The countries could hardly be more different, but The Netherlands and the UAE have found common ground in how they could deal with water scarcity.
The Dutch envoy for international water affairs, Henk Ovink, visited Abu Dhabi for Sustainability Week and said there were many opportunities for the countries to cooperate on efficient water use.
“There is a lot of development going on but it is not enough,” Mr Ovink said. “It is an opportunity for the UAE to collaborate across the Gulf and for The Netherlands to bring knowledge and expertise to that collaboration and strengthen the approach of water resilience.”
The knowledge and expertise Mr Ovink referred to included increasing the way water reuse is managed and organised, and how to capture rainfall.
“It is critical to have a strong knowledge base to build capacity in organisations that deal with water,” Mr Ovink said.
Dutch research groups – such as Deltares, which opened an office in the capital on Tuesday – and Wageningen University, are researching ways to cut water use in energy production.
“We have been busy providing information about the water levels and waves for oil companies,” said Geoff Toms, manager of Deltares in the Middle East and the Gulf.
“It helps them in the design [of] their offshore structures. We do studies helping [organisations] like the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi to look at their groundwater resources in a different way.”
Other studies from these groups included an assessment of the recirculation of saline water discharged from desalination plants, as well as its effect on Gulf waters combined with global warming.
Results are given to the Ministry of Environment and Water and the private sector. “It is really [about] making the water technology of The Netherlands available to the users here that could use that knowledge and share and develop it with us,” Mr Toms said.
Agricultural experts said The Netherlands represented a strong technology partner for the UAE. “As a densely populated country with intensive industrial and agricultural production, The Netherlands has had to develop world-class technologies to protect its limited supplies of good quality water, due to the country lying below sea level,” said Nicholas Lodge, managing partner at the Abu Dhabi-based agriculture consultancy Clarity.
The World Economic Forum ranked water shortages as the leading crises for the next 10 years.