The Energy-Water-Health Nexus Under Climate Change in the United Arab Emirates: Impacts and Implications

  • William W. DoughertyEmail author
  • David N. Yates
  • Jose Edson Pereira
  • Andrew Monaghan
  • Daniel Steinhoff
  • Bruno Ferrero
  • Ilana Wainer
  • Francisco Flores-Lopez
  • Stephanie Galaitsi
  • Paul Kucera
  • Jane Glavan
Part of the Understanding Complex Systems book series (UCS)


Climate change poses serious energy, water, and health challenges for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). While closely interconnected, the development of sustainable energy, water, and health policies has typically been viewed as independent, sector-specific planning challenges. However, changing demographics, a rapidly growing economy, dependence on desalination, and worsening air quality – all taking place as climate change unfolds – suggest a need for a more integrated approach to risk management. Accounting for the interactions between “energy, water, and health nexus” is one way to ensure that development strategies are considered within a framework that addresses the range of potential trade-offs, risks, and synergies. To address the energy-water-health nexus under a changing climate, research activities were undertaken as part of the Local, National, and Regional Climate Change Programme (LNRCCP) of the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI). Climate change modeling at the regional spatial scale (Arabian Peninsula; Arabian Gulf) was first carried out to establish the atmospheric and marine physical conditions that will underlie energy, water, and health challenges in the future. The results of this modeling were then used as inputs to an analysis of policies that account for linkages across the energy-water nexus on the one hand and the energy-health nexus on the other. The modeling results show that climate change will render an extreme hyper-arid climate even more so, while the waters of the Arabian Gulf will experience heightened salinity, changing circulation patterns, and higher temperatures as desalination activities intensify. The analysis of the energy-water-health nexus shows that energy efficiency and renewable energy can lead to significant reductions in annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at negative to modest societal cost while leading to substantial decreases in premature mortality and health-care facility visits in the urban environment.


Climate change Energy-water-health nexus Greenhouse gas Premature mortality Avoided health-care facility visits Policy scenarios Public health co-benefits Abu Dhabi City metropolitan area Air pollutants AGEDI 



The authors would like to thank all the stakeholders of the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative’s (AGEDI) Local, National, and Regional Climate Change (LNRCC) Programme for their valuable feedback. Special thanks go to Marco Vinaccia of AGEDI. The LNRCC Programme was a stakeholder-driven initiative designed to build upon, expand, and deepen understanding of the impacts of climate change on water, energy, health, and other resources at the local (Abu Dhabi), national (UAE), and regional (Arabian Peninsula) levels.


  1. Alfaris, F., Juaidi, A., & Manzano-Agugliaro, F. (2016). Improvement of efficiency through an energy management program as a sustainable practice in schools. Journal of Cleaner Production, 35, 794–805.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Areiqat, A., & Mohamed, K. (2005). Optimization of the negative impact of power and desalination plants on the ecosystem. Desalination, 185(1–3), 95–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aswad, N., Alsaleh, Y., Taleb, H. (2013). Clean energy awareness campaigns in the UAE: An awareness promoters perspective. International Journal of Innovation and Knowledge Management in Middle East and North Africa, 2(2), 131–156.Google Scholar
  4. Barakat-Haddad, C., Zhang, S., Siddiqua, A., & Dghaim, R. (2015). Air quality and respiratory health among adolescents from the United Arab Emirates. Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2015, Article ID 284595, 13 pages.Google Scholar
  5. Barata, M., Ligeti, E., De Simone, G., Dickinson, T., Jack, D., Penney, J., Rahman, M., & Zimmerman, R. (2011). Climate change and human health in cities, climate change and cities. In C. Rosenzweig, W. Solecki, S. Hammer, & S. Mehrotra (Eds.), First assessment report of the urban climate change research network (pp. 179–213). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bollaci, D., Hawkins, C., Mankin, J., & Wurden, K. (Eds.). (2010). Sustainable water management assessment and recommendations for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Columbia University Prepared for the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council, New York.Google Scholar
  7. Bombar, G., Dölgen, D., & Alpaslan, N. (2016). Environmental impacts and impact mitigation plans for desalination facilities. Desalination and Water Treatment, 57(25), 11528–11539.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bruyére, C., Done, J., Holland, G., & Fredrick, S. (2013). Bias corrections of global models for regional climate simulations of high-impact weather. Climate Dynamics, 43(7–8), 1847–1856.Google Scholar
