EAD launches Abu Dhabi groundwater well inventory project
In its efforts to conserve national water resources, the Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi (EAD) has launched a first-of-its-kind inventory project on groundwater wells for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
This initiative will create an inventory of all the wells used for agriculture, forestry, entertainment and any other purpose.
The project is based on the directives by H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region and Chairman of EAD, who has expressed the need for a comprehensive inventory of groundwater wells in Abu Dhabi to contribute to conservation of groundwater by strategizing its use and limiting its consumption. This initiative looks to improve groundwater usage efficiency, ensure its sustainability for future generations and protect public and private investments that rely on this water resource.
The information gathered through this initiative will also help stakeholders set integrated groundwater resource management plans, help farm owners minimise financial burden resulting from drilling non-productive wells, improve overall farm efficiencies and maximise the use of each farmer’s groundwater quota for irrigation.
HE Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General of EAD said: “This all-encompassing inventory project is going to have a positive impact for all those involved, with the end goal of finding more efficient ways to grow local crops whilst reducing wastage of our scarce water resources. This pivotal step is our contribution to Abu Dhabi government’s plan to improve the efficiency of water resource usage as well as that of financial investments in the water sector.”
EAD is the authority mandated with protecting the environment in Abu Dhabi; groundwater conservation and its sustainability for future generations is one of its strategic priorities. Groundwater is a non-renewable resource which makes protecting it a crucial necessity, particularly as it accounts for 65% of the Emirate’s water budget and is mostly used in agriculture, forestry, and landscape irrigation today. The groundwater abstraction is greater than 20 times the natural production rate.
HE Al Mubarak added: “Non-strategic usage of groundwater, inefficiency in its use compounded by the illegal drilling of wells cause the greatest pressure on this vital, yet limited resource; it is critical to continue and expand on existing national programs targeting groundwater preservation. The well inventory project will support the EAD as well as our stakeholders who are active partners in this project by providing information on the status of groundwater in Abu Dhabi – both in terms of quantity and quality.”
The data collected will be used to determine groundwater abstraction rates – a key component of the Emirate’s water budget. This will help EAD create an evidence-based approach to conserve this vital resource and sustainably manage it for many years to come.
The project is being carried out over three main phases for a period of 30 months. The first phase will include an inventory of Abu Dhabi’s groundwater wells used for the irrigation of farms, forests, parks, gardens as well as other purposes, and EAD’s team will visit and assign a serial ID number for each well. In addition, data on groundwater abstraction, quality, current levels, salinity and use will be recorded.
During the project’s second phase, an update on the soil mapping project – which concluded in 2012, will see EAD collect and analyse soil samples from a total of 25,000 farms located throughout Abu Dhabi. This endeavour will contribute towards developing the necessary plans to determine farm sustainability and soil classification on a farm level. Such measures will protect agricultural sector investments, determine the best ways to manage these farms and the most suitable crops to grow.
The third phase will include the analysis of water and soil data and the setting of a first-of-its-kind water atlas for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. This atlas will classify the well by type, water quantity and quality, as well as the abstraction rate and the change in water levels.
The groundwater well inventory project also aims to regulate drilling operations and groundwater usage in agriculture and other irrigation purposes. It will help farmers select the most appropriate drilling methods, in addition to educating them on sustainable abstraction practices.
Another outcome will be a specialised database for groundwater in Abu Dhabi which will be made available to planners, developers, researchers and private sector organisations.
The project takes place in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA), the Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Services Centre (ADFSC), the Ministry of Environment and Water (MoEW), the municipalities and the Statistics Centre – Abu Dhabi (SCAD).
In addition to the WIP, EAD is using its participation at IWS to highlight:
1.Sustainable Irrigation of Date Palms Using Saline Groundwater: This project aims to study the amount of water being used to irrigate palm trees and the effect of different levels of salinity on these trees.
2.Sustainable Irrigation of Arid Forests using Groundwater & Recycled Water: This project aims to study the benefits of irrigating forests using recycled water rather than groundwater.
3.Groundwater Mapping Project: This project aims to measure the level and quality of groundwater reserves across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. This tool will help shape decision making around current and future projects that will rely on groundwater as a resource to ensure that they are environmentally and financially sound.
4.Crop calculator: The crop calculator is a software that helps calculate the optimum amount of water to use for the irrigation of any crop. With this tool being a novel and innovative way to reduce water waste, EAD is customising the crop calculator to take into consideration the specific environment of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
5.Water budget: EAD is supporting a study that is being conducted by a joined research team from UAE University and LEEDS University to develop a static baseline National Water Budget (NWB). The overall aim of the study is to develop a dynamic approach to water budgeting for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi leading to realistic future water budget scenarios. The tool will utilise scientific data to demonstrate how economies can provide an alternative – and more sustainable – approach to meet the growing demand for water.