici-
pal water sector is growing with alarming rates which is
threatening the very source of income of the GCC coun-
tries (i.e., oil and gas).
4.2. Wastewater sector
From a water management perspective, the main chal-
lenge in the wastewater sector is the low efficiency of waste-
water recovery and the large mismatch between wastewater
treatment levels and treated wastewater reuse. Despite the
fact that all the GCC countries have provided commendable
rates for sanitation services and are operating modern treat-
ment facilities with tertiary and advanced treatment capabil-
ities, the reuse potential of the generated wastewater is not
fully developed. The collected wastewater on average in the
GCC countries does not exceed 50% of the total domestic
water volumes (Table 6), which should be at least 60%, while
the reuse rates are less than 40% of the treated wastewater
volumes. Under the water scarcity conditions of the GCC
countries, such low recovery and reuse rates represent major
opportunities lost; as a substitute to the limited freshwater in
the GCC countries, treated wastewater has the potential to
play an important role in water resources management and
lessen the present and long-term demand vs. supply imbal-
ance. A summary of the main challenges of the municipal
wastewater sector in the GCC countries are as follows.
Hydraulic loading of the wastewater treatment systems,
which occurs due to rapidly increasing municipal water
consumption beyond the capacity of the treatment capac-
ity resulting from lack of integrated planning between
the municipal water supply and municipal wastewa-
ter sector, in addition to high percentage of infiltration
from shallow water to the collection network. Such con-
ditions impact both the environment (increasing carry-
over volumes) and the quality of treated wastewater for
reuse.
Fig. 4. Average cost of water production, transmission, distribution, and subsidies (%) in the GCC countries (Strategy& [6]).
12Bahrain = 320, Kuwait = 500, Qatar = 512, Oman = 140, KSA = 238,
UAE = 520 liters per capita per day (averages).
13In 2016, there has been a revision of the municipal water tariff in
Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain, and a similar plan is in preparation
in Kuwait.
11It should be noted that it was rather difficult to accurately estimate
the actual physical losses in the distribution network due to a number
of reasons, such as the reporting of NRW values without detailing its
components (i.e., real losses, apparent losses, and unbilled authorized
consumption), and the mixing between unaccounted-for-water and
NRW. Another reason is the deficiency in water metering and billing.
W. Al-Zubari et al. / Desalination and Water Treatment 81 (2017) 1–188
High level of infiltration to the collection network by shal-
low waters results in increased salinity levels of the pro-
duced treated water which impacts the suitability of its
reuse. In addition, significant volumes of industrial waste
enter the wastewater collection system which impacts the
efficiency of treatment and eventually reuse.
Very low cost recovery of the wastewater sector due to
the absence of an explicit wastewater tariff (collection and
treatment) in the majority of the GCC countries (except
for Oman), there is no explicit tariff for wastewater collec-
tion and treatment. Such cost recovery ratios increase the
wastewater sector’s financial burden on the fiscal bud-
get, makes the sector captive to government allocations,
and deprives the water sector from having an enforcing
mechanism in water conservation. The same can be said
for reuse, where providing the water free of charge does
not encourage water saving, especially in the agricultural
sector.
In some countries, there is a rapid expansion in septic
tanks due to lagging wastewater services behind water
supply services.
4.3. Agricultural sector
Despite the fact that GCC countries are among the poorest
nations in the world in terms of the availability of renewable
water resources, agricultural sector is the major consumer of
these resources. Agriculture consumes up to 85% of the total
water supplies in some of the GCC countries, drawn mainly
from groundwater (94%), even though agriculture does not
contribute more than 2% of any GCC country’s GDP. The main
crops consuming water resources include cereals, fodder,
vegetables, and fruits and dates grown mainly in open fields
using traditional flood irrigation. With the exception of Saudi
Arabia, which have recently implemented a major agricultural
policy reform, the agricultural sector water consumption con-
tinues to grow in all the GCC countries (Ta ble 7) leading to
overdrafting of groundwater resources and their degradation.
The agricultural sector in the GCC countries faces many
challenges and constraints, the most important of these are
summarized as follows.
Limited surface water resources and continuous deteri-
oration in irrigation water quality and general deteriora-
tion of farming, especially in the coastal regions. In many
GCC countries, there is a clear conflict between agricul-
tural development policies and available water resources.
While most of the natural water resources are used by
the agricultural sector, groundwater resources are over-
exploited by the agricultural sector beyond their safe
yields, leading to their quality deterioration by salt water
intrusion. Degradation of the quality of irrigation water
gradually leads to reduction in productivity and eventu-
ally loss of agricultural lands.
Heavy mining of deep non-renewable aquifers leading to
rapid depletion and quality deterioration, mainly by the
agricultural sector, leading to dramatic declines in their
water levels. In addition to the loss of these vital national
strategic reserves, as drawdown increases pumping lift
costs increases too.
The absence of a national water strategy integrated with
a national agricultural strategy, with unclear future agri-
cultural vision. Certainly, there is a need for a compre-
hensive revision of agricultural development strategies
and food security and their integration with a national
water strategy.
The economic value of the unit of water used in agricul-
ture is not considered in the feasibility studies of large
agricultural farms because groundwater is assumed to be
free good. In all the GCC countries, there are no charges
for groundwater consumption for the agricultural sec-
tor (as well as treated wastewater used in agriculture).
Moreover, in most of the countries there are no flow
meters installed on groundwater wells, which makes it
Table 6
Treated wastewater and reuse in the GCC countries, 2010
Country Municipal water
consumption
Collected WW
(MCM)
Treated WW
(MCM)
Reused treated
WW (MCM)
% of collected
to municipal
% of treated
of collected
% of reused to
treated
Bahrain 231 112 48 43 48 43 90
Kuwait 646 314 156 96 49 50 61
Oman   283a60.5 60.5 – – 100
Qatar 370 130 101 101 43 78 100
KSA 2,283 1,334 219 – – 16
UAE 983 556 308 – – 55
Total 4,796 2,256 875 – – 39
aIndustrial water use; WW, wastewater; data not available.
Table 7
Trends in agricultural water consumption in the GCC countries,
1990–2010, in MCM
Country 1990a2000a2010
Bahrain 120 137 190
Kuwait 80 221 513
Oman 1,150 1,124 1,546
Qatar 140 247 261
KSA 14,600 18,300 14,410
UAE 950 2,162 3,140
Total 17,009 22,214 20,060
aWB and AGFUND [2].
9W. Al-Zubari et al. / Desalination and Water Treatment 81 (2017) 1–18
even harder to monitor and control groundwater abstrac-
tion. Volumetric water metering and pricing, even if sym-
bolic, could be a powerful tool to give right price signals
and value of used water to encourage farmers to improve
irrigation water use efficiency and enhance agriculture
production.
Exaggeration of the agricultural water consumption due
to the predominance of traditional irrigation methods
(flood irrigation) leading to low irrigation efficiencies,
cultivating high water consuming crops (e.g., cereals and
fodders), unrestricted groundwater abstraction rights,
and absence of water metering and tariff for groundwa-
ter use in agriculture. These are discussed in more details
as follows.
