Home » ADAFSA launches plan to expand recycled water use in Abu Dhabi farms

ADAFSA launches plan to expand recycled water use in Abu Dhabi farms

by Madaline Dunn

The Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority (ADAFSA) has shared that it will deliver recycled water to more than 1,600 farms in the Al Khatam, Al Khaznah and Al Nahda areas.

This is part of its plan to expand the use of recycled water for irrigating farms in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and in line with UAE Water Security Strategy 2036 and Abu Dhabi’s recycled water policy.

The plan will go ahead in collaboration with its strategic partners, the Department of Energy – Abu Dhabi (DoE), the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), in addition to TAQA, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain Distribution Company, and Abu Dhabi Sustainable Water Solutions Company.

TAQA and its subsidiaries have constructed the pipelines, which will transport and distribute approximately 150,000 cubic metres per day to farms in Al Khatam, Al Khaznah and Al Nahda areas and will meet their recycled water needs at a rate of 73 cubic metres per day for each farm, equivalent to 16,500 gallons of water.

The plan to use recycled water in agriculture will save large amounts of groundwater by eliminating groundwater pumping from approximately 4,850 wells in the Al Khatam and Al Khaznah areas.

ADAFSA shared that it is collaborating with all relevant authorities in the Emirate to identify sustainable and alternative sources of groundwater and desalinated water for agricultural uses in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, in addition to adhering to implementing procedures and mechanisms that protect public health and the environment while also promoting agricultural production in the Emirate.

According to His Excellency Mubarak Ali Alqusaili Al Mansoori, Executive Director of the Agricultural Affairs Sector in ADAFSA the agricultural sector still relies on groundwater for 81.4%, desalinated seawater for 18% and recycled water for 0.6%, meaning the use of recycled water must be expanded to reduce groundwater depletion and desalinated seawater consumption.

Further, he shared that since 2012, ADAFSA, in cooperation with its stakeholders, has succeeded in implementing a project to irrigate 143 farms in the Al Nahda area with recycled water instead of groundwater.

The farms are supplied with their recycled water needs from Al Mafraq station, and then treated to the advanced stage in the additional treatment plant in Al Nahda, through which about 12,000 cubic metres are distributed to these farms daily.

Al Mansouri shared that ADAFSA uses a system to monitor the quality and safety of recycled water before distributing it to farms, outlining that the use of recycled water technology in irrigating farms was carried out after conducting studies and evaluations to ensure its quality and safety.

This included a study conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to assess the quality of water used in Al Nahda farms, which proved that recycled water that is triple-treated is suitable for growing many agricultural crops.

Further, His Excellency Dr Saif Al Qubaisi, Acting Director General of Regulatory Affairs at DoE, emphasised that water is one of the strategic priorities of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Al Qubaisi said that DoE aims to optimise the use of this type of water by expanding its use, carrying out many initiatives and following up on infrastructure projects aimed at utilising the surplus of recycled water.

According to Engineer Faisal Al Hammadi, Acting Executive Director of the Environmental Quality Sector at EAD, the project to transport, distribute and reuse recycled water will have many environmental and economic benefits.

The most significant here will be the cessation of the discharge of recycled water into the Musaffah Canal, allowing it to be cleaned and disinfected and removing approximately three million cubic metres of sediment.

The project will also ensure the cessation of groundwater use and stop wells in 1,600 farms and forests in the Al Khatam and Al Khaznah areas at a rate of up to 250,000 cubic metres per day, contributing to the rational use of groundwater in agriculture and achieving integrated management and sustainable development of available water resources.

Eng. Al Hammadi added that in 2019, EAD issued an Executive Regulation on the regulation of groundwater in the Emirate.

The regulation states that when reviewing applications for groundwater extraction and use, EAD must consider the availability of alternative and appropriate water sources, such as desalinated water and recycled water, to preserve and use groundwater resources sustainably.

EAD also made a decision on the areas where it is prohibited to drill new water wells to prevent the depletion or deterioration of groundwater quality and rationalise its use.

He also highlighted EAD’s role in coordinating with the relevant authorities in the sectors concerned, where the EAD team is providing technical advice in the areas of developing standards for the reuse of recycled water for irrigation and agriculture to reduce pressure on groundwater sources.

Similarly, EAD, in collaboration with strategic stakeholders, has developed an integrated plan for the integrated management of water resources in the Emirate, taking into consideration the preservation of groundwater in terms of quantity and quality, as well as the need to replace it with alternative resources, such as recycled water, to preserve groundwater as a strategic reserve for future generations.

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