If you’ve ever seen pictures of Dubai, you would have noticed that, while beautiful, Dubai is covered with sand. It is, in fact, in the desert, as is the whole UAE. So, this might now lead you to several questions. One of them is undoubtedly, where does Dubai get water from?
Most of the water in Dubai comes from desalinated seawater and brackish groundwater. Although Dubai has some access to freshwater, almost 99% of its drinking water comes from desalinated ocean water. In addition, companies have also started extracting water from the air.
This article investigates where Dubai gets its drinking water from. We will also discuss the disadvantages of Dubai’s water retrieval methods and alternative methods used to supply Dubai’s freshwater. Finally, this article will help you understand the water situation in Dubai.
Where Does Dubai Get Freshwater?
Dubai gets its freshwater mainly from desalinated seawater, groundwater, and surface water. Although not all of these water sources contribute equally to the water supply of Dubai, each sector contributes in part. Therefore, let’s discuss these three water retrieval methods in more detail.
1. Dubai’s Desalinated Seawater
Dubai mainly gets its drinking water from desalinated ocean water. The ocean water is pumped to Dubai from the Arabian Gulf. This water is used to cool the aluminum smelters. From there, the water is pumped to DEWA, where it is used for desalination and power generation. DEWA is Dubai’s Electricity and Water Authority.
Once the water is desalinated, it gets pumped into the public water system, where it then goes to the tap water system. Although desalinated ocean water is considered safe to drink, many Dubai residents don’t think it’s safe. They prefer to drink bottled water or boil the desalinated water before drinking it.
In addition to the strange taste and questionable safety of desalinated ocean water, there are also other disadvantages of the desalination process.
- It is a costly process to desalinate the ocean water.
- The process of desalination causes air pollution.
- Desalinating ocean water also disrupts the oceanic ecosystems, leading to chemicals being released into the ocean.
- The desalination process can lead to an increase in red tide in the surrounding ocean water.
Although desalination has many adverse effects, it is still used to produce 99% of the drinking water in Dubai. This is because the surface water simply isn’t enough for all the people in Dubai.
DEWA has achieved a second Guinness World Records title. They now hold the record for operating the world’s largest water desalination facility on a single site, capable of producing 490 million Imperial Gallons (2,227,587 Cubic Meters) of water per day. This achievement adds to their previous record in 2021 for having the largest single-site natural gas power generation facility in the world, boasting a power generation capacity of 9,547MW at the Jebel Ali Power Generation and Water Production Complex.
2. Dubai’s Groundwater Systems
Although Dubai has about 22,601 billion cubic feet of groundwater, only approximately 706 billion cubic feet is fresh, drinkable water. In addition, Dubai’s groundwater system can be divided into nonrenewable groundwater and renewable groundwater.
Nonrenewable groundwater is in the form of deep aquifers (or natural underground reservoirs). These underground water supplies run deep below the surface and will not be replaced when they are depleted. On the other hand, renewable groundwater resources are in the form of shallow aquifers. These aquifers are replaced with rainwater and surface water filtration, thus making them a renewable resource.
However, both nonrenewable aquifers and renewable aquifers are susceptible to oil leakage and pollution. In recent years, Dubai has paid a lot more attention to caring for and preserving its aquifers. As a result, the aquifers’ condition have started to improve.
Neither desalinated ocean water nor renewable aquifers seem to be a sustainable method for providing drinkable water to the people of Dubai. So, what are the alternatives to desalinated ocean water?
3. Dubai’s Atmospheric Water Generators
As the water scarcity in Dubai and other countries has been a growing concern, more companies have started looking for more sustainable ways of collecting drinkable water. One of these methods is by using atmospheric water generators. These generators work with solar power and harvest the drinking water from the air.
Although this process still isn’t used on a big scale, it seems to be a promising way of collecting enough fresh water in the future to reduce the need for desalination plants. Atmospheric water generators will be the perfect way to produce fresh water, as it doesn’t cause pollution. Dubai has sufficient space for solar panels to install atmospheric water generators, and recently did just that.
Harvested water will be supplied to hotels, residences, retail outlets, malls, and all other places where Dubai residents and visitors need fresh drinking water.
DID YOU KNOW?
Khalifa University launched the world’s first solar-powered atmospheric water generator in May 2023. The system is currently capable of producing and supplying up to 1,000 liters of drinking water straight from the air per unit, per day.
Is Dubai’s Water Safe To Drink?
Now that we have discussed the different ways Dubai gets water; we must consider if these ways result in safe drinking water. We’ve mentioned earlier that nearly 99% of Dubai’s water comes from desalinated ocean water. While this ocean water is considered safe to drink by experts, many Dubai residents, especially expats, don’t believe these claims.
Previous studies have shown that expats either refuse to drink tap water in Dubai or treat the water first before drinking it. Before using it, the desalinated ocean water can be boiled to treat the tap water. Although this will help to kill any bacteria or contaminants in the water, it does not improve the water’s taste.
This is another big problem with Dubai’s tap water. The tap water can sometimes have a strange and off-putting taste depending on where you are. Therefore, many people who live in Dubai prefer to drink bottled water or have water filters installed on their taps to improve the water’s taste.
However, regardless of the smell or taste of the tap water, the Dubai government assures its citizens that the tap water is entirely safe to drink and will not cause any side effects or health problems.
Does Dubai Use Wastewater?
As you might guess, in a country where water is such a scares commodity, it isn’t often wasted. Because sanitation uses tons of water, it is only reasonable to assume that some of the water used in sanitation is repurposed.
While wastewater is never used for tap water or drinking water, it is often used for irrigation. Wastewater is treated and processed. The result is clean water that isn’t safe to drink but is acceptable to use for watering plants and irrigation.
Overall, it would seem that Dubai does try its best to ensure safe drinking water for all its citizens. Desalinated ocean water contributes to 99% of all the tap water in Dubai. While safe to drink, this water requires an expensive process and leads to air and water pollution.
Groundwater, atmospheric water generators, and reusing wastewater are just some of how Dubai seeks to improve its freshwater supply to its people. While not everyone considers Dubai’s tap water to be safe, it is confirmed as safe to drink by the government.