While there is a clear trend toward the use of modern irri-
gation methods and greenhouses cultivation, traditional
irrigation methods, that is, flood irrigation, is still the
dominantly practiced method in many GCC countries.
Flood irrigation methods are used on 72% of the agri-
cultural lands in Bahrain, 63% in Kuwait, 60% in Oman,
and 75% in Qatar. The use of traditional methods leads to
high water losses, resulting in low irrigation efficiencies,
reported at 25%–40%.
Major crops cultivated in the GCC countries are cate-
gorized into four categories: cereals, fodder, vegetables,
and fruits and dates. Currently, there is a general trend
toward cultivating fodder crops in all the GCC countries,
which is attributed to two factors; alfalfa tolerates high
salinity, and it is a cash crop grown all year round with
high local demand, which makes it suitable for most of
the GCC countries experiencing problems in soil and
water quality. However, in terms of water consumption
fodder crops have a high irrigation water requirement,
which impacts agricultural water demand and eventually
its supply source of groundwater. In addition to these
two factors, areas of fodder crops cultivation has been
enhanced by the policies of many GCC countries in using
treated wastewater for fodder production as a barrier in
their risk management plans to minimize health risks
associated with the reuse of treated wastewater.
Undefined groundwater abstraction rights and water
allocations make water use in the agricultural sector
water consumption uncontrolled.
Due to lack of metering in many countries, agricultural
sector consumption is based on estimates which consider-
ably vary in some countries. Given that agriculture is the
largest consumer of groundwater, determining the cor-
rect quantity of water consumption is critically important
for proper water management in the sector.
4.4. Industrial sector
In the GCC countries, the industrial sector is expanding
rapidly to non-oil industries due to diversification policies,
and its water consumption is expected to be increasing along
with diversification plans. The total water consumption in
the industrial sector in the GCC countries increased from
about 321 MCM in the mid-1990s, representing about 1.3% of
the total water consumption of these countries, to about 1.3
BCM in 2010, and represented about 5.3% of their total water
consumption. These non-oil industries include steel, mining,
cement factories, food industry, and many others. However,
there is a general lack of data related to the water consump-
tion by the industrial sector (both oil-related and non-oil
industries) and its quality requirements. Based on the avail-
able data the main sources for the sector are groundwater
(96%) and desalinated water, with a continuously increasing
trend in water utilization by the sector, which might compete
with other sectors. There is a large potential for the industrial
sector to use treated municipal wastewater, however, in some
countries, the industrial centers are located far away from
wastewater treatment plants where treated wastewater is
available, which poses the problem of transportation and its
cost. Moreover, large volumes of the generated wastewater
by the industrial sector are not treated nor recycled/utilized.
Environmental policies and regulations and enforcement in
this regard are urgently needed.
4.5. Security of drinking water supply
The drinking water supply system in the GCC countries
depends heavily on water supplied by desalination plants
with their feed water in the Arabian Gulf. Desalination plants
are highly vulnerable and at risk to a number of threats
that might occur in the Arabian Gulf seawater from vari-
ous activities, both land-based and marine-based activities.
These could be natural or man-made, and include mari-
time pollution (e.g., oil spills and red tide), maritime con-
tamination (e.g., nuclear and wastewater), natural disasters
(e.g., hurricane and seawater flooding), actual combat (e.g.,
targeting desalination facilities), as well as pollution from
agricultural and wastewater discharges to the marine envi-
ronment. Other risks to the municipal water supply system
are power outage, information technology, and supervisory
control and data acquisition hacking. In response to these
threats, the majority of the GCC countries are implementing
plans that aim at increasing their strategic reserves of munic-
ipal water supply through storage reservoirs. In addition,
a bilateral water grid between the GCC countries has been
recently proposed within the GCC Water Grid project.
4.6. Governance, institutional and legislation
The current institutional arrangements of the water
sector in the majority of the GCC countries is fragmented,
which leads to the dominance of sub-sectoral water man-
agement approaches and impedes integrated management
of the water sector. Moreover, interministerial coordination
and coordinated planning between the water sector and
other related sectors, particularly agriculture and energy are
informal and limited. Reflecting institutional and policy frag-
mentation, water legislation in the majority of the GCC coun-
tries are also fragmented and concern specific water sectors,
rather than consolidated under a comprehensive national
water law that reflects the policy and strategic aspects of the
whole water sector. Moreover, many legislative gaps exist
and need updating.
4.7. Health and environmental issues
The life cycle of water supply to the various consuming
sectors in the GCC countries are associated with a number
W. Al-Zubari et al. / Desalination and Water Treatment 81 (2017) 1–1810
of health and environmental concerns, the most important of
which are groundwater depletion and quality deterioration,
the negative impacts of desalination on the surrounding envi-
ronment and ecosystem, the negative impacts of the discharge
of partially treated/untreated municipal and industrial wastes.
5. The GCC Unified Water Strategy
A brief summary of the components of the GCC UWS
is presented here, including its vision, mission, values, stra-
tegic themes, strategic objectives and their policies and the
targets of their KPIs.
5.1. Vision, mission, values, and principles
Based on the current conditions of the GCC countries
water sector, the immense challenges and risks facing the sus-
tainable management of the water sector in these countries,
and to ensure the sectors continuation to serve the socioeco-
nomic development in the GCC countries, the vision, mission
statements, and the guiding values and principles of the GCC
UWS are formulated as follows.
Vision: By 2035 the GCC countries have established sus-
tainable, efficient, equitable, and secure water resources
management systems contributing to their sustainable socio-
economic development.
Mission: To align GCC states’ national water strategies
and master plans with a unified GCC water management
strategy that foster joint initiatives and strengthen the capac-
ities of each country in achieving a rational, integrated, effi-
cient, and sustainable management of their water resources.
Values and principles: The objectives, policies, and programs
of the GCC UWS are guided by the following principles:
Achieving highest international standards of service
delivery in water supply and sanitation to the GCC grow-
ing population;
Implementing effective water governance (institutions,
legislation, participation, decentralization, transparency,
and accountability);
Raising water awareness of the GCC societies;
Adopting integrated supply and demand driven
approach in all water consuming sectors and focusing
water efficiency, demand management, and conservation;
Water valuation in the GCC countries;
Integrating future impacts of climate change by integrat-
ing appropriate adaptation measures in water resources
planning and management;
Promoting R&D and innovative technological solutions
in the water sector;
Adopting a water–energy–food nexus approach in the
planning and management of the water sector;
Enhancing institutional and national human capacity; and
Active partnership in the international and regional
water agenda.
5.2. Strategic themes and objectives
The GCC UWS is founded on five strategic themes which
constitutes its pillars and reflects its vision and mission state-
ments (Fig. 5). The first three pillars are related to resources
sustainability under normal and emergency conditions
and their efficient utilizations, and represent development,
enhancement, and improvement themes, while the last two
are related to establishing an enabling environment for the
sustainable and effective management of the water sector in
the GCC countries and represent governance, control, and
incremental uplift themes. In the developed strategy, another
four themes have been considered as cross-cutting themes,
wherever applicable, and are related to capacity develop-
ment and training, research and development, environmen-
tal and ecological aspects, and impacts of climate change.
