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P.

O Box : 45553
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Tel : +971 2 445 4777, Fax : +971 2 446 3339
www.ead.ae
customerservice@ead.ae
book pages 1 - 21 1/28/10 11:25 AM Page 1
H.H. Sheikh
Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
President of the United Arab Emirates
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H.H. Sheikh
Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi,
Deputy Supreme Commander of the
UAE Armed Forces
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H.H. Sheikh
Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Chairman of Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi
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List of Contributors
Environment Agency Abu Dhabi
H.E. Majid Al-Mansouri Secretary General
Dr. Jaber Al Jaberi Director, Environment Policy Sector
Dr. Mohamed Dawoud Manager, Natural Resources Department
Dr. Mahmood Abdulrahim Consultant, SG Office
Dr. Ahmed Khidr Bashir Consultant, SG Office
Mr. Abdulnasser Al-Shamsi Director Biodiversity Sector Terrestrial
Mr. Ahmed Al Muaini Environmental Permitting Department
Mr. Mustafa Lotfi Dash Environmental Monitoring Department
International Center for Biosaline Agriculture
Dr. Shawki Barghouti Director General
Dr. Faisal Taha Director Technical Programs
Dr. Nurul Akhand Irrigation Management Scientist
Dr. Rachael McDonnell Visiting Scientist
Dr. Shoaib Ismail Halophyte Agronomist
International Consultants
Dr. George K. Pitman International Consultant, UK
Dr. Geoffrey Hamer Private Consultant, UK
Dr. Mohamed Al-Shatanawi Professor, University of Jordan, Jordan
Dr. Jehangir Punthakey Consultant, Ecoseal-Groundwater and Environment, Australia
Dr. Mohamed Zarooni Senior Researcher, Doosan Desalination R&D Center, UAE
Dr. Abdul Nabi Fardous Adviser, Minister of Environment, Jordan
Dr. Safwat Abdel-Dayem Advisor to Minister of Water and Irrigation, Egypt
Dr. Maher Abu-Madi Research Coordinator, Birzeit University, Palestine
Dr. K. Palanisami Director, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, India
Stakeholders
Dr. Mariam Alyousuf Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA)
Dr. Mouza Almuhairi Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA)
Mr. Colin Hannan Regulation and Supervision Bureau (RSB)
Mr. Matthew Griffiths Regulation and Supervision Bureau (RSB)
Mr. Jamal Shadid Regulation and Supervision Bureau (RSB)
Mr. Malcolm Haddock Abu Dhabi Sewerage System Services (ADSSC)
Mr. Simon Taylor Abu Dhabi Sewerage System Services (ADSSC)
Eng. Mohamed Ramahi Abu Dhabi Distribution Company (ADDC)
Dr. Abdullah H. Ghareeb Department of Municipal Affairs
This report was edited by:
Dr. George K. Pitman, Dr. Rachael McDonnell and Dr. Mohamad Dawoud
book pages 1 - 21 1/28/10 11:25 AM Page 8
Acknowledgements ............................................................................................................................................................................................. 12
Preface ..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 13
Acronyms ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................ 14
Executive Summary ........................................................................................................................................................................................... 18
Background ........................................................................................................................................................................................................ 18
The planning process ........................................................................................................................................................................... 19
Reform of groundwater use is key to a sustainable future ...................................................... 20
Excessive household consumption of water is a growing problem ............................. 21
Institutional reform will be necessary ....................................................................................................................... 23
1. Introduction ........................................................................................................................................................................................... 25
The occurrence of water determined settlement patterns ...................................................... 26
Increased use of water improved the local environment ............................................................ 27
New visions will require more water and energy ...................................................................................... 28
And the visions emphasis is on sound
environmental management ..................................................................................................................................................... 29
Water production and use has climatic implications ........................................................................ 29
What needs to be done? .................................................................................................................................................................. 30
2. Water Availability and Water Use ................................................................................................ 33
Water Availability ...................................................................................................................................................................................... 34
Summary of Water Resources ............................................................................................................................................... 34
Fresh Water Resources ..................................................................................................................................................................... 34
Desalinated Water .................................................................................................................................................................................... 36
Treated Sewage Effluent ................................................................................................................................................................ 38
Water Use ............................................................................................................................................................................................................... 39
Desalinated water use ........................................................................................................................................................................ 39
Industrial Water Use ............................................................................................................................................................................. 43
Forestry and Agricultural Water Use .......................................................................................................................... 43
Amenity ...................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 44
Agriculture ............................................................................................................................................................................................................ 46
Livestock ................................................................................................................................................................................................................. 51
3. Environmental Impacts of Water Use .............................................................................. 53
Effects of Water Production ...................................................................................................................................................... 54
Water Production, Energy Use and the Atmosphere ........................................................................ 54
Energy and Water Use ........................................................................................................................................................................ 56
Water Use and the Marine Environment .............................................................................................................. 58
The Effects of Water on Land Use and Agriculture ............................................................................. 61
Groundwater ..................................................................................................................................................................................................... 62
4. Future Water Demand ................................................................................................................................................ 67
Future demand and supply ........................................................................................................................................................ 70
Future desalinated supply ........................................................................................................................................................... 70
Future agricultural demand ...................................................................................................................................................... 70
5. Planning and Development Options ...................................................................................... 73
Development Objectives ................................................................................................................................................................. 76
Economic Considerations ............................................................................................................................................................. 79
The benefits of demand management ...................................................................................................................... 80
Supply-side management is also essential ......................................................................................................... 81
Supply Management Options ................................................................................................................................................ 81
Integrated Environmental Management and Water Planning ........................................... 84
Developing an Accounting Framework ................................................................................................................... 84
Integrated Environmental Management ............................................................................................................... 84
Valuing Ecosystem Services ...................................................................................................................................................... 86
Alternative Water Supply Plans .......................................................................................................................................... 88
Current governance institutions and responsibilities ...................................................................... 90
Environmental Management ................................................................................................................................................... 90
Water Resources Management ............................................................................................................................................ 91
Water Service Delivery ....................................................................................................................................................................... 92
Institutional and governance developments .................................................................................................. 94
Establishment of the Abu Dhabi Water Council ...................................................................................... 94
Formal establishment of an environmental regulator ..................................................................... 94
Roles and responsibilities at Federal and
Emirate levels need clarification ........................................................................................................................................ 96
The Legal and Regulatory frameworks ................................................................................................................... 96
Water Resources ......................................................................................................................................................................................... 97
Water Services Management .................................................................................................................................................. 99
Regulatory Enforcement ............................................................................................................................................................... 100
There are gaps in legal and regulatory frameworks ........................................................................... 100
Responsibilities need clearer demarcation ...................................................................................................... 101
There should be a legal requirement to share information .................................................... 101
Adequate human resources are needed for enforcement ......................................................... 101
Environmental Standards need to be
established for Abu Dhabi .......................................................................................................................................................... 102
Land Use in Sensitive areas needs to be regulated ............................................................................ 102
Strategic Environmental Assessments are required ........................................................................ 102
6. Main Findings and Recommendations ............................................................................ 103
Water Availability ..................................................................................................................................................................................... 104
Water Use .............................................................................................................................................................................................................. 105
Water Production, Energy Use and the Atmosphere ...................................................................... 107
Planning future demand and supply .......................................................................................................................... 108
Alternative Water Supply Plans ........................................................................................................................................ 109
Institutional and Governance reforms ................................................................................................................... 110
Legal and regulatory framework development .......................................................................................... 110
Support requirements for these recommendations ........................................................................... 111
Good decision-making needs good information ...................................................................................... 111
Capacity building ...................................................................................................................................................................................... 111
Awareness raising ..................................................................................................................................................................................... 112
Concluding remark ................................................................................................................................................................................. 112
Annex 1: Groundwater ..................................................................................................................................................................... 115
Annex 2: Desalinated Water ...................................................................................................................................................... 127
Annex 3: Wastewater ........................................................................................................................................................................... 141
Annex 4: Potable Water Demand .................................................................................................................................... 159
Annex 5: Industrial Water Use ............................................................................................................................................. 171
Annex 6: Irrigation .................................................................................................................................................................................. 185
Annex 7: Governance and Regulatory Frameworks ........................................................................... 205
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
10 11
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Acknowledgements
12 13
The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) was established in 1996 with the mission to protect
and conserve the environment and promote the sustainable development of the Emirate of Abu
Dhabi. In partnership with the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water and the Federal
Environmental Agency, EAD assists environmental policy formulation, develops environmental
regulations and implements them.
