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United Arab Emirates

Sabrina Kraaijenbrink - Doetjes
Sabrina Kraaijenbrink-Doetjes
Project Manager International

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has one of the highest usages of water in the world and, at the same time, it has no rivers, little rain and the groundwater is for the most part not renewable. Groundwater supplies could be exhausted very soon, and its conservation is a strategic priority of the national government.

Water challenges

Rising water salinity in the Arabian Gulf, as a result of decades of salt dumping by desalination plants producing freshwater for human consumption, is an add-on to the complexity of the challenge. There is widespread realisation on the political sphere that proper water management is required for a further successful development of the country.

Consequently, the idea of reusing treated sewage water is gaining ground. However, treated sewage water cannot be used for every purpose. Another part of the solution lies in individual recycling, where small sewage treatment plants turn wastewater into water that can be used for irrigation. In the UAE, seawater desalination requires about 10 times more energy than pumping water from wells. A handful of projects in the region have started to explore the use of renewable energy sources to produce drinking water. The government is looking for bankable, commercially viable technologies that can compete in the free market.

Opportunities for the sector in the UAE

A bunch of opportunities can be found in water resource management and technology innovations that focus on water saving and reuse of wastewater. For instance, there are opportunities in the agricultural sector for Dutch businesses focusing on water-saving technologies and improved irrigation techniques.

Other opportunities for Dutch companies also exist in wastewater treatment. Instead of disposing the substantial surplus of treated wastewater into the Arabian Gulf, it can be put to productive use for many industrial uses. The UAE’s Government realises that smart innovations can help them reduce the countries water usage and is willing to invest in water saving innovations. Here lie great opportunities for Dutch businesses. The Netherlands holds extensive knowledge of cost-effective desalination technologies. The increased reliance on desalination plants in the UAE provides an opportunity for Dutch companies to assist the UEA’s Government and export their knowledge.

Source used:

Market Report Gulf region water sector – 2018, commissioned by Netherlands and You. Netherlands and You is initiated by the Dutch economic network in the GCC to connect business needs in the region with Dutch solutions.

Water & the Gulf countries

The Gulf, in which the UAE are located, is among the most water-stressed areas in the world t the same time, it is also one of the highest water-consuming areas. The agricultural sector is by far the largest consumer of water in the Gulf countries, accounting for around 85 percent of fresh water, nearly all of which comes from non-renewable underground sources.

Opportunities for the sector in the Gulf

In light of the UAE’s ambition to ensure its food security and its need for potable water, many opportunities for cooperation in the water, energy and food sectors are arising. The Dutch water sector is becoming increasingly present in the region, especially in the domains of water technology.

It is expected that the coming years will offer more opportunities for the Dutch water sector to expand its activities in the region, mostly through the EXPO2020 Dubai and the strategy of the Government of the Netherlands to focus on water-energy-food in the Gulf.


Together with the Regional Business Development Team of the Dutch Embassies in the Gulf countries, NWP is actively involved in various initiatives that lead to collaborative projects between the Dutch water sector and counterparts in the Gulf countries. NWP’s activities include providing market information about the Gulf countries to the Dutch water sector, organising (virtual) trade missions and tailor made events; and the facilitation of partnership building. 

Interested to know more about the UAE and other countries in the Gulf? Contact our Project Manager MENA, Sabrina Kraaijenbrink-Doetjes.

United Arab Emirates is part of

Middle East

NWP's regional approach