Each one the five themes contain one or more strategic
objective, as illustrated in Table 8. These strategic objectives
are formulated to operationalize the mission statement and
to reflect the principles and values of the strategy. They
help to provide guidance on how the GCC UWS can fulfill
or move toward the “high goals” in the mission and vision
statements. Each of these strategic objectives consists of a
number of policies (or sub-objectives), which are realized
through a number of programs (or initiatives),14 which are
divided into a number of sequential activities15 (or tasks),
with each of these activities has an ownership/responsibility
and a completion indicator.
5.3. Key performance indicators and targets
A detailed integrated implementation plan of the GCC
UWS has been developed for each policy, program, and
activity with their owners/responsibility against a specific
timeline and associated KPIs for the period of 2016–2035.
Milestones and targets for each KPI have been set to track
future implementation progress and to monitor the success
of the GCC UWS implementation with a base line estab-
lished for the year 2015. Overall, the execution plan con-
tains 82 KPIs, the most important of these are presented in
Tab le 9.
Fig. 5. Strategic themes for the GCC UWS.
14Refer to Annexure for the policies of each strategic objective (total
45 policies).
15Not included in this paper due to paper length limitations.
11W. Al-Zubari et al. / Desalination and Water Treatment 81 (2017) 1–18
6. Future scenarios and cost analysis
The water management system dynamics in each GCC
country is modeled using Water Evaluation and Planning
Modeling System. For each GCC country, the dynamics of
the water management system (i.e., population growth,
per capita water consumption, network losses, wastewater
generation and collection rates, agricultural areas, irriga-
tion efficiency, and other related parameters) is simulated
under the “Business-As-Usual” scenario (BAU) to the year
2035, where these current conditions and parameters are
Table 8
Strategic objectives (SO) of the GCC UWS
Theme 1: Development and sustainability of water resources
SO1: To acquire technology development and manufacturing of desalination and water treatment plants and diversification of
energy resources
SO2: To develop and protect conventional water resources
SO3: To maximize municipal wastewater collection, upgrade treatment and increase economic and safe use of treated wastewater
and sludge
Theme 2: Efficient and equitable water resources utilization
SO4: To achieve the highest international standards of water and wastewater services
SO5: To increase water efficiency and manage demands in the municipal and industrial sectors
SO6: To establish a water-efficient and rational agricultural sector compatible with the available water resources
Theme 3: Enhanced municipal water supply security
SO7: To secure water supply during emergencies and disasters
Theme 4: Effective water governance and awareness
SO8: To improve governance in the water sector to achieve effective and integrated water resources management
SO9: To achieve water-oriented society in the GCC countries
Theme 5: Economic efficiency and financial sustainability
SO10: To minimize water supply economic costs and increase cost recovery while maintaining quality of service
Table 9
Main KPIs and targets of the GCC UWS
No. KPI Target
1Desalination capacity manufactured/owned locally to total desalination capac-
ity in GCC countries
10% by 2035
2Share of renewable energies in the water sector in each GCC country (based on
set targets by GCC countries for renewable energy; COP21, SDGs)
10% at least by 2035
3 Collected wastewater to municipal water supply in each GCC country 60% by 2030
4 Reused treated wastewater to total treated in each GCC country 90% by 2035
5 Physical leakage in the municipal distribution network in each GCC country
(weighted average of all regional utilities in the country)
10% maximum by 2035
6 Per capita water consumption it the municipal water sector (calculated after
deducting the physical leakage)
250 L/capita/d maximum by 2035
7Average irrigation efficiency in each GCC country 60% minimum by 2035
8Development of national integrated emergency preparedness plan in each GCC
country
By 2020
9 Establishment of a joint GCC water grid committee under the umbrella of the
GCC General Secretariat
By 2017
10 Implementation of bilateral gridding between neighboring countries based on
the results of comprehensive studies
By 2025
11 Conducting project study for the “General GCC Water Grid” By 2030
12 Existence of a unified tariff framework and guideline for water sources and uses
in the GCC countries
By 2018
13 Cost recovery of water supply utilities 100% of operation and maintenance costs
by 2025, and 100% of total costs by 2035
W. Al-Zubari et al. / Desalination and Water Treatment 81 (2017) 1–1812
assumed to persist in the future. By using a number of cost
indicators, the future financial, economic, and environmen-
tal costs of the reference model are quantified. The official
population projections of the GCC countries are considered
in this analysis.
To highlight the many financial, economic, and environ-
mental benefits to all the GCC countries from the implemen-
tation of the GCC UWS, three “Management Interventions
Scenarios” representing the policies and targets of the GCC
UWS are simulated for each GCC country in the municipal
water supply/wastewater and agricultural sectors. The sim-
ulation results for these different scenarios are compared
with the BAU scenario and are analyzed in terms of potential
savings.
6.1. Potential water savings in municipal sector and their
associated costs
For the BAU scenario, the current per capita water con-
sumption and supply efficiency (physical leakage) of the water
network for each GCC country are assumed constant up to the
year 2035. Under the GCC UWS in each GCC countries a tar-
get of 250 L/d/cap and a reduction in the physical leakage of
the municipal distribution network to 10% (as a minimum) is
achieved gradually by the year 2035. Cost and impact indi-
cators implemented in the modeling are calculated for each
country and are assumed to be constant up to the year 2035.
These are:
Costs of water supply (US$/m3): Bahrain = 1.92; Kuwait
= 2.9; Oman = 2.0; Qatar = 2.74; KSA = 2.1; and UAE = 1.
Desalination energy requirement (kWh/m3): Bahrain = 20;
Kuwait = 13; Oman = 20; Qatar = 20; KSA = 20; and UAE = 15.4.
Greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions (CO2e/m3): Bahrain
= 13; Kuwait = 13 (assumed); Oman = 21; Qatar = 11.3;
KSA = 21; and UAE = 15.
Desalination to groundwater ratio in municipal water
supply in each GCC country is maintained at the same
current ratio (Tab le 5).
Ratio of desalination generated brines to desalinated
water is assumed 1:4.