EAD has eight environmental priorities:
Priority 1 Improve the quality and quantity of water resources in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi
Priority 2 Improve Air Quality
Priority 3 Develop Climate Change Framework
Priority 4 Set Waste Management Policy and Regulations
Priority 5 Protect the society and Environment from hazardous materials
Priority 6 Conserve Abu Dhabis Biological Diversity
Priority 7 Increase Societys Environmental Awareness
Priority8 Champion the implementation of the Environment, Health and Safety Management
System
In November 2007, EAD engaged the International Centre for Biosaline Research (ICBA) to
facilitate access to international experts to assist EAD to develop a Strategic Water Master Plan for
the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The likely opportunities and challenges for water development are
guided by the Urban Planning Councils Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 Urban Structure Framework Plan,
September 2007. The overall goal was to develop a plan for implementing EADs Priority 1 in order
to achieve sustainable utilization of water resources in an economically and environmentally
friendly way that would enhance the sustainable development of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and the
UAE. A key objective is to define more clearly EADs institutional role in the management and
regulation of the many water supplies, their uses and their impact on the Emirates environment.
This Main Report presents the findings drawn from a review of existing information about the
sources, utilization and future demand for water in Abu Dhabi, institutions for its management and
regulation, and the means to mitigate adverse environmental impacts. The planning process and
options to guide development of the master plan are described. It puts forward recommendations
to strengthen EADs institutional contribution to maximizing the economic value-added and
minimizing the economic and environmental costs of future water use in the Emirate drawing on
international best practice.
The Main Report is supported by seven technical annexes that describe the current status and the
environmental and technical issues related to projections of demand and supply, groundwater
abstraction, desalination, water supply and sanitation, irrigation, wastewater treatment and
Emirati governance and institutions.
Preface
With an ever-increasing population of Abu
Dhabi Emirate estimated to be 3-5 million in
2030 and ambitious economic developmental
projects, our important challenge in the next
decade is to balance available water resource
supplies with demand within sustainable
environmental, economic and social
frameworks. Earlier studies pioneered by the
Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) and
Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Company
(ADWEC) have clearly demonstrated critical
shortage of water supply in the coming years,
if proper planning is brought into force soon.
Faced with this important challenge and in
accord with EAD mandate, the Abu Dhabi
Executive Council commissioned EAD to
prepare a proposal on the development of
Abu Dhabi Water Master Plan. Emphasis was
placed on water supply, demand and
sustainable future water use. EAD selected
ICBA to implement this project
In executing the Water Master Plan, EAD
took the necessary steps to involve all
relevant agencies in a partner mode. Contacts
were made with the Regulation and
Supervision Bureau, Abu-Dhabi Water and
Electricity Authority, Abu Dhabi Water and
Electricity Company, ADSSC (Abu Dhabi
Sewage Services Company), Abu Dhabi
Distribution Company, Al Ain Distribution
Company, Abu Dhabi Transmission and
Dispatch Company, Abu Dhabi Food Control
Authority, Department of Municipal Affairs
and Agriculture, United States Geological
Survey and others. A team of experts drawn
from international organizations and
academic and research institutions joined this
group.
Special appreciation goes to ICBA, ADWEA,
ADSSC, RSB and other local Abu Dhabi
government organizations for the technical
assistance provided during the preparation of
this report and their valuable input during the
workshops held for the Water Master Plan.
Acknowledgements
Mohammed Al Bowardi
Managing Director
Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD)
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Acronyms
14 15
AADC Al Ain Distribution Company
ADDC Abu Dhabi Distribution Company
ADNOC Abu Dhabi National Oil Company
ADSSC Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company
ADWEA Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority
ADWEC Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Company
AWRIS Abu Dhabi Water Resources Database System
CITES Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
of Wild Fauna and Flora
CSS Carbon Storage and Capture
EIA Environmental Impact Assessment
FEA Federal Environmental Agency Abu Dhabi
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
GD Generation and Desalination
ICBA International Center for Biosaline Agriculture
IEA International Energy Agency
IWPP Independent Water and Power Producer
EAD Environment Agency Abu Dhabi
EPA Environmental Protection Agency
GIS Geographic Information System
GTZ Deutsche Gesellschaft fr Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ)
GmbH [German Agency for Technical Cooperation]
GWh Giga Watt hours
JICA Japan International Cooperation Agency
KWh Kilowatt Hours
lcd litres per capita per day
Mcm Million cubic meters
MEB Multiple Effect Distillation
MSF Multiple Stage Flash Distillation
MWh Megawatt Hours
NGO Non-government organizations
PA Protected Areas
PV Photovoltaic
RO Reverse Osmosis
RSB Regulation and Supervision Bureau (Abu Dhabi)
TAQA Abu Dhabi National Energy Company
TDS Total dissolved solids
TRANSCO Abu Dhabi Transmission and Dispatch Company
TSE Treated Sewage Effluent
UAE United Arab Emirates
UN United Nations
USGS United States (of America) Geological Survey
WHO World Health Organization
Units
Dh 1.00 = US$ 0.270
US$1.00 = Dh 3.675
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book pages 1 - 21 1/28/10 11:25 AM Page 14
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book pages 1 - 21 1/28/10 11:25 AM Page 16
of water for desalination locally threaten the
biodiversity of the marine environment and are
contributing to raising sea temperatures
currently amongst the highest in the world.
Environmental impacts are not only confined
to the aquatic ecosystem. The energy used to
desalinate water in power plants, to transmit
and distribute water around the Emirate, and
to lift and pump groundwater around piped
irrigation distribution system is derived from
fossil fuels. Overall fossil fuel use in the co-
generation plants is around 21 million tonnes
equivalent of CO2 per year and the share
attributed to water production and use lies
between 20 and 45%. Thus water use probably
contributes between 4 and 9 million tonnes of
CO2 equivalent per year.
The future outlook suggests many difficulties
unless actions are taken to reduce the rate of
water consumption. And reducing water
consumption will reduce demand for power
and its adverse environmental impacts. It is a
resource that is scarcer than oil and prudent
management taking into account financial,
economic, environmental and social concerns
is of paramount importance.
These concerns are captured in the Plan Abu
Dhabi 2030 that provides a vision of a global
capital city that puts a high premium on
environmental sustainability. It states that
environment, social and economic
considerations should be included in all
decision making. Leading the way with the
establishment of MASDAR, the government is
building scientific knowledge and technology
to promote clean industries and carbon-
neutral development. And the government
ratified the Kyoto Protocol in January 2005.
Supporting these forward-looking initiatives,
the Abu Dhabi Executive Council approved
the preparation of a Strategic Water Master
Plan in January 2008.
