The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) is continuing to encourage farmers to use groundwater sustainably at the Liwa Date Festival, currently taking place in the Western Region. EAD is participating at the annual festival, which promotes the UAE’s heritage and history of date farming, as part of its efforts to highlight the important link between the sustainable use of groundwater and the long-term health of Abu Dhabi’s agricultural industry, specifically date farms.
“Dates are an integral part of our culture and especially important during the Holy month of Ramadan. However, most of Abu Dhabi’s dates are nourished with groundwater, a dwindling resource,” Eng. Mansoor Al Tamimi, Groundwater Scientist at EAD said. “Our goal is to ensure the responsible use of this strategic resource so farming activities, including the date industry, can thrive for many generations to come.”
“We are here reaching out to farmers who have already been affected by the negative impact of groundwater misuse and offering our support. We are encouraging them to install and maintain efficient irrigation systems, obey the laws in place and report anyone who is involved in the sale of groundwater which is illegal,” added Eng. Al Tamimi.
EAD is also raising awareness of how the illegal misuse of groundwater has already impacted and continues to impact the agricultural industry by depleting the water table and increasing the salinity of the remaining reserves. In parts of Abu Dhabi, levels are falling by up to five metres each year.
Irrigation of date palm trees currently consumes about a third of the groundwater used by major crops. However, more precise data is needed to help farmers improve their irrigation practices by matching irrigation supply to crop water demand. In line with this, the UAE government and the New Zealand government recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) where EAD will benefit from New Zealand’s experience to establish and operate a series of field experiments to monitor sap flow in date palm trees, which will help us better understand how much water is required to efficiently irrigate date palm trees. This information will assist EAD with the development of a tool that will help enhance decision-making related to irrigation allocation in the UAE.
Currently, such field experiments are being carried out at the Dubai-based International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), to determine the water requirements of mature date palm trees. Preliminary data so far shows that date palm trees sampled in the experiments were over-watered by a factor of two and a half or more and this exceeds the suggested amount by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) guidelines.
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