ABU DHABI - The Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority (ADAFSA) announced the delivery of recycled water to more than 1,600 farms in Al Khatam, Al Khaznah and Al Nahda areas, as part of an ambitious plan to expand the use of recycled water for irrigating farms in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

ADAFSA collaborated with its strategic partners, the Department of Energy - Abu Dhabi (DoE), the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD), and TAQA, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain Distribution Company, and Abu Dhabi Sustainable Water Solutions Company.

Abu Dhabi's plan to expand the use of recycled water in agriculture is in line with its overall sustainability goals, as recycled water is one of the necessary options to reduce pressure on groundwater resources and can be used in various development sectors, including agriculture, to ensure the sustainability of agricultural production and reduce the depletion of natural water resources.

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 to 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 the pumping of groundwater from approximately 4,850 wells in Al Khatam and Al Khaznah areas, helping to conserve non-renewable water resources and achieve optimal use of water resources and sustainability of the agricultural sector in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

The project aligns with the UAE Water Security Strategy 2036 objectives to ensure the sustainability and continuity of securing water supplies for all residential, commercial, government, industrial and agricultural uses. It is also consistent with Abu Dhabi's recycled water policy, which aims to maximise the use of recycled water and contribute to the rationalisation of groundwater use in agriculture and achieving integrated management and sustainable development of available water resources.

According to Mubarak Ali Alqusaili Al Mansoori, Executive Director of the Agricultural Affairs Sector in ADAFSA, recycled water is a renewable and non-traditional water source, and ADAFSA seeks to expand its use on farms to achieve the strategic goal of enabling and promoting the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices and systems.

He further pointed out that the agricultural sector still relies on groundwater for 81.4%, desalinated seawater for 18% and recycled water for 0.6%, so the use of recycled water must be expanded to reduce groundwater depletion and desalinated seawater consumption.

He also indicated that since 2012, ADAFSA, in cooperation with its stakeholders, has succeeded in implementing a project to irrigate 143 farms in Al Nahda area with recycled water instead of groundwater, where these farms are supplied with their needs of recycled water 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 affirmed that ADAFSA uses a system to monitor the quality and safety of recycled water before distributing it to farms, emphasising that the use of recycled water technology in irrigating farms was carried out after conducting studies and evaluations to ensure its quality and safety, including 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.

For his part, 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, given the great interest in providing reliable water services and enhancing the security of supply in the future.

Al Qubaisi further pointed out that the Department of Energy in Abu Dhabi has made countless efforts to ensure the sustainability and efficiency of water use and has issued numerous regulations and policies aimed at maximising the benefits of recycled water to support national efforts to conserve water resources, in line with the objectives of the UAE Water Security Strategy 2036, which aims to reduce the overall demand for water resources by 21% and optimise the use of recycled water.

Al Qubaisi indicated that DoE aims to optimise this type of water by expanding its use, carrying out many initiatives and following up on infrastructure projects to utilise 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 of which will be the cessation of the discharge of recycled water into the Musaffah Canal, allowing it to be cleaned and disinfected and removing approximately 3 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.

Al Hammadi added that in 2019, EAD issued an Executive Regulation regarding groundwater regulation 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 issued a decision to determine 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 the EAD's role in coordinating with the relevant authorities in the sectors concerned, where the EAD team is providing technical advice in developing standards for reusing 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, which takes into account 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.