The Planning Process
Abu Dhabi Water Master Plan (the Plan) aims
to achieve three objectives:
Strategic environmental assessment of the
role of water in the Emirate
Identifying what needs to be done in the
water sector to improve the environment, and
Strengthening the structure of water and
environmental management.
It is about clarifying development objectives
and looking at the development options to
achieve these objectives. These are subject to
the constraints imposed by Abu Dhabis
environment, technology, and the lessons
learned from global experience. There are many
ways of achieving the objectives - the Plan
suggests various pathways to follow, and
identifies what needs to be done. Prerequisites
will be the development of sound institutions,
reformed organizations, capacity building and
increased awareness-raising amongst the
population. Specifically the government of Abu
Dhabi has to position itself on water to better
manage policy and strategy, cross-sectoral
coordination and regulation, and delegation of
hands-on management to others.
In the report water-related activities and
processes are linked to the overall hydrological
cycle, ecosystems and the atmosphere. Water
production and management are related to
energy use and environmental impacts in an
integrated approach that goes beyond
engineering. While it was expected that
sufficient information would be available to
determine the economics of water production
and management, and social issues arising, the
dearth of data precluded this. But these are
profound effect on Abu Dhabis natural
resources. Traditional oases dried up and the
small pockets of fresh groundwater that
sustained rural and coastal communities were
exhausted primarily from the huge demand of
the agricultural sector. Agricultural water
demand around Al Ain and Liwa far exceeds
natural recharge of the groundwater reservoir
and levels have dropped significantly, far more in
Al Ain than in Liwa. At the same time the
declining water table has caused the influx of
more saline water from lower levels in the aquifer
and laterally from surrounding areas. Overall
groundwater quality has deteriorated, and this is
exacerbated by the liberal application of
agricultural fertilizers, large numbers of
livestock, and localized dumping of brine and
sewage effluent into the desert. In the near-
shore regions of the Gulf very high withdrawals
Executive Summary
Executive Summary
Background
Since the 1960s water use in Abu Dhabi has
increased rapidly. This is the result of desert
greening policies of the government, and the
expansion of agriculture into the lands
surrounding traditional oases. Discovery of
substantial groundwater reserves at Liwa and
between it and Al Ain enabled the expansion of
agriculture into formerly desert areas. Large
tracts of desert and communication routes have
been afforested. Over the same time period the
population grew exponentially to its current 1.5
million people. While groundwater provided
potable water supplies in the 1960s, the
subsequent increase in demand for both power
and water required the building of large thermal
powered co-generation plants.
The rapid growth of the rural and urban
economy over the last 48 years has had a
19 18
book pages 1 - 21 1/28/10 11:25 AM Page 18
Abu Dhabi are using treated sewage effluent
(TSE) and excess desalinated water to recharge
the groundwater reservoir. Neither is a viable
solution. Demand for treated sewage effluent
will shortly exceed supply and in the future the
supply shortage will be so large that the
Muncipality and EAD are proposing to adopt
desert landscaping in urban areas. Excess
capacity to generate desalinated water is
available in the winter when power demand is
small. However, the marginal cost of winter
season desalination becomes very high because
energy to desalinate water has to be specially
provided independently of power generation.
This would raise the average cost of water
significantly now $1.75 per cubic metre
perhaps by more than half. The exact cost is not
known until more detailed financial information
is available from the water generation
companies. Apart from the cost issue the
volume available would be relatively small
about 10% of groundwater demand.
There are three strategic options:
a) do nothing and allow the agricultural system
to gradually fail over the next 20-40 years;
b) take positive actions to reduce water demand;
or
c) provide agriculture with expensive desalinated
water.
Doing nothing is not an option as it would have
important social consequences. Option (c) is
allowed and officially 11% of the very expensive
desalinated water supply is being used. In
practice this is likely to be far higher. There are
no economic or financial analyses to verify the
economic sense of this approach. We are certain
that rigorous analysis following the precedent
set by the reform of the date industry under the
leadership of HE Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al
Nahyan could be replicated in other parts of the
agricultural sector.
As an alternative the government can adopt
progressive policies for agriculture and power
and implement option (b). The program to
reduce agricultural subsidies should be
accelerated and the biggest benefit would
accrue from removing that from Rhodes grass
and other crops, and supporting drought-
tolerant species. This could quickly reduce water
usage by half. The biggest impact will be from
policies that affect farmers costs. Power is very
under-priced farmers pay only 14% of actual
electricity costs and there are sound financial
reasons to increase the tariffs. They are an
effective policy instrument. Global experience
shows that a 10% increase in tariffs reduces
demand by 4-7%. Thus increasing power tariffs
would force farmers to increase water use
efficiency and adopt new cropping patterns that
use less water vegetables in preference to field
crops. While many farmers may cease to farm,
the social consequences are better addressed by
direct income support programs that are
transparent and do not have such unforeseen
environmental consequences.
There is a lobby that argues that continued
support for agriculture contributes to food self-
sufficiency and is essential for national security.
However, it must be stated here that future
agricultural management and expansion must
be viewed within the context of available
irrigation water and energy sources to ensure
sustainability of production. Any changes must
be considered within the context of
international indicators for food production and
recent UAE government initiatives to secure
future supply.
Excessive household consumption
of water is a growing problem
ADWECs latest projections for peak power
demand indicate existing co-generation capacity
will be unable to meet demand for water after
2012. New capacity will be needed unless
demand can be reduced. As most desalinated
water is produced by co-generation of power and
important tasks. Without sound economic and
social analysis it will be difficult to make rational
decisions on future choices of technology, their
phasing and management.
Reform of Groundwater Use is Key
to a Sustainable Future
Agriculture and forestry use two-thirds of Abu
Dhabis water resources that are not renewable.
These two sub-sectors compete for the same
groundwater source. Neither uses the resource
efficiently because of inducements offered by
extensive support subsidies, including those
supporting farm construction, land preparation
and irrigation infrastructure. Electricity and
input subsidies reduced running costs while
output subsidies ensured good incomes. All
contributed to the rapid development of
irrigation that peaked in 2007. While the high-
level of subsidies have guaranteed farmers good
incomes and supported rural settlements, they
have rapidly increased the demand for energy
and water.
Most notably just a single crop - Rhodes Grass
that accounts for a 60 percent of agricultural
water use is responsible for much of the
environmental damage and groundwater
mining. And fodder from its production, in turn,
has supported the dramatic increase in the
number of livestock which now exceeds two
million. Annual crop and energy subsidies for
Rhodes grass alone were about Dh 800 million in
2006. The combined environmental impact of
Rhodes grass and livestock is probably
responsible for two million tonnes CO2
equivalent per year or 10% of the national total.
This also endangers natural rangeland and
ecosystems of amenity value and tourist
potential.
Forests are exotic in Abu Dhabis arid desert
climate yet they cover over 300,000 ha of land
area and are a source of national pride. While
they potentially offer important ecosystem
habitats, many are in poor condition and are
maintained only through irrigation by brackish
groundwater provided at high cost. Forests and
Rhodes grass together account for two-thirds of
groundwater abstraction. They use 1.24 GWh of
electrical energy a year to provide drip irrigation
through 433,000 km of pipes plus the energy used
by wells. Annual pumping costs are more than
Dh 256 million per year and CO2 production
from energy used is about half million tonnes per
year. While this is offset by carbon sequestered
in forest vegetation, there is little or no research
to determine the amount.
