Water Budget in the UAE for Applications in Food Security.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Rocio Gonzalez Sanchez, Taha Ouarda, Prashanth Reddy Marpu and Simon Pearson, Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
The current rate of population growth combined with climate change, have increased the impact on natural resources globally, especially water, land and energy, and therefore the food availability. Arid and semi-arid countries are highly vulnerable to these threats being already aware of the scarcity of resources depending mainly on imports. This study focuses on the UAE, with a very low rainfall, high temperatures and a very high rate of growth. It represents the perfect scenario to study the adaptive strategies that would allow to alleviate the effects of changing climate conditions and increase of population. Water is a key factor to food security especially in dry regions like the UAE, therefore, the first step of this approach is to analyze the water budget, first at a global scale (UAE), and after at smaller scales where particular and in-depth studies can be performed.

The water budget is represented by the following equation: total precipitation and desalinated water minus the evapotranspiration equals the change in the terrestrial water storage. The UAE is highly dependent on desalinated water, therefore, this factor is included as a water input in the water budget. The procedure adopted in this study is applicable to other Gulf countries where desalination represents a large component of the water budget. Remotely sensed data will be used to obtain the components of the water budget equation performing a preliminary study of the suitability of TRMM data to estimate the precipitation in the UAE by comparison with six ground stations in the country. GRACE and TRMM data will then be used to obtain the terrestrial water storage and the precipitation respectively. The evapotranspiration will be estimated from the water budget equation and maps of these three variables will be obtained. This spatial analysis of the water resources will help to determine the best areas for cultivation and whether it can be planned in a way that increases the agricultural productivity. Subsequent studies on land and energy resources combined with legal aspects in the UAE, will be used to obtain a food security atlas. These results will lead to a more efficient management of the resources not only on a national scale but also on a regional scale that can aid in sustainable development and a better resource use in the UAE and ultimately, in the gulf region.