Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority (ADAFSA) has launched a delivery plan to distribute recycled water to more than 1,600 farms in the emirate.

The plan will be in collaboration with its strategic partners, the Department of Energy - Abu Dhabi, the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD), in addition to 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 important and necessary options to reduce pressure on groundwater resources and can be used in various development sectors, including agriculture. This will ensure the sustainability of agricultural production and reduce the depletion of natural water resources.

TAQA and its subsidiaries have constructed the pipelines, which will distribute approximately 150,000 cubic metres per day to farms in Al Khatam, Khazna and 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 the Khatam and Khazna areas, helping to conserve non-renewable water resources and achieve optimal use of water resources and sustainability of the agricultural sector in Abu Dhabi.

The project is in line with the objectives of the UAE Water Security Strategy 2036, which aims to reduce water consumption by 21%, reduce the water scarcity index by three degrees, and increase the reuse of treated water to 95%, 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, in addition to contributing to the rationalisation of groundwater use in agriculture and achieving integrated management and sustainable development of available water resources.

His Excellency Eng. Mubarak Ali Alqusaili Al Mansouri, Executive Director of the Agricultural Affairs Sector in ADAFSA, emphasised that recycled water is one of the renewable and unconventional sources of water. ADAFSA is seeking to expand its use on farms to achieve its strategic objective of enabling and promoting the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices and systems. His Excellency pointed out that the agricultural sector is still 81.4% dependent on groundwater, 18% on costly desalinated seawater and 0.6% on recycled water, which calls for expanding the use of recycled water to reduce the depletion of groundwater and the consumption of desalinated seawater.

His Excellency 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.

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

His Excellency Eng. Ahmed Mohammed Al Rumaithi, Undersecretary of the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy, said that the water file is one of the Abu Dhabi's strategic priorities, given the interest in providing reliable water services and improving supply security in the future.

His Excellency Al Rumaithi further emphasised that the Department of Energy has made countless efforts to ensure the sustainability and efficiency of water use, and has issued numerous regulations and policies aimed at achieving maximum benefits from recycled water to support national efforts to conserve water resources.

Similarly, Al Rumaithi pointed out that the amount of recycled water produced in 2022 will be about 323.6 million cubic metres, adding that the Department of Energy aims to optimise 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. Additionally, the supply of the rest of the farms is currently being examined to optimise the use of water resources in Abu Dhabi.

Eng. Faisal Al Hammadi, Acting Executive Director of the Environmental Quality Sector at EAD, said the project of transporting, distributing and reusing treated wastewater will have many environmental and economic impacts. The most significant will be the cessation of discharge of treated water into the Musaffah canal, allowing it to be cleaned and disinfected and removing approximately 3 million cubic meters of sediments. 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 Khazna 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 the Executive Regulation regarding 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 in a sustainable manner. 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 rationalize its use.

Eng. Al Hammadi 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. EAD, in collaboration with strategic stakeholders, has developed an integrated plan for the integrated management of water resources in the emirate, which considers the preservation of groundwater in terms of quantity and quality, as well as the need to replace it with alternative resources, such as treated wastewater, to preserve groundwater as a strategic reserve for future generations.