Abu Dhabi rejects more desalination despite growing water stress

Environment Policy and Planning at Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) has rejected upping desalination as a means to counter growing water scarcity in the emirate, opting instead for conservation and reuse.

EAD is against greater desalination plants on the grounds that their energy use is high and their outfall threatens marine life by increasing the already very high salinity levels in the Arabian Sea.

According to EAD, the better management of water usage, zero waste, new technologies for irrigation and agriculture that minimise water consumption and making use of recycled water are more sustainable options.

Acting executive director of EAD, Shaikha Al Mazrouei, said: “It is essential for EAD and its partners to manage the supply and demand of groundwater in the emirate through a number of public policies that enable behavioural, structural and technological change to save water.” She added: “The UAE government declared 2015 as the Year of Innovation, calling for collective action to cultivate innovation as a cornerstone of the country’s long-term economic strength.”
By 2018, EAD expects to recycle all of Abu Dhabi’s treated wastewater, mostly for agriculture and forestry, to reduce its need for desalination and ground water.

For a water budget – which would reduce water consumption by 30% by 2030 – to work, efficient water management technologies are vital.

Mazrouei said EAD has been leading efforts to identify the most promising water technologies with the Water Technology Approval Group forum. The five technologies the EAD presented included the CMS5000 Monitoring System by Inficon from Germany, the Buried diffuser by Chahtech from Tunisia, Adsorption Desalination by MEDAD from Singapore, the Waterboxx by Groasis from the USA and thin-film distillation by Aquaback from the USA.

EAD told local press that of these technologies were neither compulsory for its partners and stakeholders, nor were they the only ones that would fit Abu Dhabi’s water management needs.
EAD began a year ago working on a water budget plan to decrease water consumption in the emirate, despite forecasts of significant growth in the population and economy.

At 600 litres a day person per, the United Arab Emirates remains the world’s highest water consumer. More than 2 million Ml of water are extracted from underground each day largely for agriculture and forestry irrigation.

With inadequate rainfall to replenish the natural ground water, it is drying up rapidly causing its quality to diminish. According to recent studies only 3%of the emirates’ ground water is still of good quality, with the rest being brackish.