  9. Campbell-Lendrum, D., & Corvalán, C. (2007). Climate change and developing-country cities: Implications for environmental health and equity. Journal of Urban Health, 84(Supplement 1), 109–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chen, Y., Ebenstein, A., Greenstone, M., & Li, H. (2013). Evidence on the impact of sustained exposure to air pollution on life expectancy from China’s Huai River policy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(32), 12936–12941.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cooley, H., Ajami, N., & Heberger, M. (2013). Key issues in seawater desalination in California – marine impacts. Pacific Institute, Oakland, California.Google Scholar
  12. Costello, A., Abbas, M., Allen, A., & Ball, S. (2009). Managing the health effects of climate change. The Lancet, 373(9676), 1693–1733.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dawoud, M. (2012). Environmental impacts of seawater desalination: Arabian Gulf Case Study. International Journal of Environment and Sustainability, 1(3), 22–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dawoud, M., & Sallam, O. (2012). Sustainable groundwater resources management in Arid Regions: Abu Dhabi Case Study. Proceedings of the Ajman International Environmental Conference (Sustainable Development and Green Environment), 30–31 January, Ajman, United Arab Emirates.Google Scholar
  15. Dee, D., et al. (2011). The ERA-Interim reanalysis: Configuration and performance of the data assimilation system. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 137, 553–597.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DHAD) Website. (2018). Available at
  17. Department of Transportation of Abu Dhabi (DoT). (2009). Surface transportation master plan, all volumes, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.Google Scholar
  18. DoT, 2013. Updates to the surface transportation master plan, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.Google Scholar
  19. Done, J., Holland, G., Bruyére, C., Leung, L., & Suzuki-Parker, A. (2015). Modeling high-impact weather and climate: Lessons from a tropical cyclone perspective. Climatic Change, 129(304), 381–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ebi, K. (2011). Climate change and health risks: Assessing and responding to them through ‘adaptive management’. Health Affairs, 30(5), 924–930.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Emery, K. O. (1956). Sediments and water of Persian Gulf. AAPG Bulletin, 40.
  22. Fajersztajn, L., Veras, M., Barrozo, L., & Saldiva, P. (2013). Air pollution: A potentially modifiable risk factor for lung cancer. Nature Reviews. Cancer, 13(9), 674–678.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fann, N., Brennan, T., Dolwick, P., Gamble, J., Ilacqua, V., Kolb, L., Nolte, C., Spero, T., & Ziska, L. (2016). Air quality impacts. In The impacts of climate change on human health in the United States: A scientific assessment (pp. 69–98). Washington, DC: US, Global Change Research Program.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gent, P., Danabasoglu, G., Donner, L., Holland, M., Hunke, E., Jayne, S., Lawrence, D., Neale, R., Rasch, P., Vertenstein, M., Worley, P., Yang, Z., & Zhang, M. (2011). The community climate system model version 4. Journal of Climate, 24, 4973–4991.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Global Water Intelligence (GWI). (2015). Desal Data database.Google Scholar
  26. Heaps, C. (2008). Long range energy alternatives planning system: An introduction to LEAP. Stockholm Environment Institute – US Center, Somerville, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  27. Hoepner, T., & Lattemann, S. (2002). Chemical impacts from seawater desalination plants - a case study of the northern Red Sea. Desalination, 152, 133–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hurrell, J. M., Holland, M., & Gent, P. (2013). The community earth system model: A framework for collaborative research. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 94(9), 1339–1360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. IPCC. (2014). In R. K. Pachauri & M. LA (Eds.), Climate change 2014: Synthesis report, contribution of working groups I II and III to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change (p. 151). Geneva, Switzerland: IPCC.Google Scholar
  30. International Energy Agency. (2015). Projected costs of generation electricity. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development/International Energy Agency.Google Scholar
  31. Jenkins S, Paduan J, Roberts P, Schlenk D, & Weis J (2012) Management of brine discharges to coastal waters recommendations of a science advisory panel, Costa Mesa, California.Google Scholar
  32. Johns, W., Yao, E., Olson, D., Josey, S., Grist, J., & Smeed, D. (2003). Observations of seasonal exchange through the straits of Hormuz and the inferred heat and freshwater budgets of the Persian Gulf. Journal of Geophysical Research, 108(C12), 3391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Johnson, D., Garcia, H., & Boyer, T. (2013). World ocean database 2013 tutorial. Silver Spring, MD: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, National Oceanographic Data Center, Ocean Climate Laboratory.Google Scholar
