Geoengineering to Address UAE Water Shortage

In order to meet increasing water demands and combat the devastating effects of climate change, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is looking toward scientific innovation to help quench the Persian Gulf’s thirst.

Increasing water shortage in UAE

The first issue that leads to UAE water shortages is the essentially non-existent rainfall paired with the country’s high water consumption. The UAE’s capital of Abu Dhabi receives only 75mm of rainfall annually, with the country as a whole receiving less than 100mm of rainfall each year . Pair that with a water consumption that is the highest in the world, coming in at 82 percent above global average, and the situation starts to look serous.

But that’s not the only issue in the UAE’s water supply problems. Climate change is making this land even hotter and drier than ever before, with a study stating that the effects of climate change may make the Persian Gulf uninhabitable by 2071.

(MORE: See how ECS scientists are addressing water and sanitation issues around the world.)

For this reason, the UAE is turning toward German and Japanese researchers, offering a $5 million reward to researchers who could help solve this problem.

Geoengineering as possible solution

“There are many techniques to secure water resources,” said Masataka Murakami, of Nagoya University’s Institute for Space-Earth Environmental Research, who will lead one of the research teams. “But only precipitation enhancement can produce a lot of water for industrial use, irrigation etc. cheaply.”

This from The Guardian:

Over the next three years, Murakami’s team will deploy sensors and algorithms to identify the most promising clouds. A German team, led by Professor Volker Wulfmeyer of the University of Hohenheim, will study how winds and topography affect cloud formation and movement. Linda Zou will lead a team of researchers from the UAE’s Masdar Institute of Science and Technology using nanotechnology to increase water condensation within the cloud.

Read the full article.

Essentially, researchers are looking toward geoengineering to control climate and potentially bring more rainfall. One way researchers are looking at doing this is through firing salt flares into clouds to increase condensation and trigger rainfall. Researchers have observed that this technique could produce an extra 15 percent rainfall from an individual cloud.

Because of the seriousness of the issues, the UAE is also considering boosting desalination plant efficiency to produce freshwater from the sea, importing icebergs, and water trading. However, the UAE is looking to the scientists to find a more permanent solution.

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