These high rates of agriculture water use
jeopardize Abu Dhabis only strategic water
reserve: groundwater. At current rates of
agricultural use all of Abu Dhabis fresh and
moderately brackish water will be exhausted in
20-40 years. Groundwater is available all year
round over quite large inland areas and can be
recovered and treated for water supply at fairly
low costs. Currently desalinated water supply
systems that are the sole potable water source
have only two days storage capacity.
Groundwater is the only alternative source of
supply.
Agriculture is thus living on borrowed time. If
present agricultural and energy policy continue
then water quality will continue to deteriorate
and electricity demand will increase
disproportionately as more water is required to
leach irrigated soils and lift water from greater
depths.
There are solutions: water demand can be
regulated or its supply can be increased. While
demand regulation is feasible, the rate and cost
of relatively small volumes of groundwater
recharge are non-viable.
Supply augmentation has been hotly debated
for a number of years and the choices favoured in
Executive Summary
21 20
book pages 1 - 21 1/28/10 11:25 AM Page 20
An important finding is that the sewage
collection system is very efficient, probably
better than 90% at collecting indoor household
wastewater. Water tariffs would primarily affect
households outdoor use of water, little of which
is captured by the sewerage system. Therefore
increasing tariffs will not necessarily lead to a
reduction in TSE which is an important water
source for landscapes and amenity use. Indeed
the conservation of potable water will ensure
that household demands in new developments
are fully met providing that these new sources of
wastewater are connected and efficiently
collected.
The instruments to develop a workable tariff
policy will require a lot of additional household
research and surveys. This is a complex and
sophisticated subject but, given its high payoff in
terms of deferring large capital investment in
desalination, it should be given the highest
priority.
Turning to supply, recent new water production
plants have been large and very costly, typically
more than US$2 billion. These lumpy
investments take up to six years to come on-line
considering design, contracting and
construction. In the absence of demand
management there is no choice but to build new
capacity. Global best practice indicates that
reverse osmosis plants (RO) have significant
cost and environmental advantages over the
current multi-stage flash (MSF) distillation
processes when not used in co-generation. With
the national move towards nuclear energy it is
suggested that the immediate future strategy
should be to fill the demand-supply gap in
relatively small increments. Brackish
groundwater RO could be run at half the costs of
seawater. They have the additional advantage of
producing between half and three-quarters less
concentrated brine and significantly lower
greenhouse gas emissions when power supply is
factored in. This proposal will run into fierce
opposition because of the vested interests that
have monopolized water generation in the Gulf
region since the 1960s, and this will require
much greater in-depth analysis than has been
possible in this Plan. Singapore and Australia
provide excellent examples of the economic and
environmental advantages of RO.
Both demand reduction and supply
augmentation are viable. Modest size RO plants
could be introduced in inland areas around Al
Ain and Liwa. These RO plants and their
associated well-fields could supplement potable
and/or agricultural water supplies and if
connected to existing transmission systems,
augment supplies from the Fujairah
desalination plants for Al Ain. This would allow
the Abu Dhabi coastal plants to supply the
growing conurbation of the capital city. If
sufficient capacity and emergency generators
could be installed, these RO plants would
provide a strategic water supply in the event of
coastal desalination plants failing.
The feasibility of these various proposals
requires far more data than is currently
available, specifically full engineering and
energy as well as land management and
environmental costs in a comprehensive,
integrated study. The detailed study approach
would involve developing the costs and benefits
of each option; making trade-offs to minimize
environmental impacts and financial costs,
whilst maximizing economic benefits. This
would also provide the opportunity to include
social dimensions that have not been included
in this strategic plan.
Institutional reform will be
necessary
To bring about the proposed changes of this
strategic assessment, there is a need to develop
the institutional structures of Abu Dhabi emirate
in both water and environmental management.
water this will affect the future supply of
potable water to meet demand from
households, government, commerce and
industry. Consideration of gas supplies and
alternative energy sources indicate that stand-
alone electricity stations may offer the most
flexible solutions to meet future demand. And a
decision to explore nuclear power generation
has been taken. In this sector there are three
options to ensure future water supplies:
1. demand reduction
2. supply augmentation
3. or a combination of the two
Currently only 17% of water is lost in
transmission and distribution. With state-of-the-
art management this could possibly be reduced
to 10% but the marginal cost becomes
increasingly high for lower-losses. The
technologies to achieve this are well-known and
are being introduced in the water supply sector
which is among the best-managed and regulated
in the Middle East. In terms of meeting demand,
leakage reduction programs only delay the
demand-supply gap from 2012 until about 2014.
Beyond that the supply-demand gap rapidly
increases. As with electricity, water tariffs have
proved to be an effective instrument to lower
demand and they behave in a similar way too.
Thus a progressive increase in the water tariff
could reduce demand by more than half.
Rigorously pursued it could completely close the
supply demand gap and reduce the need for very
expensive and lumpy new investment.
The reason is that three-quarters of desalinated
water supplies are used primarily for vegetation
amenity plantations, home gardening, parks and
private households. Surveys show that per capita
consumption in flats in Abu Dhabi range
between 170 and 200 litres per capita per day. In
contrast, people living in villas use between 270
and 1,760 litres per capita per day. Extensive
survey data from Europe, Australia and Canada
clearly show that developed societies typically
consume 150 250 litres per capita per day.
Notably, households in which water is for free
consume far more water than those that pay a
tariff. A two-part tariff is indicated and this could
be applied specifically to non-household use of
desalinated water.
Executive Summary
23 22
book pages 1 - 21 1/28/10 11:25 AM Page 22
The most important recommendation is the
creation of an Abu Dhabi Water Council which
would be responsible for strategic planning and
development across all the water sources and
users. The present system operates as a series of
silos with limited strategic communication
between the various major water resources
system management groups and user groups.
The new Water Council would ensure integrated
and coherent water policies in the future. It
would provide the independent guidance and
oversight to come up with the economically best
solutions to meet water needs across the many
economic sectors. And ensure that these are
balanced within possible water and energy
supply futures that meet national environmental
policy objectives.
In tandem with this, is the very real need for an
environmental regulator. The setting of
acceptable standards and practices for using
natural resources or discharging to the
environment is needed to control the impacts of
burgeoning developments, including water and
energy supplies. Without this water and other
natural resources will be further compromised in
the future. Additional planning and support for
capacity-building and developing the Emirates
human and financial resources for monitoring
and enforcement are essential.
Executive Summary
24
book pages 1 - 21 1/28/10 11:25 AM Page 24
1. Introduction
25
section 1- 2 1/28/10 11:27 AM Page 2
secure potable water supplies - initially from a
mix of groundwater and desalination but now
primarily from desalination - and sanitation. As
a result water services are reliable and quality is
high. Everyone who consumes water supplied
by distribution companies is happy with free or
heavily subsidized water.
In addition, the extensive oil-field exploration
activities provided increasingly detailed knowl-
edge about the geology and the distribution of
groundwater resources. Driven by the forward-
thinking of His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin
Sultan Al-Nahyan, extensive investigations to
find sweet groundwater were successful in the
1970s and indicated that there was great poten-
tial to green the desert and increase the culti-
vated area around existing oases. These efforts
accelerated in the late 1980s under the guidance
of the then Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, His
Highness Sheikh Kalifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan
who issued a directive for the establishment of
an inter-government program led by the
National Drilling Company of Abu Dhabi in
cooperation with the US Geological Survey and
later with Germanys Gesellschaft fur
Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ). These
efforts found that fresh groundwater was avail-
able under almost 380,000 hectares of the Abu
Dhabi Emirate or 6.5 percent of the land area.
About 160,000 ha of this occurred in the north-
east of the Emirate and 220,000 ha in the Liwa
Crescent and other parts of the Western
Region. Elsewhere groundwater was generally
too saline except for use in secondary oil extrac-
tion.
