Focus on water scarcity needed more than ever
By Sarwat Nasir Resolving global water scarcity has become “essential to national security”, the head of the UAE’s rain enhancement programme has said.
Alya Al Mazroui, programme manager of The UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science, said new technologies need to be found to help counter future shortages.
UAE project officials are among the environment experts and delegates attending COP22 in Morocco, which is focusing on the challenges of climate change and degradation of the environment.
The UAE offers $5 million per year to scientists, research groups and companies who can turn rain enhancement theories into a reality.
Speaking to 7DAYS, Al Mazroui said: “This initiative comes at a time of rising global populations and diminishing water resources and the need for solutions to ensure global water security has never been greater.
“As water security is essential to national security, countries need to strengthen their own water security options by promoting research, development and investment in innovative technologies.
“Innovative rain enhancement technology could provide sustainable approaches to increase fresh water availability.”
The recent Why Population Matters to Water Resources report by Population Action International estimated by 2035 that 3.6 billion people will be living in areas with water scarcity, largely due to population growth.
The UAE’s Federal Electricity and Water Authority (FEWA), also states each UAE resident uses 550 litres of water, compared to the international average of 170-300 litres per day.
As part of the rain project, pilots have been firing salt flares (potassium and sodium chloride) into the clouds over UAE and Oman to increase the chance of precipitation. But the technique does not work every time and often the clouds, which typically form over mountainous Oman, have dissipated by the time they reach the UAE. One of the first awardees, Professor Volker Wulfmeyer, from the Institute of Physics and Meteorology at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, is trying to change that. Wulfmeyer’s research focuses on improved detection and forecasting of convergence of clouds through improved remote sensing. If the system works then forecasters would be able to detect clouds at a very early stage, helping pilots to reach them in time. Wulfmeyer has carried out an aerial and land site survey over the north-eastern territories to identify suitable sites to conduct his upcoming research. Wulfmeyer said: “We found an excellent site in the Hajjar Mountains for the set up and operation of a new combination of observing systems to study wind fields and cloud properties.” The latest bids for funding are currently being examined and will be revealed in January.
IN ACTION: One of the six NCMS cloud-seeding planes in the air and (inset) a pilot with the salt flares