The results show that under the BAU scenario, the total
municipal water supply requirements in the GCC countries
are expected to increase from 5.7 BCM in 2015 to about 11
BCM in 2035, that is, to double in the next 20 years. Under
Table 10
Cumulative municipal water supply volumes and their associated costs under the BAU scenario and GCC UWS management
interventions for the period 2016–2035
Scenarios Parameter Bahrain Kuwait Oman Qatar KSA UAE Total
BAU WS requirements (MCM) 6,245 18,912 5,924 12,450 66,189 57,097 166,816
GCC UWS WS requirements (MCM) 4,583 13,546 5,747 8,720 60,840 41,784 135,220
Savings 1,662 5,366 176 3,730 5,349 15,312 31,596
BAU WS Financial Cost (MUS$) 11,991 54,846 12,440 34,113 138,996 57,097 309,481
GCC UWS WS Financial Cost (MUS$) 8,799 39,283 12,069 23,893 127,764 41,784 253,592
Savings 3,192 15,562 370 10,220 11,232 15,312 55,889
BAU DESAL requirements (MCM) 5,621 18,345 3,732 12,126 36,404 57,097 133,324
GCC UWS DESAL requirements (MCM) 4,125 13,140 3,621 8,493 33,462 41,784 104,624
Savings 1,496 5,205 111 3,633 2,942 15,312 28,700
BAU DESAL energy requirements (M kWh) 112,415 238,484 74,637 242,523 728,074 879,289 2,275,422
GCC UWS DESAL energy requirements (M kWh) 82,493 170,814 72,417 169,864 669,238 643,477 1,808,302
Savings 29,922 67,670 2,221 72,659 58,837 235,812 467,120
BAU DESAL GHGs emissions (M kgCO2e) 73,070 238,484 78,369 137,025 764,478 856,451 2,147,877
GCC UWS DESAL GHGs emissions (M kgCO2e) 53,621 170,814 76,038 95,973 702,700 626,763 1,725,908
Savings 19,449 67,670 2,332 41,052 61,778 229,687 421,969
BAU Generated wastewater (MCM) 3,124 9,456 829 4,158 29,785 28,548 75,901
GCC UWS Generated wastewater (MCM) 2,292 6,773 805 2,912 27,378 20,892 61,052
Savings 832 2,683 24 1,246 2,407 7,656 14,848
BAU WW Treatment Financial Cost (MUS$) 3,436 9,740 912 4,574 32,763 31,403 82,829
GCC UWS WW Treatment Financial Cost (MUS$) 2,521 6,977 886 3,203 30,116 22,981 66,683
Savings 915 2,763 26 1,371 2,648 8,422 16,145
Note: WW, wastewater.
13W. Al-Zubari et al. / Desalination and Water Treatment 81 (2017) 1–18
this management intervention scenario, the total municipal
water supply requirements would increase from 5.7 BCM in
2015 to about 7.3 BCM in 2035, that is, a reduction of about
3.7 BCM in comparison with the BAU scenario water require-
ments (about 11 BCM in 2035).
The simulation results of the cumulative savings in terms
of volumes and associated costs for municipal water supply
and wastewater, desalination production, energy require-
ments, and emissions are presented in Table 10 for each GCC
country and as a total. Considerable financial, economic, and
environmental savings can be achieved by gradually enhanc-
ing the water efficiency of the municipal water sector in the
supply and demand sides.
6.2. Potential water savings in the agricultural sector
One of the main causes of the exaggeration of the agricul-
tural water consumption in most of the GCC countries is the
low irrigation efficiencies resulting from the predominance
of traditional irrigation methods (flood irrigation). While
there is a clear trend toward the use of modern irrigation
methods and greenhouses cultivation, traditional irrigation
methods, that is, flood irrigation, is still the dominantly prac-
ticed method in many GCC countries.16
The BAU scenario for the agricultural sector assumes the
continuation of the 2010/2012 trends in agricultural water use
(average cubic meter per hectare) and current irrigation effi-
ciency in each GCC country, and by assuming the stability
of the irrigated area in each GCC country (i.e., no expansion
or reduction in agricultural areas). Under this scenario, the
total GCC irrigation sector water requirements will remain
constant at about 20 BCM/year.
By implementing the GCC UWS strategy in the agri-
cultural sector and achieving its targets in terms of increas-
ing the irrigation efficiency from its current levels in each
GCC country17 to an average of 60% by the year 2035, the
GCC countries can save significant amounts of water that
would be withdrawn mainly from groundwater storage.
Implementing irrigation management programs starting
from 2016 to gradually achieve the set irrigation efficiency
target by the year 2035 would result in that the total agricul-
tural water requirements in the GCC countries will decrease
from 20 BCM in 2015 to about 16.8 BCM in 2035, that is, a
reduction of about 3.2 BCM. The cumulative savings for all
the GCC countries would be about 29 BCM for the period
from 2016 to 2035 (agriculture water requirements cumu-
lative savings for the period 2016–2035 in MCM: Bahrain
= 1,021; Kuwait = 2,924; Oman = 1,324; Qatar = 623; Saudi
Arabia = 20,516; and UAE = 2,689). This would translate
mainly into groundwater savings, and thus would support
plans for extending the life of non-renewable groundwater
and the restoration of renewable groundwater resources in
these countries (strategic objective 2). Table 11 displays the
agricultural water requirements for each country under this
scenario.
6.3. Potential wastewater contribution to the agricultural sector
One of the main policies in the GCC UWS is to increase the
collection rate of wastewater, treatment capacity, and treatment
level (strategic objective 3). In this scenario, the current ratio of
collected wastewater to municipal water supply in each GCC
country18 is increased gradually to reach the set target of 60%
by the year 2030 and kept constant until the year 2035. At the
same time, the target of reducing the per capita water con-
sumption to 250 L/d in the GCC countries is implemented, for
it will have implications on the dynamics of the wastewater
sector and the volumes of collected wastewater in each coun-
try. Moreover, the improvement in the irrigation efficiency in
the agricultural sector (target of 60%) is implemented as well.
In essence, this scenario includes the above two scenarios.
The scenario results for each country are illustrated in Fig. 6
and Table 11. It is clear that for countries where the municipal
sector has a large share in the total water consumption (i.e.,
Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar), generated wastewater under the
dynamics of these three scenarios (i.e., reducing per capita
water consumption, increasing wastewater collection rate, and
improving irrigation efficiency), if treated properly has large
potential to completely fulfill the agricultural sector water
requirements. In fact some countries might have a surplus as
we approach the year 2025 that can be used in other sectors,
such as industry, or for groundwater artificial recharge.
For the two countries of Oman and Saudi Arabia, where
the municipal water supply represents only 10% and 13%,
respectively, compared with an agriculture sector consump-
tion of 85% and 83%, respectively, the potential of the gen-
erated wastewater in contributing to the agricultural water
consumption, at best, is not more than 15% of these require-
ments. Moreover, these two countries have their major urban
centers, where the wastewater is generated, located at rela-
tively far distances from agricultural areas, which poses the
problem of transportation of these waters and might constrain
their reuse in the agricultural locations. Nevertheless, taking
into account the volumes generated, especially in the case of
Saudi Arabia, they still represent a major source of water that
can be reused in saving groundwater resources being utilized
in other sectors, such as the industry, landscaping, and for-
estry, or eventually groundwater artificial recharge.
7. Conclusion
The development of the GCC Unified Water Strategy
(2016–2035) represents a major milestone for the long and
intricate path for coping with the water scarcity in the arid
GCC countries. The overall strategy objective is to establish a
“sustainable water sector management system” in each GCC
country by securing long-term water supplies while meet-
ing strict criteria for socioeconomic, financial- and environ-
mental sustainability and public health requirements. The
16Flood irrigation methods are used on 72% of the agricultural lands
in Bahrain, 63% in Kuwait, 60% in Oman, 75% in Qatar, and 65%
in Saudi Arabia. A major achievement is made by UAE to convert
to modern irrigation methods that helped in saving 40%–60% of the
water used for agriculture activities, and reaching more than 90% in
Abu Dhabi Emirate.