Increased use of water improved
the local environment
The rapid increase in oil prices in 1973 sparked
the growth of sea-water desalinization in the
Middle East and accelerated infrastructure
development. Using energy readily available
from huge oil and gas reserves, desalination
plants were constructed in association with
electrical power generation facilities. And the
multiple-stage flash distillation process intro-
duced at that time has proved to be the reliable
mainstay of water supplies for domestic and
industrial consumption in the Emirate. Reverse
osmosis to desalinate seawater and brackish
groundwater was then only being developed,
was not well understood and required high
energy inputs. Subsequently costs of water from
desalinization have dropped significantly. This
is the result of technical improvements that
have mostly overcome the problems associated
with the reverse osmosis process.
Concern to share the nations oil wealth with
citizens, foster employment and move towards
food self-sufficiency from the early 1970s accel-
erated agricultural development using fresh
groundwater. Emiratis who wished to farm were
granted 2 to 3 ha farms that were developed
through generous subsidies for wells, irrigation
systems, seeds, fertilizer and pesticides. From
less than 2,000 ha in 1970 citizen farms grew rap-
idly to cover an estimated 80,000 ha by 2007 a
growth of nearly 5,000 ha a year since the middle
1990s, Figure 2.
His Highness Sheikh Zayed succeeded in his
greater vision to green the desert and the cities
to provide habitat for wildlife and stabilize the
sand dunes. By 2003 over 300,000 ha of the
desert had been planted with trees, irrigated
mostly from groundwater, and more recently
supplemented by desalinated water. While Al
Ain was traditionally known as the garden city,
this now applies also to the capital, Abu Dhabi.
Amenity planting along roadsides and creation
of gardens and parks has made these extreme-
The occurrence of water
determined settlement patterns
Abu Dhabi occupies an arid region sloping west
from the Omani Mountains and north from the
Rub Al Khali desert of Saudi Arabia to border
the Gulf (Figure 1). Most of the country is sand
and stony desert while the coastal strip is ringed
with sabkhas. Offshore more than 200 islands,
almost all without sweet water and some fringed
with coral reefs, form an array of creeks - many of
which are cloaked in mangrove that provide a
rich near-shore environment that nurtures
many species of flora and fauna. At Umm Al-
Nar on the coast, communities were active in
coastal trade, fishing and pearl diving from
the Bronze Age.
Inland the earliest inhabitants were sustained
by periodic flash floods that provided sweet
shallow groundwater around the oases of Al Ain
just east of the Omani Mountains and ancient
yet sweet fossil groundwater in the location of
Liwa in the south west. Subsequently, about
twenty aflaj were constructed in the vicinity of
Al Ain over 3,000 years ago to transport water
underground from the foothills and support
small-scale agriculture, as the climate became
increasingly arid and groundwater levels slowly
declined. The steady expansion of irrigated
agriculture supported a growing population.
And the discovery of a fresh ground water
spring on a small coastal island in 1751 led to
the establishment of Abu Dhabi and the even-
tual relocation of the tribal headquarters of the
Bani Yas from the oases of Liwa to the present-
day seat of government.
All this changed in the 1960s with the exploita-
tion of oil and gas resources that provided the
revenue to improve peoples living conditions
and build modern infrastructure. From the out-
set the highest priority was given to provision of
Introduction
27 26
1. Introduction
Figure 1 : Abu Dhabi Emirate Location Map
section 1- 2 1/28/10 11:27 AM Page 4
And the visions emphasis is on
sound environmental management
The Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 puts a high premium
on sound environmental development and
management. In terms of environment, health
and safety it espouses four guiding principles:
integrating environmental, social and eco-
nomic considerations in all decision-making;
adopting the precautionary principle based
on scientific knowledge and clean technolo-
gies;
ensuring environmental health, diversity and
productivity is maintained through sustain-
able development; and
promoting environmental awareness and
sense of responsibility.
The emphasis is also on integrated coastal zone
management to:
establish a comprehensive network of
marine and terrestrial protected areas;
integrate a comprehensive network of
marine and terrestrial protected areas;
endorse creation of environmental educa-
tion facilities;
suggest removal of existing development
that compromises the attainment of these
goals; and
recommend specific actions directed to
urbanization and urban sprawl, including:
- establishing urban development bound-
aries;
- setting aside critical areas and non-
development zones;
- protecting coastal landscapes and other
sites of value by redirecting develop-
ment elsewhere; and
- preventing habitat fragmentation.
And among the sustainable green building
design criteria the Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 advo-
cates water conservation, harvesting and recla-
mation, and energy and thermal efficiency.
The proposals of Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 were aug-
mented by two new policy initiatives in the peri-
od 2005-07. The laws of land ownership were lib-
eralized in 2005 to allow for the creation of 33
mega-projects along the coast behind Abu
Dhabi Island. And surplus oil revenues were
released for major infrastructure developments
and mega-projects. In all, these new investments
are expected to cost in excess of US$172 billion.
How far these plans will be affected by the global
recession that started in mid-2008 is uncertain.
The most probable impact will be delays in the
anticipated mega-investment and a scaling-
back of the more ambitious and risky proposals.
The impact of Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 and the
mega-projects on future demand for electricity
and water services is huge. The 2007 forecast of
peak electricity demand by ADWEC for 2015 for
example, leapt by 56 percent over the earlier
2005 planning estimate used to project future
infrastructure requirements. And equally
important, the forecast peak demand for water
supplies from desalination increased by 19 per-
cent.
Water production and use has
climatic implications
Utilization of the Emirates oil wealth has
changed the landscape of the UAE. It has also
greatly contributed to global carbon emissions.
In 2005 the UAE as a whole accounted for
almost 9% of total global carbon released from
fossil fuels (Figure 3). The same source shows
that per capita CO2 emissions declined by
about 9% after 1990 to reach 23.7 tonnes/capita
in 2003 - this was the result of better technolo-
gy and a transition to the use of natural gas.
Specific data for Abu Dhabi are not reported by
the International Energy Agency (IEA).
However, EADs Environmental Data Initiative
reports in 2008 that 64% of carbon emissions
emanate from oil production facilities, oil
ly pleasant places to live. Unlike desert foresta-
tion, urban landscaping program relies also on
the use of treated waste water effluent generated
from desalinated water used within the urban
area. In contrast to the use of groundwater and
desalinated water for greening Abu Dhabi and
for agriculture, industrial water use is relatively
quite small.
The landscape of the Abu Dhabi Emirate has
been significantly altered through use of natural
and artificial water supplies. It has clearly
demonstrated that, with vision, even the arid
deserts can be made to bloom and be produc-
tive. The vision for the future is equally bold and
even more challenging.
New visions will require more water
and energy
A new vision for the future of Abu Dhabi as a
global capital city is now being promoted by His
Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan
and implemented under the direction of His
Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al
Nahyan, Crown Prince of Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
In the 2005 census Abu Dhabi city was home to
three-quarters of a million people or 59 percent
of the national population. Under the vision
Plan Abu Dhabi 2030: The Urban Structure
Framework Plan in which sustainable utiliza-
tion of land and water are key, the population of
Abu Dhabi city is expected to grow from 930,000
in 2007 to over three million, and possibly as
many as five million, by 2030. Over the same time
period, tourism, currently 1.8 million visits per
year, is expected to grow to almost 8 million.
It is anticipated that the quality of life and the
built environment will attract expatriate immi-
gration and tourists who will, in turn, leverage
business investment and synergize development
of a world-class cultural and commercial center.
