Water security in the GCC countries: challenges and opportunities

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The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) inhabits of one of the most water-scarce regions in the world, once comprised small impoverished desert principalities. However, since the 1970s, the GCC has witnessed rapid population growth and economic development, brought on by sharp increases in oil revenues. Population growth coupled with increased urbanization, industrialization, and agricultural output has placed tremendous pressure on the region’s scarce groundwater resources. GCC countries are all using hundreds to thousands times more water than sustainable recharge would allow. Their water footprints, among the highest in the world, are sustained by unconventional sources of water such as desalination, wastewater reuse, and the import of “virtual” water via agricultural goods. This paper analyzes the current state of water in the GCC using a water–energy–food (WEF) nexus approach. The paper discusses various proposals for meeting future water needs in the GCC such as renewable energy-powered desalination and foreign direct investment in agricultural land and addresses the various tradeoffs involved.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)329-346
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Environmental Studies and Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2014


  • Desalination
  • GCC
  • Groundwater
  • Renewable energy
  • Water security
  • Water–energy–food nexus


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