The UAE has decided to ban groundwater exports to foreign countries. It was not divulged in which form and to which countries such exports occur. It is likely that any such exports are not high in comparison to the substantial domestic consumption.
Agriculture is the main consumer of predominantly fossil water. Date cultivation and green fodder production for the two million animals or so are major culprits. Desalinated water provides the majority of drinking water in the cities. It is used lavishly because of extensive subsidies for extended car washing sessions and landscaping.
The Abu Dhabi Water Resources Master Plan estimates that about 11 percent of the expensive desalinated water ends up for agricultural purposes and argues that the real number is likely to be “far higher.”
Against this background the export ban for groundwater exports looks like activism in order to shun the tough the tough decisions that have to be made, i.e. reduction of water subsidies.
Just awareness campaigns and recitation of ‘Our Water, Our Life’ poems by children will not be enough.
On the supply side Saudi Arabia, like Qatar, is pushing forward solar based desalination. But demand reduction and management remains a politically sensitive topic as cheap or free water is regarded as an entitlement by citizens.