17Average irrigation efficiencies in Bahrain = 32%; Kuwait = 25%;
Oman = 55%; Qatar = 45%; Saudi Arabia = 50%; and UAE = 55% (note:
numbers are averages).
18Bahrain = 50%; Kuwait = 50%; Oman = 14%; Qatar = 33%; Saudi
Arabia = 45%; and UAE = 50%.
W. Al-Zubari et al. / Desalination and Water Treatment 81 (2017) 1–1814
Table 11
Agricultural water requirements under management intervention of increasing irrigation efficiency, and generated wastewater under increasing wastewater collection rates
in the GCC countries for the period of 2016–2035, in MCM
Year Bahrain Kuwait Oman Qatar Saudi Arabia UAE
AGR water
requirements
Collected
WW
AGR water
requirements
Collected
WW
AGR water
requirements
Collected
WW
AGR water
requirements
Collected
WW
AGR water
requirements
Collected
WW
AGR water
requirements
Collected
WW
2010 218 121 513 305 1,546 32 261 123 14,410 1,028 3,140 492
2011 218 123 513 318 1,546 32 261 128 14,410 1,056 3,140 529
2012 218 125 513 330 1,546 33 261 136 14,410 1,085 3,140 567
2013 218 127 513 343 1,546 34 261 143 14,410 1,113 3,140 604
2014 218 130 513 356 1,546 35 261 149 14,410 1,142 3,140 642
2015 218 132 513 369 1,546 35 261 156 14,410 1,170 3,140 679
2016 214 135 501 379 1,546 36 259 162 14,353 1,201 3,140 732
2017 210 135 490 383 1,539 44 256 172 14,296 1,251 3,125 776
2018 207 136 479 387 1,531 53 254 182 14,239 1,300 3,110 819
2019 203 137 468 390 1,524 62 252 192 14,183 1,351 3,096 860
2020 199 137 458 393 1,517 71 250 202 14,127 1,402 3,081 900
2021 194 137 442 395 1,510 81 247 209 14,018 1,453 3,067 957
2022 189 137 427 397 1,503 92 244 215 13,909 1,504 3,052 1,012
2023 184 138 414 397 1,496 104 241 221 13,803 1,556 3,038 1,064
2024 179 138 401 397 1,489 116 238 226 13,698 1,608 3,024 1,114
2025 175 138 389 396 1,482 128 235 230 13,594 1,661 3,010 1,161
2026 166 138 366 394 1,475 139 230 234 13,442 1,715 2,997 1,231
2027 159 137 347 392 1,469 149 226 238 13,293 1,769 2,983 1,297
2028 152 137 329 388 1,462 161 222 240 13,148 1,824 2,970 1,359
2029 145 137 313 384 1,455 172 218 242 13,005 1,880 2,956 1,416
2030 140 137 298 379 1,449 183 214 243 12,866 1,935 2,943 1,469
2031 134 136 276 368 1,442 184 210 234 12,685 1,950 2,930 1,492
2032 129 136 258 357 1,436 185 206 224 12,509 1,964 2,917 1,509
2033 125 136 241 345 1,430 186 203 214 12,337 1,978 2,904 1,523
2034 120 136 227 333 1,423 187 199 204 12,171 1,991 2,891 1,531
2035 116 135 214 320 1,417 188 196 194 12,008 2,004 2,878 1,535
Note: AGR, agriculture; WW, wastewater.
15W. Al-Zubari et al. / Desalination and Water Treatment 81 (2017) 1–18
GCC countries implementation of the strategic objectives
and policies set in the strategy would result in a multitude
of successive benefits and contributes directly to the devel-
opmental goals of the GCC countries, would help to ensure
reliable water supplies today and for future generation, and
enhance the overall level of water security. Such conditions
will enable the water sector to continue serving the needs
of their socioeconomic development. However, failure to
achieve the set targets of the strategy would result in the
deterioration of both the quantity and the quality of water
supplies and increase the sectors associated financial, eco-
nomic, and environmental costs, which might eventually
impact the GCC countries efforts in achieving their socioeco-
nomic development goals.
Acknowledgements and credits
The development of the GCC Unified Water Strategy
and implementation plan 2015–2035 was in response to
the directives of their Majesties and Highnesses the leaders
of the GCC countries at their 31st session of the Supreme
Council in Abu Dhabi in December, 2010. The GCC General
Secretariat administered the study (Dr. Mohammed
Al-Rashidi, Director, Electricity and Water Department),
which was carried out by the King Abdulla Institute for
Research and Consulting Studies, King Saud University. The
Strategy Development team consisted of the following ten
national experts representing the six GCC countries (listed
in alphabetical order):
Fig. 6. Potential of wastewater contribution to agricultural water requirements in the GCC countries.
W. Al-Zubari et al. / Desalination and Water Treatment 81 (2017) 1–1816
Abdulaziz Al-Turbak, King Saud University, Saudi Arabia.
Ahmed Abdelwahab, Texas A&M University, Qatar.
Ahmed Murad, United Arab Emirates University, UAE.
Ali Al-Tkhais, Shura Council, Saudi Arabia.
Ibrahim Al-Muataz, King Saud University, Saudi Arabia.
Khalid Al-Ruwis, King Saud University, Saudi Arabia.
Meshari Al-Harbi, Kuwait University, Kuwait.
Waleed Al-Zubari, Arabian Gulf University, Bahrain.
Walid Zahid, King Saud University, Saudi Arabia.
Za her Al-Sulaymani, President, Oman Water Society/
Private Consultant, Oman.
References
[1] United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western
Asia, Updating the Assessment of Water Resources in ESCWA
Member Countries, UNESCWA Document E/ESCWA/
ENR/1999/13, UNESCWA, Beirut, 1999.
[2] WB (World Bank) and AGFUND (Arab Gulf Programme for
United Nations Development Organizations), A Water Sector
Assessment Report on the Countries of the Cooperation
Council of the Arab States of the Gulf, Report No. 32539-
MNA, 2005.
[3] J. Al-Alawi, M.J. Abdulrazzak, Water in the Arabian Peninsula:
Problems and Perspectives, P. Rogers, P. Lydon, Eds., Water
in the Arab World, Perspectives and Prognoses, Division of
Applied Sciences, Harvard University, 1994.
[4] GWI, Water Market Middle East 2010, Global Water Intelligence,
2010.
[5] W.K. Al-Zubari, Water Security in the GCC Countries, Water
and Food Security in the Arabian Gulf, The Emirates Center for
Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR), 2013, pp. 81–101.
