Water Budget Analysis in the United Arab Emirates

  • Maria D. R. G. Sanchez

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Population growth and economic development have impacted the capacity of water resources to meet demands in a number of arid countries. This study focuses on the UAE where the low rainfall, high rate of growth and agricultural development are resulting in a dramatic depletion of groundwater resources and a high dependence on desalination. The water budget approach represents the variations in water storage as a balance of total precipitation, desalinated water and evapotranspiration. The components of the water budget are obtained from observational data, remotely sensed information and model outputs. GRACE is used to obtain the water storage after removing the soil moisture contribution and the effect of oil extractions to the change in the gravity field, and TRMM and GLDAS are used to obtain precipitation and soil moisture respectively. The results show a negative trend of 0.56 cm/year in the groundwater time series corresponding to an average decrease of 0.97 km3/year during the study period. This indicates that the aquifers are not being recharged fast enough to compensate for human withdrawals. On the other hand, most of the precipitation was found to be lost through evapotranspiration suggesting that the aquifers are not being significantly recharged by rainfall. This analysis is applicable to other Gulf countries where water resources are scarce, agriculture is rapidly developing and desalination has become the main source of freshwater. In the future, this analysis in combination with soil fertility data, can help to determine the best areas for cultivation and the optimal allocation of water resources to optimize agricultural productivity for the UAE and the gulf region generally.
Date of AwardMay 2015
Original languageAmerican English
SupervisorTaha B. M. J. Ouarda (Supervisor)


  • Economic development
  • Groundwater resources
  • Desalination
  • Evapotranspiration
  • Water resources.

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