A Review of Hydrological Studies in the United Arab Emirates

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The increasing interest in hydrological studies in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has resulted in the publication of several papers on hydrology and its broad use for addressing contemporaneous challenges confronting humans and the environment in the region. However, for several reasons, these efforts have remained invisible and unrecognized. This paper has reviewed the literature on hydrological research in the UAE to provide a comprehensive source of information for researchers, practitioners, policymakers, and other stakeholders. The documented studies were carefully selected, relying on a bibliometric analysis methodology of five phases to specify the boundary of the study area, adopt the primary keywords for the search, evaluate the obtained papers, exclude the non-conforming ones, and classify the final results into four distinguished topics—namely, rainfall analysis, urban growth and flood hazards, cloud seeding and changing climate, and groundwater situation and utilization. The evaluation process considered assessing the papers’ relevancy, authenticity, and coverage of the main issues of interest. In all, a total of 50 published papers were identified based on the specified criteria and reviewed. The main findings were first that the amount of rainfall over the UAE has been declining in the last decade, and this trend is expected to continue, although intensities are rising, suggesting shorter duration events. Secondly, the extensive urban growth in the country has resulted in increasing incidences of urban floods and declining groundwater recharge. Both of these are to be expected as consequences of the increased imperviousness from urbanization and the higher intensities from shorter-duration rainfall events. Thirdly, although the cloud-seeding program has proved to be successful in increasing precipitation amounts, the impact of this on flooding due to more extreme rainfall intensities and on air quality remains worrisome. Finally, groundwater analyses have shown that it is still the main freshwater resource in the country, but its long-term sustainability and quality are being threatened by the declining recharge. This calls for a national policy for groundwater management in the UAE to tackle the challenges associated with the increasing demand for water in all sectors of the economy. The study recommended addressing the gap in the hydrological literature of the UAE, specifically in the field of big meteorological data analysis, the socioeconomic impacts of urban floods, the impacts of climate change in urbanized regions, and the possibility of using alternative resources to recharge groundwater as part of sustainable water management.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1850
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2023


  • Water Science and Technology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Biochemistry
  • floods
  • rainfall
  • the UAE
  • hydrology
  • cloud seeding
  • groundwater
  • literature review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Aquatic Science
  • Biochemistry


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