[6] Strategy&, Achieving a Sustainable Water Sector in the GCC:
Managing Supply and Demand, Building Institutions, Price
Waterhouse Cooper, 2014. Available at: www.strategyand.pwc.
com
[7] M.A. Darwish, N.M. Al-Najem, N. Lior, Towards sustainable
seawater desalting in the Gulf area, Desalination, 235 (2009) 58–87.
[8] A. Al-Hussayen, Inaugural speech by the Minster of Water
and Electricity, Saudi Arabia, Water and Power Forum, Jiddah,
Saudi Arabia, 2009.
17W. Al-Zubari et al. / Desalination and Water Treatment 81 (2017) 1–18
Annexure
Policies of the strategic objectives of the GCC UWS
Strategic objective 1: To acquire technology development and manufacturing of desalination and water treatment plants and
diversification of energy resources
1.1 Establishing joint GCC desalination and water treatment industry
1.2 Establishing an advanced joint GCC R&D base in desalination and water treatment
1.3 Developing professional and technical capacity in desalination and water treatment in the GCC
1.4 Diversifying energy sources in the water sector
1.5 Mitigating the impacts of desalination and water treatment practices on the environment
1.6 Enhancing energy efficiency in desalination sector and the whole water sector
Strategic objective 2: To develop and protect conventional water resources
2.1 Ensuring longevity of non-renewable groundwater sources
2.2 Restoring renewable groundwater resources and ensure their sustainability
2.3 Maximizing the utilization of surface water
2.4 Ensuring availability of groundwater data and information for planning, management, and decision-making
2.5 Protecting groundwater resources from human activities
2.6 Enhancing institutional and individual capacity for conventional water resources planning and management
Strategic objective 3: To maximize municipal wastewater collection, upgrade treatment and increase economic and safe use of
treated wastewater and sludge
3.1 Increasing wastewater collection rates, treatment capacities, and treatment levels
3.2 Increasing treated wastewater reuse in all appropriate sectors
3.3 Enforcing legislations related to protection of health and environment in all stages of collection, treatment, and reuse of
domestic wastewater
3.4 Maximizing the beneficial use of wastewater sludge
Strategic objective 4: To achieve the highest international standards of water and wastewater services
4.1 Ensuring the highest international standards of water supply and sanitation services to all populated areas in the GCC
countries
4.2 Achieving the highest management standards for water supply utilities
4.3 Achieving the highest management standards for sanitation utilities
4.4 Enhancing the capacity and performance of water supply and sanitation personnel
Strategic objective 5: To increase water efficiency and manage demands in the municipal and industrial sector
5.1 Increasing supply efficiency of the municipal water network
5.2 Managing water demands and enhancing conservation in the municipal water sector
5.3 Increasing water efficiency and manage demands in the industrial sector
Strategic objective 6: To establish a water-efficient and rational agricultural sector compatible with the available water resources
6.1 Improving water use efficiency and increasing water productivity in the agricultural sector
6.2 Increasing the use of treated wastewater in agriculture in conformity of reuse standards
6.3 Allocating groundwater to the agricultural sector based on groundwater resources management plans
6.4 Adopting low-water consuming landscaping and forestation
Strategic objective 7: To secure water supply during emergencies and disasters
7.1 Establishing a highly resilient system for potable water supply under emergencies
7.2 Enhancing drinking water supply provision during emergencies in the GCC countries through water gridding
7.3 Establishing an early warning system for seawater contamination
7.4 Protecting the feed water of the GCC desalination plants from pollution
Strategic objective 8: To improve governance in the water sector to achieve effective and integrated water resources management
8.1 Ensuring integrated planning and coordination among water-related sectors in each GCC country
8.2 Ensuring water sector regulation
8.3 Improving institutional and individual capacity in planning and management decision-making in the water sector
8.4 Improving the legal framework and capacities of the water sector
(Continued)
W. Al-Zubari et al. / Desalination and Water Treatment 81 (2017) 1–1818
8.5 Providing water data and information for decision-making support
8.6 Customizing water-related standards compatible with the GCC countries conditions
8.7 Regulating the utilization of aquifers in the GCC countries
Strategic objective 9: To achieve water-oriented society in the GCC countries
9.1 Building water importance and value awareness for the future generation
9.2 Building awareness for water conservation importance and value for all water users
9.3 Building water importance and value awareness for the GCC society at large
Strategic objective 10: To minimize water supply economic costs and increase cost recovery while maintaining quality of service
10.1 Giving water an economic value in the GCC countries
10.2 Minimizing non-revenue water (NRW) in the GCC countries
10.3 Increasing public private partnership in the water sector
10.4 Adopting and implementing “polluters pay” principle in the water sector
Annexure (Continued)
... However, in the GCC countries, demand-side management has not yet been successfully implemented to reduce the water and electricity demands [14]. Tariffs in the GCC countries are significantly different from the actual production costs of water and electricity, as both are highly subsidized [28,29]. ...
... In addition, the cultural barriers and low awareness among the residents are one of the major causes of the GCC nations' significant increase in water and energy demand [13,30,31]. Removal of high subsidies requires social and political considerations [28] because the GCC countries' wealth has created a culture in which citizens regard free energy and water to be a birthright [14,29]. However, high subsidies lead to elevated resource consumption [28,29]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Although the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are in an arid region with limited water resources, the per capita water and electricity consumptions are high, at 560 L/capita/day and 7000–18,000 kWh/year, respectively. Although macroscale parameters (e.g., GDP and population) have been assumed to be correlated with water and electricity demand, this study aims to verify whether this assumption still holds true. As opposed to the previous literature, this study reveals that, although water production and electricity generation had been correlated with GDP and population for years, they have been decoupled from these macroscale parameters since 2015. Such decoupling can be explained by the three phases of economic development. In the initial stage, GDP and population growth promoted rapid increases in water and electricity demands, which came down in the second stage as the consumers became satisfied with water and electricity supplies. In the third stage, the water and electricity demands were decoupled from GDP and population due to demand-management policies for environmental protection and cost saving, combined with consumers’ efforts, such as water-saving faucets and energy efficiency in homes, which indicates that microscale parameters have become more influential on water and electricity demands than macroscale parameters.
... Around the globe, many countries suffer from water scarcity, which is anticipated to become a more challenging situation due to the negative impact of climate change. Water scarcity is particularly profound in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries (Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc.) because they are located in one of the most arid regions in the world and suffer from extremely limited fresh water resources (Al-Zubari et al. 2017). The GCC countries have adopted the reuse of treated wastewater as one of the strategic approaches to face water security issues (Al-Zubari et al. 2017). ...
... Water scarcity is particularly profound in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries (Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc.) because they are located in one of the most arid regions in the world and suffer from extremely limited fresh water resources (Al-Zubari et al. 2017). The GCC countries have adopted the reuse of treated wastewater as one of the strategic approaches to face water security issues (Al-Zubari et al. 2017). However, wastewater often contains hazardous pollutants, like steroid estrogens, that must be efficiently removed during wastewater treatment to ensure safe reuse Responsible Editor: Gerald Thouand * Wael Ismail waelame@agu.edu.bh ...