Not only does this massive growth provide
opportunities for innovative town planning and
state-of-the-art architecture, it will also demand
close attention to providing adequate water sup-
plies, electricity, and facilities to dispose of
waste. Security of water supplies will be an over-
riding consideration for economic and social
well-being.
Conservation of energy and reduction of green-
house gas emissions and concerns for the climat-
ic impacts of development will probably be
among the attractions of living in a modern com-
munity for the new residence, the majority of
whom will be expatriates. Similarly, access to
pristine desert environments and the traditional
oases culture of Abu Dhabi would be features
that will link expatriates to a deeper understand-
ing and appreciation for Emirati culture.
Recreational use of near-shore waters will also
grow significantly in importance, not only for
boating, but also for underwater activities that
will depend on sound management of the off-
shore marine environment.
Introduction
29 28
Figure 2 : The growth in the cultivated and afforested
area has been remarkable
Source: EAD 2006 and Moreland op cit, 2007.
C
u
lt
iv
a
t
e
d
o
r
P
la
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e
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A
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e
a
,
h
a
(
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section 1- 2 1/28/10 11:27 AM Page 6
refineries, and petrochemical and fertilizer
plants. Adoption of a zero-flaring policy by the
Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC)
significantly reduced its gas flaring from 7.5 mil-
lion to 2.5 million cubic meters a day over the
period 1995-2004.
The International Panel on Climate Change
allows countries to use either the reference
approach or the sectoral approach when report-
ing their CO2 emissions. The emissions shown
here use the reference approach, which uses
data on a country's total energy supply and cap-
tures refining, flaring, and other "fugitive emis-
sions" that do not result directly from end-use
fossil fuel combustion. In contrast, the sectoral
approach estimates emissions based on the
combustion in country rather than the supply
of fossil fuels for local and export use. Sectoral
data reported by EAD (2006) for the Abu
resources and uses. The best combinations of
viable options and their schedule for imple-
mentation will define the strategy for the
future use and management of water accord-
ing to the guiding principles of Plan Abu Dhabi
2030. This is the objective of this Water Master
Plan.
The next chapter provides an overview of the
pattern of present and projected water use and
the way in which water is supplied. Chapter 3
presents the environmental and economic
impacts of the technologies and present water
use. Chapter 4 addresses the need for an inte-
grated approach to environmental regulation
and management and presents to tools to
achieve this based on international best prac-
tice. Chapter 5 highlights the key role of insti-
tutions, current challenges and recommenda-
tions for policy and organizational reforms
necessary to ensure sustainable environmental
management. The design of institutions and
capacity-building to strengthen EADs ability
to manage and regulate the environment and
water resources is presented in Chapter 6 and
recommendations are presented in Chapter 7.
Seven technical annexes are provided to give a
more detailed background to the report.
Dhabis cogenerative power and water plants
indicates that 13.5 million tons of gases and par-
ticulates 36% of Abu Dhabis total emissions
are produced each year of which CO2 accounts
for 99.65%. Thus water production, transmis-
sion and use in Abu Dhabi is intricately linked
to greenhouse gas emissions because of its
reliance on fossil fuel energy for desalination,
pumped distribution, and water treatment.
Recognizing the importance of global warming
the UAE ratified the Kyoto Protocol of the UN
Framework Convention for Climatic Change in
January 2005. As a non-Annex 1 country it is not
obliged to reduce its emissions. Even so in
January 2008 His Highness General Sheikh
Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan Crown Prince
of Abu Dhabi announced at the opening ceremo-
ny of the World Future Energy Summit that
US$15 billion would be made available to foster
development of renewable energy and conserva-
tion under the Masdar Initiative (Box 1).
What needs to be done?
These new initiatives and guiding principles
have huge implications for water and water
resources management. Water is the major envi-
ronmental component frequently taken for
granted that underpins and links population
growth, maintenance and creation of green habi-
tats, preservation of the cultural heritage, and
urban expansion. Almost all water used in the
Emirate requires energy to pump it and/or purify
it, and power plants are emitters of pollutants
and greenhouse gases. Water use also creates
byproducts brine plus process chemicals from
desalinated sea water, and chemical-laden
wastewater from urban and industrial, agricul-
tural and landscape areas. In many cases the
near-shore marine environment or pristine
desert areas become the disposal zones for pol-
luted waters.
The new vision for the future of Abu Dhabi
Emirate requires a careful assessment of the way
in which water is currently used and its direct
and indirect impacts on the environment. This
will enable identification of options for improve-
ment in existing water use and alternative water
BOX 1: THE MASDAR INITIATIVE
This initiative is designed to explore, develop and commercialize future energy sources that will
leverage investment globally. The kingpin of the initiative is the construction of a sustainable
carbon-neutral, zero-waste, car-free city near Abu Dhabi powered entirely by renewable energy.
MASDAR is planning a solar power generation plant using locally manufactured polysilicon to
convert sunlight to energy and an integrated hydrogen power generation project that will enable
clean electricity and CO
2
sequestration. Trials are underway to test suitability of PVs for UAE.
Additionally MASDAR has initiated planning for a national network of Carbon Storage and
Capture (CSS) from existing power and water cogeneration facilities. Captured CO2 will be recy-
cled and stored underground to augment reservoir gas caps that drive oil recovery.
Introduction
30 31
Figure 3: Global Share of Total Carbon Emissions Top
Ten Countries 2005
Source: International Energy Agency (IEA) Statistics
Division. 2006. CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion
(2006 edition).Paris. Available at http://data.iea.org/iea-
store/default.asp.
Global Share (%)
section 1- 2 1/28/10 11:27 AM Page 8
2. Water Availability
and Water Use
33
section 1- 2 1/28/10 11:27 AM Page 10
The lack of renewable freshwater resources in
Abu Dhabi Emirate is a major challenge for sus-
tainable development and management of
water supplies. Since the 1960s the growth in
population, higher standards of living, and
expansion of the agricultural, forestry and
industrial sectors has created a huge demand
for more fresh water. Initially demand was met
from fresh groundwater resources but that is
being depleted rapidly. Increased reliance on
non-conventional water supplies is required to
maintain economic growth in the Emirate. One
of the most important challenges for the
Emirate is to balance water supply and demand
as efficiently as possible given that the per capi-
ta consumption of fresh water is among the
highest in the world and new water supplies are
expensive.
Water Availability
Summary of Water Resources
Table 1 summarizes water resources and con-
straints on their use according to current knowl-
edge and practice. Ancient fossil groundwater
and seawater are the principal natural water
resources of Abu Dhabi (see Annex 1 for more
detail). Rainfall in comparison is a negligible
resource except in the eastern plains below the
Omani Mountains. Desalinated installed capac-
ity exceeded average annual domestic demand
in 2003 because it is designed to meet short-
term peak demand and future growth in the
medium-term.
Seawater is effectively an infinite supply con-
strained only by the costs of desalination and
environmental impacts. Groundwater
resources can be thought of as a large under-
ground reservoir whose use is constrained by its
quality and the willingness of users to finance
the cost of raising it to the land surface. In many
areas nearby brackish or saline groundwater
may be drawn into the freshwater reservoir if
the rate of freshwater withdrawal is too high.
Fresh Water Resources
Rainfall: Rainfall is sparse and erratic in both
time and place. Its unreliability precludes it as a
reliable water resource. Mean annual rainfall
within Abu Dhabi Emirate declines from east to
west, varying from 119 mm at Al Wigan, to 96
mm in Al Ain and only 46 mm at Jebel Dhana in
the Western Region. Mean annual rainfall of
Abu Dhabi Island is only 87 mm. Annual evapo-
ration is more than 2,000 mm or 20 times mean
annual rainfall. Even so, high intensity isolated
rainfall often cause sporadic wadi floods that
quickly infiltrate and recharge groundwater.
