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Ahmed Bin Sulayem

Water is Our Most Valued Commodity and We Must Protect It

Ubiquitous and vital to all forms of known life, water isn’t just the lifeblood of our planet but a facilitator of trade, bearer of nourishment, and for the longest period in human history, a natural body between cultures and civilisations. However, despite its natural abundance, access to potable water remains an increasing challenge due to environmental factors. At the same time, the uneven distribution of freshwater as a renewable resource has meant over two billion people remain in water-stressed countries or only have access to contaminated sources.

At an innate level, humanity has always known water is linked to life, longevity, cleanliness, and purity. Water plays an important role in many religions; In Islam, it symbolises wisdom in the Holy Quran and the mikveh in Judaism restores purity.

Beyond this, water has a much deeper importance to nature and our physical wellness, with an increasing number of individuals and organisations beginning to commit further research to the hidden consciousness of water and the scientific link between brain function and water as a highly effective neurotransmitter.

At a biological level, water plays a crucial role in helping cells transport oxygen and nutrients around the body, plants absorb it through their roots, and cells maintain their shape through an even distribution of pressure. With water making up 60–75%of the human body, it’s no wonder that its consumption goes beyond staving off thirst and into a long list of physiological benefits, many of which have been empirically evident since the dawn of man.

By the middle of the 19th century, and primarily thanks to the ground-breaking work conducted by Louis Pasteur, arguably the godfather of modern immunology, a greater understanding of microorganisms and their link to disease led to a rigorous approach toward the treatment of water, and ultimately the widespread use of potable water. Such was the impact that within the first thirty years of the 20th century, life expectancy jumped between 10–15 years in countries where potable water had become generally accessible.

Water connoisseurs typically consider drinking water to include both macro and micro-nutrients, ranging from calcium, which supports bone development, blood clotting and the regulation of cell permeability, to cobalt, a constituent of vitamin B12. As a net outcome, mineral water has been shown to contribute to heart health. Consequently, the search has been on for many years to find the ultimate source of the “world’s healthiest water.”

Where agriculture is concerned, it’s the biggest consumer of freshwater resources, responsible for approximately 70% of all consumption, while simultaneously a massive polluter, with the sector recognised as the leading cause of water degradation, as well as a significant contributor toward the contamination of estuaries and groundwater due to fertilizers, pesticides and animal waste. Other mass-consuming industries, while more recent, include the nascent emergence of data centres, with a recent report stating that Google’s data centre usage ranks in the billions of gallons per year.

When adding the seemingly innate knowledge of our ancestors with our clear leaps in scientific and technical expertise, it’s hard to imagine why water purity and scarcity is a prevalent issue. And while a topic that requires a lot more investigation, it would appear the high-level causes are governmental/ corporate carelessness or recklessness, agricultural proliferation, and micro-pollutants.

As the Middle East continues to grow at a rapid pace, we need to be mindful of the impact this has on water, one of our most important commodities. This is a shared challenge and opportunity for the United Arab Emirates and Israel. The good news is there is enough water for everyone – the challenge is that our current approach toward usage, treatment and distribution needs to change, we need to improve our water consumption and sourcing, and focus on the innovations being made, and how businesses and governments can take a more responsible approach toward treating our most valuable resource.

This is a critical time for our planet and more needs to be done urgently to deal with major environmental and social challenges such as global water insecurity and high water stress facing countries as well as the plastic crisis in our oceans. It’s with that in mind that we launched a water centre at DMCC to both bring the conversation about water to the fore as well as to attract the sector’s leading companies to create a global centre for innovation, sustainable best practices, knowledge and education, while ensuring that the world’s most transported commodity has the ability to reach water distressed areas. We hope that Israeli companies will join us in this mission as this is something our region needs to come together on to make a greater impact.

About the Author
Ahmed Bin Sulayem is the Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre and has driven its growth from a start-up of 28 member companies in 2003 to the world’s leading free zone in 2023 with over 23,000 member companies from 180 countries, employing over 65,000 people. Mr. Bin Sulayem currently serves as the Chairman of the Dubai Diamond Exchange (DDE) and the Dubai Gold & Commodities Exchange (DGCX).
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