  34. Kanatani, I., Al-Delaimy, W., Adachi, Y., Mathews, W., & Ramsdell, J. (2010). Desert dust exposure is associated with increased risk of asthma hospitalization in children. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 2(2), 131–156.Google Scholar
  35. Kampf, J., & Sadrinasab, M. (2006). The circulation of the Persian Gulf: A numerical study. Ocean Science, 2, 27–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Knutson, T., Sirutis, J., Vecchi, A., Garner, S., Zhao, M., Kim, H.-S., Bender, M., Tuleva, R., Held, I., & Villarini, G. (2013). Dynamical downscaling projections of twenty-first-century Atlantic hurricane activity: CMIP3 and CMIP5 model-based scenarios. Journal of Climate, 26, 6591–6617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Laspidou, C., Hadjibiros, K., & Gialis, S. (2010). Minimizing the environmental impact of sea brine disposal by coupling desalination plants with solar Saltworks: A case study for Greece. Water, 2, 75–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lattemann, S., & Höpner, T. (2008). Environmental impact and impact assessment of seawater desalination. Desalination, 220(1–3), 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Locarnini, A., Mishonov, A., Antonov, J., Boyer, T., & Garcia, H. (2006). World ocean atlas 2005, volume 1: Temperature. S. Levitus, Ed, NOAA Atlas NESDIS 61, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 182 pp.Google Scholar
  40. Lorenz, C., & Kunstmann, H. (2012). The hydrological cycle in three state-of-the-art Reanalyses: Intercomparison and performance analysis. Journal of Hydrometeorology, 13, 1397–1420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. MacDonald Gibson, J., Brammer, A., Davidson, C., Folley, T., Launay, F., & Thomsen, J. (2013). Environmental burden of disease assessment – A case study in the United Arab Emirates (Environmental science and technology library) (Vol. 24). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  42. McMichael, A. (2011). Climate change and health: Policy priorities and perspectives. Centre on Global Health Security, London, England.Google Scholar
  43. Mezher, T., Goldsmith, D., & Nazli, C. (2011). Renewable Energy in Abu Dhabi: Opportunities and challenges. Journal of Energy Engineering, 137, 169–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ministry of Energy (MoE). (2013). Third National Communications under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emriates.Google Scholar
  45. Mohamed, K. (2009). Environmental impact of desalination plants. In Thirteenth international water technology conference IWTC (pp. 951–964), Hurghada, Egypt.Google Scholar
  46. Mohamed, R., Al Memari, M., Teixido, O., El Kaabi, R. (2017). Abu Dhabi state of environment report 2017: Air quality, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.Google Scholar
  47. National Research Council. (2008). Desalination: A national perspective. Committee on Advancing Desalination Technology. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  48. Ostro, B. (2004). Outdoor air pollution: Assessing the environmental burden of disease at national and local levels (Environmental burden of disease series no 5). Geneva: World Health Organization.Google Scholar
  49. Pascal, M., Corso, M., Chanel, O., Declercq, C., Badaloni, C., Cesaroni, G., Henschel, S., Meister, K., Haluza, D., Martin-Olmedo, P., & Medina, S. (2013). Assessing the public health impacts of urban air pollution in 25 European cities: Results of the Aphekom project. Science of the Total Environment, 449, 390–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Penven, P., Debreu, L., Marchesiello, P., & McWilliams, J. (2006). Evaluation and application of the ROMS 1-way embedding procedure to the Central California upwelling system. Ocean Modelling, 12(1–2), 157–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Perrone, T. I. (1979). Winter shamal in the persian gulf. Monterey.Google Scholar
  52. Reynolds, R. (1993). Physical oceanography of the Persian Gulf Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman — Results from the Mt Mitchell expedition. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 27, 35–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rizk, Z., & Alsharhan, A. (2003). Water resources in the United Arab Emirates. Developments in Water Science, 50, 245–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sgouridis, S., Griffiths, S., Kennedy, S., Khalid, A., & Zurita, N. (2013). A sustainable energy transition strategy for the United Arab Emirates: Evaluation of options using an integrated Energy model. Energy Strategy Reviews, 2(1), 8–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Shchepetkin, A., & McWilliams, J. (2005). The regional oceanic modeling system (ROMS): A split-explicit free-surface topography-following-coordinate oceanic model. Ocean Modelling, 9(4), 347–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sheppard, C., Al-Husiani, M., Al-Jamali, F., Al-Yamani, F., Baldwin, R., Bishop, J., Benzoni, F., Dutrieux, E., Dulvy, N. K., Durvasula, S. R. V., Jones, D. A., Loughland, R., Medio, D., Nithyanandan, M., Pilling, G. M., Polikarpov, I., Price, A. R. G., Purkis, S., Riegl, B., Saburova, M., Namin, K. S., Taylor, O., Wilson, S., & Zainal, K. (2010). The Gulf: A young sea in decline. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 60(1), 13–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Skamarock, W., & Klemp, J. (2008). A time-split non-hydrostatic atmospheric model for weather research and forecasting applications. Journal of Computational Physics, 227, 3465–3485.MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Smith, K., Woodward, A., Campbell-Lendrum, D., Chadee, D., Honda, Y., et al. (2014). Human health: Impacts adaptation and co-benefits. In C. B. Field, V. R. Barros, D. J. Dokken, K. J. Mach, M. D. Mastrandrea, T. E. Bilir, & L. L. White (Eds.), Impacts adaptation and vulnerability, part a: Global and sectoral aspects contribution of working group II to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change (pp. 709–754). New York, NY: Cambridge Univ. Press.Google Scholar
  59. Stauffer, D., & Seaman, N. (1994). Multiscale four-dimensional data assimilation. Journal of Applied Meteorology, 33, 416–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Stern, G., Latzin, P., Röösli, M., Fuchs, O., Proietti, E., Kuehni, C., & Frey, U. (2013). A prospective study of the impact of air pollution on respiratory symptoms and infections in infants. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 187(12), 1341–1348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Thoppil, P., & Hogan, P. (2010). A modeling study of circulation and eddies in the Persian Gulf. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 40(9), 2122–2134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Uddin, S. (2014). Environmental impacts of desalination activities in the Arabian gulf. International Journal of Environmental Science and Development, 5(2), 114–117.MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. US Energy Information Administration. (2016). Levelized cost and levelized avoid cost of new generation resources in the Annual Energy Outlook, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  64. Van Lavieren, H., Burt, J., Feary, D. A., Cavalcante, G., Marquis, E., Benedetti, L., Trick, C., Kjerfve, B., Sale, P. F. (2011). Managing the growing impacts of development on fragile coastal and marine ecosystems: Lessons from the Gulf. United Nations University Press.Google Scholar
  65. World Health Organization (WHO). (2010). Quantifying environmental health impacts. Geneva: World Health Organization (
  66. World Bank. (2004). Seawater and brackish water desalination in the Middle East North Africa and Central Asia. Report No. 33515, Final Report December, Washington DC.Google Scholar
  67. Xu, P., Cath, T., Robertson, A., Reinhard, M., Leckie, J., & Drewes, J. (2013). Critical review of desalination concentrate management treatment and beneficial use. Environmental Engineering Science, 30(8), 502–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Xu, Z., & Yang, Z. (2012). An improved dynamical downscaling method with GCM bias corrections and its validation with 30 years of climate simulations. Journal of Climate, 25, 6271–6286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Yao, F., & Johns, W. (2010). A HYCOM modeling study of the Persian Gulf: 2, Formation and export of Persian Gulf Water. Journal of Geophysical Research, 115(C11), 1–23.Google Scholar
  70. Yates, D., Sieber, J., Purkey, D., & Huber-Lee, A. (2005). WEAP21 – A demand- priority- and preference-driven water planning model part 1: Model characteristics. Water International, 30, 487–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Yates, D., Flores, F., & Galaitsi, S. (2016). National water-energy nexus & climate change: Final technical report from AGEDI’s local national and regional climate change programme, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.Google Scholar
  72. Yates, D., Monaghan, A., & Steinhoff, D. (2015). Regional atmospheric modeling for the Arabian gulf region – future scenarios and capacity building final technical report for AGEDI’s local national and regional climate change programme, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.Google Scholar
  73. Younos, T. (2005). Environmental issues of desalination. Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education, 132, 11–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • William W. Dougherty
    • 1
    Email author
  • David N. Yates
    • 2
  • Jose Edson Pereira
    • 3
  • Andrew Monaghan
    • 2
  • Daniel Steinhoff
    • 2
  • Bruno Ferrero
    • 3
  • Ilana Wainer
    • 3
  • Francisco Flores-Lopez
    • 4
  • Stephanie Galaitsi
    • 5
  • Paul Kucera
    • 2
  • Jane Glavan
    • 6
  1. 1.Climate Change Research GroupWalpoleUSA
  2. 2.Research Applications Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric ResearchBoulderUSA
  3. 3.Oceanography Institute, University of Sao PauloSao PauloBrazil
  4. 4.California Department of Water ResourcesSacramentoUSA
  5. 5.Stockholm Environment Institute – US CenterSomervilleUSA
  6. 6.Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI)Abu DhabiUnited Arab Emirates

Personalised recommendations