Volumetrically, net rainfall contributes about 24
million cubic meters (Mcm) a year. About 16
Mcm is from rainfall over the Emirate and 8
Mcm is from cross-border flows from Oman.
Groundwater: Groundwater in the absence of
significant recharge is essentially a large reser-
voir of water a stock whose use requires
wells, pumping equipment and distribution sys-
tems (see Annex 1 for more details).
Traditionally fresh ground water was found in
the gravel plains around Al Ain and in the Liwa
Crescent area in the Western Emirate.
A
In the
past when the water table was high the small
amount of rainfall recharge provided spring
flows in the Al Ain area and serviced quanats.
As these resources became fully used the water
table was lowered and the quanats became dry.
The investigations of the last three decades
successfully quantified the thickness of the
underground fresh water reservoir and its spa-
tial extent, and how much water was available
for use. Exploration revealed that the predevel-
opment fresh groundwater area in the north-
east extended over about a 1,600 square kilome-
ter area and covered only 2.7 percent of the
Emirate (Figure 4). Most of this fresh water
occurred within about 15 to 25 km of the Oman
Mountain front from Mezyad to Al Shwaib. The
source of the fresh ground water in the Eastern
Region was primarily underflow through the
alluvial sediments in wadis that drained the
Oman Mountains and episodic storm runoff
concentrated in the wadis. A narrow band of
fresh water extended about 30 km west of the
Oman border through Al Ain to Al Saad.
The total predevelopment fresh groundwater
area beneath the Liwa Crescent in the western
Emirate was about 3, 800 square kilometers or
6.5% of the total area of the Emirate which had
reduced to 2,199 kilometers by 2005.* The
source of this fresh water was paleo-recharge
thousands of years ago during wetter climatic
periods than the present arid climate. Several
studies have indicated that virtually no recharge
occurs in the Western region under present cli-
matic conditions. Therefore any use of ground-
water effectively mines the resource.
The volume of fresh groundwater reserves in the
Emirate before development was estimated at
29,700 Mcm. Slightly more than eight percent of
the fresh groundwater occurred in the Eastern
Region between Al Ain and Al Saad. The bulk of
it (84 %) occurs in the Western Region around
the Liwa Crescent. By 2007 withdrawal, primari-
ly for agriculture, reduced the total volume by
an estimated 12% or 26,300 Mcm.
According to the United States Geological
Survey (USGS) predevelopment brackish water
volumes were estimated at 94,300 Mcm and by
2007 this had been reduced to 83,000 Mcm. As
with fresh water, most of this resource, 82 per-
cent, is in the Western Region. Moderately brack-
ish groundwater resources are used to irrigate a
restricted range of crops and vegetation, depend-
Water Availability and Water Use
* Using the USGS classification fresh water has total dissolved solids (TDS) of less than 1,500 parts per million (ppm).
Moderately brackish water 1,500 to less than 6,000 ppm; brackish water from 6,000 to less than 15,000 ppm; saline water 15,000
to 35,000 ppm; and brine greater then 35,000 ppm. The Gulf sea water has 40 to 44,000 ppm.
34 35
2. Water Availability
and Water Use
Table 1: Water Stocks, Generation and Naturally Renewable Water Resources of Abu Dhabi
Source: adapted from EAD 2006
Stocks:
Groundwater - fresh
Groundwater moder-
ately brackish
Groundwater brackish
Generated
Desalination
Treated Sewage
Effluent
Naturally Renewable
Rainfall and inflows
Volume Mcm
Water Resource
1960 2007
Status and comment
30,000 26,000
94,000 89,000
138,000 132,000
negligible 1,044/year
negligible 400/year
24/year 24/year
Mined from storage as natural annual recharge is negligible.
Constraints are cost and quality. Annual mining is subject to
demand. Moderately brackish water with TDS more than 1,500
ppm can be used on many commercial plants and trees
TDS range is 6,000 to 15,000 ppm allowing use on a very
restricted range of plants and trees
Renewable and expandable. Constraints are cost and environ-
mental impacts.
Renewable and expandable. Resource is dependant on desalinated
water supplied for domestic use. Aesthetic issues constrain use.
Highly variable from year to year
section 1- 2 1/28/10 11:27 AM Page 12
Power and water production peaks in the sum-
mer but falls off in the winter, Figure 5.
Potentially excess desalination capacity of 58
Mcm (the area between the dotted and solid
blue line A to B) could be used to generate water
that could be stored for summer use in ground-
water or surface reservoirs if cost-effective.
There is a cost-effectiveness problem however.
To raise water production to the line AB in
winter would require additional thermal
power generation above the grid demand just
to evaporate sea water Energy for multi-stage
flash evaporation is made of waste thermal
heat from electricity generation (We) plus
some heat generated just for desalination
(Ws). In summer the ratio of Ws to We is very
small. In winter the ratio increases as demand
for electricity falls. Power generation for Ws is
very expensive compared with We, and in win-
ter the overall cost could make full use of
excess water capacity much less economic.
How expensive cannot be determined until
data are made available to support such
analysis by the water master plan team.
ing on salinity tolerance, and are desalinated
locally also via small-scale RO plants, particular-
ly in the Western Region. Brackish water
138,000 Mcm.
Desalinated Water
Desalinated seawater currently represents the
primary source of potable water available in Abu
Dhabi. Capacity to desalinate water to supple-
ment groundwater supplies was initiated in the
1960s and has expanded steadily ever since in
response to growing demand for potable water
supplies (Figures 5 and 6) (see annex 2 for more
detail). Desalination capacity increased by over
360% between 1998 and 2007. Initially all desali-
nation plants were owned and operated by the
government. But since 2000 a change of policy
has privatized operations and maintenance
under long-term management contracts. By 2007
only 4 percent of capacity remained to be divest-
ed to the private sector. Security of supplies,
water quality and sound financial management
is guaranteed by Abu Dhabis strong and inde-
pendent regulatory authority: the Regulation
and Supervision Bureau (RSB).
Production is almost exclusively from thermal
power generation plants coupled with multiple
flash distillation (MSF) plants operating on
seawater as feed. RO currently provides 6% of
dependable capacity. Cogeneration power
plants are designed to meet peak electricity
demand and produce water. The relative impor-
tance of electricity to water generation varies
significantly from summer to winter; when
power demand falls off in the winter; water pro-
duction can be maximized using the excess
energy generation capacity. Current production
is primarily from eight desalination plants along
the Gulf Coast and imports from one in the
Emirate of Fujairah on the Gulf of Oman (seen
Annex 2 for more detail).
Total installed capacity of the major cogenera-
tion plants at the end of 2007 was 1,044 Mcm and
production was 847 Mcm. The few small desali-
nation plants using thermal and reverse osmosis
serve some remote communities and oil produc-
tion facilities and produce about 8 Mcm. There
is almost no storage capacity in the desalination
water transmission system. If the desalination
plants all failedbecause of extensive oil spill (as
happened in Alaska) or warAbu Dhabi would
have only one to two days water supply.
Water Availability and Water Use
37 36
Figure 4 : Pre-development Fresh Groundwater
Resources in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi
Figure 5 : Desalination Capacity Grew Rapidly
Figure 6 : Abu Dhabis Desalinated Water Distribution Network is Extensive March 2007
Source: ADWEA 2008
Source: ADWEA 2007
Source: Mooreland et. Al. 2007. op. cit.
