Groundwater in Abu Dhabi Emirate is a non-renewable resource, so it is vital that it is well protected. On the occasion of World Water Day, with the theme being ‘Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible’, today the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) celebrated by announcing its achievements for 2021.

The Agency continues its rigorous efforts to monitor groundwater usage in the Emirate, and last year launched new initiatives to assess the long-term sustainability of Abu Dhabi’s deep groundwater aquifers.

As part of the Groundwater Monitoring Programme, during 2021, there were more than 1,100 visits to over 440 monitored wells to measure the water level. The overall performed measurements covered 92% - with EAD meeting its targets.

Ongoing maintenance of the groundwater level network included external well maintenance, and maintenance of automated monitoring devices. 110 monitoring wells were externally maintained by the building of protective fences with signage, reinforcing plinths around new well heads and surrounding areas stabilised. The overall efficiency of the automated wells maintained was at 94% during 2021.

In 2021, EAD completed the first phase of producing the hydrogeological map of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). These maps are significant as the knowledge of groundwater in the UAE is essential for ensuring the social wellbeing of the people and the viability of the economy. The development of maps allows information concerning this resource to reach urban planners, decision makers and end-users.

To date, around 45% of the whole project is completed which includes the submission of an inception report and data gaps analysis report. 80% of the field investigations were completed during the year and the first version of 1:100,000 scale map sheets of the Northern Emirates was also completed.

Additionally, a comprehensive assessment of deep groundwater resources in Abu Dhabi was developed in 2021. The objective of the project was to undertake an integrated qualitative and quantitative assessment for the potential of deep groundwater aquifers in Abu Dhabi to support sustainable development and utilisation of the resources.

In 2021, EAD completed 55% of the whole project which included the submission of two major reports, the inception report and the selection of deep drilling location report. Similarly, two exploration wells, with depths of 400 and 700, were completed in the Al Ain region.

The Makhzan Al Kheir storage project, which is the largest of its kind, with 26 million M3 of groundwater stored in the shallow aquifer northwest of Liwa, serves as a strategic reserve to supply the city of Abu Dhabi with 180,000 M3/ day (40 million gallons per day) for up to 90 days. The developed system uses artificial intelligence to control the automatic selection of pumping wells for each basin based on salinity limits, which are calculated based on the inputs of the numerical models and sensor measurements. There is 100% use of artificial intelligence at Makhzan Al Khair.

In 2021, EAD finalised the numerical model of the aquifer for the strategic storage project in Liwa. The project aims to develop a numerical model to simulate groundwater movement in the project area, where the first database of project wells (315 production wells and 111 monitoring wells) and aquifer layers were completed. Additionally, in 2021, the Makhzan Al Kheir project was included in the second edition of the Government Innovation Report of the Mohammed bin Rashid Center for Government Innovation.

Moreover, in 2021, EAD launched the integrated management plan for water resources in the Abu Dhabi, which was prepared in cooperation with relevant partners. The plan includes 55 initiatives, projects, and programmes, which are to be implemented over the next ten years, with the aim of achieving the sustainability of water resources, including economic feasibility and capital investments to achieve development in all sectors that use water resources in Abu Dhabi.

In 2021, EAD also developed a draft resolution to protect groundwater quality and quantities, which are in line with the requirements of Abu Dhabi Law No. (5) of 2016 for the management of groundwater resources in the Emirate. EAD will ensure proper implementation of the resolution through continuous monitoring, permitting, enforcement and inspection.