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World Water Day: Every drop counts in a region where water is the most precious natural resource

Leonardo da Vinci once said, “water is the driving force of all nature,” and this couldn’t be more true as we celebrate World Water Day over 500 years on from when he would have uttered this phrase.

On the occasion of World Water Day, which calls for “water for all by 2030” under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number six, we would like to highlight a few confronting facts which can help us stop, think; but not for too long, before we take appropriate action to protect one of our most treasured resources.  We would particularly like to share insights on what water means to the UAE, an arid and desert climate, and how the country and the green building industry are taking steps to conserve this precious resource.

The Earth’s surface is covered by 71% water; however, freshwater is 2.5% of the planet’s water supply, with only 0.3% readily accessible for us to consume [1].  In the UAE fresh water is primarily obtained through underground aquifers or through the desalination of the Gulf’s sea water.  The production of desalinated water in Abu Dhabi Emirate alone increased by 65.4% in 2016 compared to 2005 [2], which shows the accelerated urban growth the country has witnessed in a short span and its demand for water to sustain its growing infrastructures.

Urban development is key to the UAE’s economic growth, with a thriving tourist and immigrant economy, and buildings have become a significant contributor to the country’s energy and water consumption. For example, residential and commercial buildings in Dubai use up to 88.6% of the water consumed in the Emirate [3], another staggering statistic.

The UAE has been classified as having one of the highest per capita water consumption rates in the world (550 litres/day) [4]. Needless to say, water management has become a key focus area for the government’s vision for sustainability goals.  For instance, Dubai government is aiming to reduce its water demand by 30% by 2030, through implementing building regulation, retrofit, water reuse and efficient irrigation.  On a practical level, water reduction can be achieved by implementation of proper water management systems in buildings, replacement of old, inefficient fixtures with new efficient ones, and using alternative water sources such as recycled greywater and AC condensates.

The existing building stock in the UAE offers a great potential for water savings, as demonstrated in our recently published BEA Benchmarking Report.  In hotel properties, for instance, the potential for water savings can reach up to 65%, when comparing worst performing hotels to best performing hotels.  The report findings provide vital information to policy makers and building owners to accelerate the uptake of retrofitting through remedial actions. Occupant behaviour is also another area which can significantly assist water reduction in buildings.

Emirates Green Building Council’s role is emphasised under its education programmes which aim to raise awareness and communicate methods on how to save and conserve our water in a practical and simple manner. Our Green Building Tooltips, is a rich online resource on best practices that will help the construction industry and community at large make their built environment more sustainable. We have also developed  some easy to use lifestyle tips to help you with managing your water use at home.

Water stands out as one of our most important natural resources which we need to protect, and if we don’t safeguard our water supply today, we are going to face a resource and survival crisis not too far in the future.

Maha Khogali is Communications & Stakeholder Engagement Officer at Emirates Green Building Council, and Majd Fayyad is Technical Manager at Emirates Green Building Council, a member of WorldGBC’s MENA Regional Network.

World Water Day is an annual UN observance day that highlights the importance of freshwater. The day is used to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. For more information, visit