Article
Full-text available
Microbial biodegradation is a key process for the removal of estrogens during wastewater treatment. At least four degradation pathways for natural estrogens have been proposed. However, major estrogen degraders and the occurrence of different estrogen biodegradation pathways in wastewater treatment plants have been rarely investigated. This study was conducted to elucidate estrone biodegradation pathway and to identify key estrone-degrading bacteria in activated sludge from a major wastewater treatment plant in Bahrain. The biodegradation experiments were performed in activated sludge microcosms supplemented with estrone. Sludge samples were retrieved at time intervals to analyze the biodegradation metabolites and the temporal shifts in the bacterial community composition. Chemical analysis revealed the biodegradation of more than 90% of the added estrone within 6 days, and the compounds 4-hydroxyestrone and pyridinestrone acid, which are typical markers of the 4,5-seco pathway of aerobic estrone biodegradation, were detected. Temporal shifts in the relative abundance of bacteria were most prominent among members of Proteobacteria and Bacteroidetes. While the alphaproteobacterial genera Novosphingobium and Sphingoaurantiacus were significantly enriched (from ≤ 6% to an average of 31%) in the estrone-amended activated sludge after 2 days of incubation, the bacteroidete Pedobacter was uniquely detected in these microcosms at day 10. The relative abundance of Polyangia (Nannocyctis) increased to an average of 10 ± 0.4% in the estrone-amended activated sludge after 4 days of incubation. Enrichment cultivation of bacteria from the activated sludge on estrone resulted in a mixed culture that was capable of degrading estrone. An estrone-degrading strain was isolated from this mixed culture and was affiliated with the known estrogen-degrading Alphaproteobacteria Sphingobium estrogenivorans. We conclude that estrone degradation in the activated sludge from the studied wastewater treatment plant proceeds via the 4,5-seco pathway and is most likely mediated by alphaproteobacterial taxa.
... Beside population growth, water demand is also a function of economic activity of countries as shown in Fig. 1 [7]. Despite the increasing trends of water demand and Gross domestic product (GDP), the water use intensity per thousand GDP depicts a decreasing trend indicating improvement in water utilization by higher economic GDP, as shown in Fig. 2 [8]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Since the 1970s, commercial-scale thermally-driven seawater desalination plants have been powered by low-grade energy sources, drawn either with low-pressure bled-steam from steam turbines or the solar renewable energy harvested that are supplied at relatively low temperatures. Despite the increasing trend of seawater reverse osmosis plants, the role of thermal desalination methods (such as multi-stage flashing and multi-effect distillation) in GCC countries is still relevant in the Arabian Gulf, arising from higher salinity, the frequent algae blooms of seawater and their ability to utilize low temperature heat sources. Given the urgent need for lowering both the capital and operating costs of all processes within the desalination industry and better thermodynamic adaptation of low-grade heat input from renewable sources, the present paper addresses the abovementioned issues by investigating the direct contact spray evaporation and condensation (DCSEC) method. A DCSEC system comprises only hollow chambers (devoid of membranes or tubes, minimal use of chemical and maintenance) where vapor generation (flashing) utilizes the enthalpy difference between the sprayed feed seawater and the saturated vapor enthalpy of the vessels. Concomitantly, vapor is condensed with spray droplets of cooler water (potable) in adjacent condenser vessels, employing a simple design concept. We present detailed design and real seawater experiments data of a DCSEC system for the first time. The water production cost is calculated as $0.52/m3, which is one of the lowest figures reported compared to commercial processes presented by Global Water Intelligence.
... The GCC countries control around 40% of global oil and 20% of natural gas reserves [3,6]. Developing resource-rich nations, such as the GCC countries [7], are facing several major challenges that threaten water sector sustainability because of the swift economic and population growth caused by sharp increases in oil revenues [3,5,8]. ...
Article
Full-text available
In Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the population and water demand have nearly tripled in the last two decades. Thus, it has become critical to curtail the growing water demand. This study aimed to evaluate the efficacy of Abu Dhabi’s residential water demand management through the installation of water-saving fittings. The analysis of water consumption time-series data revealed that water consumption of the three water user categories was significantly different. Briefly: water-tariff exempt users consumed 95.19 m3/d/connection in 2019, followed by nationals with 5.14 m3/d/connection, and expats at 0.7 m3/d/connection. Nationals began saving water in 2011, which was earlier than the water tariff revision of 2015. In a newly developed area of Khalifa City, the water consumption of new residents was 46.0% less than that of old residents, indicating the effectiveness of water-saving fittings installed in new homes following the Housing Rules’ requirements. Then, based on the estimated number of new connections and the fittings’ saving efficiencies, we estimated that water-saving fittings contributed to 73.1% of the water savings since 2011. These results strongly recommend the introduction of an incentive or subsidy for owners of old houses to replace their outdated fittings with water-saving ones.
Article
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are located in one of the most arid regions in the world with very less freshwater resources, and hence depending on desalination plants to tackle the water scarcity and satisfy the increasing water demand. However, several adverse effects are associated with the desalination process and thus many technologies are being implemented to reduce their environmental effects. In this paper, the GCC desalination plants, their capacities, socio-economic costs, the nature of the brine discharged, the energy demand and water production costs have been discussed. The review also features the different desalination policies in the GCC countries, their potential environmental impact, the emerging techniques, which reduces the negative impact of the desalination plants on the environment. Also, the different mitigation strategies to lower the environmental impacts of different conventional desalination techniques are analysed. This study has confirmed that the environmental impact assessment should be carried out before building a new desalination plant or prolonging the capacity of the prevailing one for limiting the adverse impact of the facility. The use of renewable energy in the desalination sector is recommended as an impressive idea to reduce the environmental impacts and huge energy costs associated.
Chapter
Full-text available
Climate change strongly influences freshwater supply and demand globally. Warming of ~1°C over the last half century globally has directly impacted the supply of freshwater through the amplification of precipitation extremes, more frequent and pronounced floods and droughts, increasing evapotranspiration rates, rising sea levels, and changing precipitation and meltwater regimes. Groundwater, the world’s largest distributed store of freshwater, is naturally well placed to play a vital role in enabling societies to adapt to intermittent and sustained water shortages caused by climate change. It is also essential to satisfy the increased demand for water in order to realize many of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including no. 2 (zero hunger), 6 (water for all) and 13 (climate action). Aquifers transmitting and storing groundwater can also contribute to climate change mitigation through the use of geothermal energy to reduce CO2 emissions, as well as the capture and storage of emitted CO2. This chapter reviews the latest understanding of the impacts of climate change on groundwater quantity and quality as well as the opportunities, risks and challenges posed by the development of aquifers for climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Chapter
The water-food nexus in the Middle East and Northern African (MENA) region is characterized by resource depletion, import dependence and environmental degradation. This contribution proposes that consumption awareness and resource circularity can be seen as a pathway to alleviate environmental problems and achieve long-term supply security in the water and food sectors. The chapter introduces wastewater recycling as a salient and highly relevant development in the MENA region. Current directions in using treated wastewater are analyzed. Furthermore, forerunner countries from different MENA sub-regions are briefly introduced with the focus on the particular characteristics and policy challenges in each of presented cases of wastewater reuse. Furthermore, crosscutting issues are presented. These include the need for addressing the large consumption footprints in MENA countries, the existence of distorting subsidies for agricultural water, the lack of communities’ participation, the inadequacy of existing strategies and the suboptimal coordination mechanisms between water and food sectors. We suggest at the end of the paper some recommendations to policy makers in the region.
Article
Since 1971, United Arab Emirates strategies on water, food, and energy were top priority for the country and many of the conducted reports were done independently. Today and from security aspect, strategies should take into consideration the interlinkages between the current energy, water, and food strategies, and hence the nexus approach. The paper at hand will identify the historical development of these strategies and their potential relations to the nexus. In addition, the major public and private stakeholders/actors that influence the decision making process are identified. Finally, many of the recent policies that are related to the nexus are evaluated to determine if there are consensus among major stakeholders/actors in the country. Gephi software, network analysis and visualization package, was used to analyze the strength of the relationships among stakeholders/actors. KTAB, a toolkit for behavioral analysis model, is also used to analyze the level of consensus for several selected policies related to the nexus among the major stakeholders that influence the policy decision making in UAE. Results show a consensus among the major stakeholders/actors regarding the relevant policies but the linkages between the different stakeholders/actors need to be enhanced.
Article
The circular economy concept can enhance sustainability through restructuring consumption and production patterns using innovative designs and business models. This core premise is highly relevant for the interlinked water and food supply sectors in arid regions, which are threatened by natural scarcity and resource overuse. This paper transfers the idea of the circular economy into the practice of the water and food sectors using the example of the region of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It develops a framework for identifying circular economy strategies and issues applicable to basic supply sectors. In analyzing the value chain and circular strategies of the water and food sectors, the circular economy idea has resulted in numerous industrial applications. The range of applications is illustrated in the key industries of wastewater and local food production. Expanding the reuse options for municipal wastewater and valorizing organic waste represent important circular economy directions for the basic supply sector of the GCC. Incorporating these ideas is positive, but a more comprehensive set of measures is needed to generate low-carbon and low-metabolism economic development in the region. In addition to the current sporadic supply-side initiatives, there is a need for non-technical circular economy strategies related to demand management and waste reduction.
Article
For around 40 years, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have been developing cooperative frameworks that aim at enhancing security and economic cooperation as well as establishing joint action on common threats such as environmental degradation of the Gulf waters. Population and economic growth, alongside global issues such as climate change, have increased the pressure on vulnerable ecosystems. They have also resulted in the expansion of environmental concerns and the associated risks. In fact, contemporary sustainability issues represented by global visions such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include numerous issues to tackle sustainability in a comprehensive manner. Using mapping of the SDG-based sustainability issues, this paper examines interstate relations among GCC states aimed at achieving comprehensive sustainability outcomes through regional environmental cooperation. It highlights the conceptual and practical relevance of such regional cooperation among GCC states, which share a common pool resource (the Gulf) and many socio-economic, physical, and cultural similarities. Sustainability issues, interstate relations and GCC-based cooperation are examined in terms of policies, legacies, interests and commitments across different sectors; e.g., water, energy, agriculture, ecosystems, and climate. Despite not being comprehensive and not resulting in strong, enforceable outcomes, regional environmental cooperation in the GCC region has been valuable for environmental collaboration and policy coordination. There is a need to strengthen cooperative frameworks, issue representation, and participation in order to overcome the recent rise in interstate competition and political rifts that are negatively affecting the capacity of the regional level to contribute to future environmental outcomes.
Article
Gulf countries experienced rapid growth in the last four decades from oil production and its price increase. Natural water resources are very limited to meet this growth, and as result, desalted seawater in Kuwait became the main source of potable water, about 93% in 2002. The electric power and desalted water, produced in co-generation power desalting plants (CPDP), consumptions are continuously increasing, almost doubled every 10 years, due to population and standard of living increases. This led to the consumption of huge amounts of fuel, draining the country main fuel (and income) resource, and negatively affecting the environment. One tenth of Kuwait's oil production was consumed by the CPDP in 2003. If the trend of almost doubling the consumption every 10 years prevails, the total oil production may not be sufficient to desalt seawater for people to drink, and to produce power to run space air conditioning units (a necessity for Kuwaiti harsh weather). It is essential therefore to look for energy efficient ways to produce power and desalted water so as to save the nation's income of these non-renewable fuel resources, to save the environment and indeed life itself in Kuwait, and this is the objective of this paper. It reviews the presently used desalting methods and their energy demand, and the correctness of fuel allocation formulas for CPDP, to determine the most efficient methods to apply and the less efficient ones to avoid. Fourteen desalting cases are analyzed by using the current practice, with and without combination with power generation plants (using steam or gas or combined gas/steam turbines cycles). The specific fuel energy consumed and the emitted CO 2 , SO x , and NO x per m 3 desalted water were calculated for each case. The results show that operating thermally driven desalting systems by steam directly supplied from fuel-fired boilers is the most inefficient practice, and should be avoided. The use of the gas/steam turbine combined cycle, which is also the most efficient power-generation cycle, to drive seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) desalination plants is the most efficient combination. Also, all conservation measures in utilization of both water and power should be applied. Reclamation of waste water, at least for non-potable water needs must be promoted, because it consumes less energy and at cost much lower than those of desalting seawater.
Updating the Assessment of Water Resources in ESCWA Member Countries
  • E Document
  • Escwa
  • Enr
United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, Updating the Assessment of Water Resources in ESCWA Member Countries, UNESCWA Document E/ESCWA/ ENR/1999/13, UNESCWA, Beirut, 1999.
World Bank) and AGFUND (Arab Gulf Programme for United Nations Development Organizations)
WB (World Bank) and AGFUND (Arab Gulf Programme for United Nations Development Organizations), A Water Sector Assessment Report on the Countries of the Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf, Report No. 32539-MNA, 2005.
  • Water Gwi
  • Market Middle
  • East
GWI, Water Market Middle East 2010, Global Water Intelligence, 2010.
Saudi Arabia. Za her Al-Sulaymani, President
  • Meshari Al-Harbi
Meshari Al-Harbi, Kuwait University, Kuwait. Waleed Al-Zubari, Arabian Gulf University, Bahrain. Walid Zahid, King Saud University, Saudi Arabia. Za her Al-Sulaymani, President, Oman Water Society/ Private Consultant, Oman.
Water Security in the GCC Countries, Water and Food Security in the Arabian Gulf
  • W K Al-Zubari
W.K. Al-Zubari, Water Security in the GCC Countries, Water and Food Security in the Arabian Gulf, The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR), 2013, pp. 81-101.
Inaugural speech by the Minster of Water and Electricity, Saudi Arabia, Water and Power Forum
  • A Al-Hussayen
A. Al-Hussayen, Inaugural speech by the Minster of Water and Electricity, Saudi Arabia, Water and Power Forum, Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, 2009.