V
o
lu
m
e
M
c
m
/
y
e
a
r
Figure 7 : Cogeneration of power and water, 2007
Source: ICBA 2009 based on ADWEC
production data
V
o
lu
m
e
M
c
m
/
y
e
a
r
section 1- 2 1/28/10 11:27 AM Page 14
Quality of the TSE discharged meets national
standards at Mafraq and Zakhar.
The annual volume of TSE from Abu Dhabi
and Al Ain was 182 Mcm/year in 2007. About
three-quarters of this (146 Mcm) is produced
by the Abu Dhabi conurbation on the west
coast. Al Ain collects about 36 Mcm/year of
the total. The average rate of TSE produced
by each person served by ADSSC is about 130
litres per capita per day (lcd) based on a serv-
iced population of 1.4 million. Producers of
waste water and sewerage do not pay any of
the collection or clean-up costs. Currently 35%
of TSE (51 Mcm) produced in Abu Dhabi is
disposed of into the Gulf because the TSE-
dedicated irrigation distribution system has
capacity limitations. As discussed in the sec-
tions below, year 2007 household indoor water
use is estimated at 183 Mcm and the sewers
collect 181 Mcm. TSE thus represents about
98% - an exceedingly efficient management
system by international standards. However,
this may be slightly overestimated as ADSSC
state that the sewers also receive influent
saline groundwater flows in some parts of the
system.
The recent Master Plan (2007) prepared for Abu
Dhabi Sewerage Services Company (ADSSC)
clearly shows that the future urban demand for
TSE in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain greatly exceeds
estimates of future supply. Ongoing expansion
of the TSE distribution network will quickly be
able to utilize the volume disposed of in the
Gulf. Even so, demand will not be met. Thus a
new policy for water conserving amenity plant-
ing is proposed. This policy promotes adoption
of an arid landscape that includes dry land-
scaping and greater use of desert and
xerophitic plants better suited to the arid cli-
mate. This is the approach used in the cities of
the arid southwestern USA to save water with
singular success. It helps to bring the shapes
and beauty of the desert to the city.
Treated Sewage Effluent
Recycled desalinated water - wastewater col-
lected by the sewer system - is a valuable
resource in a water-scarce country and modern
treatment methods are capable of producing
potable water meeting WHO water quality stan-
dards (see Annex 3 for more detail). The water
can be used either directly or to recharge
groundwater storage. It has been argued that
treated wastewater treated sewage effluent
(TSE) could be an important contribution to
Abu Dhabis strategic water reserve.
The treatment of domestic and municipal
wastewater in centralized treatment works
has been practised in the Emirate of Abu
Dhabi since 1973. At present 32 treatment
works are operational. Waste water is collect-
ed through a network of 5,100 km of sewers
and 500 km of rising mains, and 241 pumping
stations are needed to keep the system flow-
ing. The two largest wastewater treatment
plants serve Abu Dhabi city and surrounding
metropolitan area at Mafraq, and Al Ains
Zakhar plant. They treat some 95% of the pol-
luted wastewater collected by the sewer net-
works, including trade and some industrial
aqueous effluents. Both plants work at or
slightly over their design capacity. The
remaining 26 works serve smaller communi-
ties distributed throughout the emirate.
The adoption of an arid landscape policy
would reduce the maintenance costs and
energy requirements for amenity planting. It
would require less physical maintenance. Unit
area demand for TSE and the energy used for
amenity plantation could be reduced by more
than half. Importantly there will be no spare
TSE to recharge groundwater resources.
Water Use
Total water use in Abu Dhabi was estimated
to be about 2,800 Mcm per year in 2007 (Table
2) (see Annex 4 for more detail). Agriculture
and forestry were the largest users and
together they account for 76% of total water
use. As municipal and amenity water use is
primarily for landscaping and roadside planta-
tions this means that 85% of all water use in
Abu Dhabi is for vegetation. Groundwater
accounted for a very small percent of domestic
water supplies in 2007 because of declining
water quality and increased pumping costs as
groundwater levels declined. In the Liwa
Crescent area domestic water supplies from
groundwater grew rapidly between the late
1970s until 1996 when production was about
14 Mcm/year. By 1997 it was zero. Pumping
was reduced because of the high levels of
boron and nitrate in the groundwater both of
which exceeded health guidelines.
In Al Ain groundwater was also the main
source of supply and grew from about 15
Mcm/year in the late 1970s to peak at 70
Mcm/year in 1998. However, abstraction for
irrigation and domestic supplies had caused
groundwater levels to fall by 20-60 meters, and
there were concerns that supplies would dry
up. Municipal wells have been closed down
and production is now far less than 10
Mcm/year. To supplement the groundwater in
Al Ain, 25 small-scale reverse osmosis plants
provide about 0.6 Mcm/year.
Desalinated water use
Desalinated water accounted for almost a 36%
of total water supply: 30% is directly from the
desalination plants and 6% is from reuse of
urban wastewater as TSE.
Production of domestic and industrial water
supply is set by the capacity of the desaliniza-
tion plants supplemented in rural areas by
small-scale reverse osmosis plants drawing on
groundwater. Under Law Number 2 of 1998 the
Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Company
(ADWEC) is the single buyer and seller of elec-
tricity and water and has the obligation under
Article 30 to ensure that, at all times, all rea-
sonable demands for water and electricity in
the Emirate is satisfied. ADWEC and its sup-
Water Availability and Water Use
38 39
Table 2: Water sources and water use in Abu Dhabi 2007
Source: ICBA based on EAD, ADWEA and USGS data and information
Water Source
Groundwater
Desalination
TSE
Faljs
Total
Water using sector and water use (Mcm/year)
Agriculture Forests Amenity People Livestock Industry Lost Total
1413 579 51 20 1,816
76 91 366 183 46 94 856
130 51 182
25 25
1489 709 167 366 203 46 145 3125
section 1- 2 1/28/10 11:27 AM Page 16
ADWECs water use data are similar to find-
ings from the USA. There extensive surveys
found that the average household used 58% of
its water supply for outdoor activities. And
the USAs southwestern cities outdoor use
was 65% of supply.
Water transmission and distribution
systems are physically efficient
No matter how well designed and managed,
water distribution systems leak. Some water
is lost in the bulk water transmission system
managed by TRANSCO and between the
water supply companies and the consumers.
Until recently system metering was limited
but since commercialization principles were
adopted and the water and electricity
providers were privatized metering at the sys-
tem, company and household level has
improved because of RSBs license conditions
and reporting requirements. In well-managed
and maintained systems overall leakage from
source to consumer may be as small as 10%; in
poorly maintained systems it may approach
50%. Knowing how much is lost is important
for system management because it represents
expensive energy and water that is wasted
and lost revenue to the bulk supplier and
retailer.
The sector currently assumes total network
losses to be approximately 10% - around 2%
from transmission and 8% from distribution.
Recent information from Abu Dhabi
Distribution Company (ADDC) suggests
higher distribution system losses about 16%.
Adopting the ADDC figure for the Emirate as
a whole and adding TRANSCOs losses, total
water losses were about 144 Mcm in 2007. By
international performance standards this is
an excellent performance given the age, con-
struction and materials used in the distribu-
tion system, and the environment.
Losses from the bulk water transmis-
sion network.
According to ADWEA water production by the
desalination plants is almost equal to bulk
pliers are a natural monopoly and its activities
are regulated by the RSB. ADWEC supplies the
fuel and purchases bulk supplies of water from
the eight water and power producers under
individual agreements. A single company, the
Abu Dhabi Transmission and Dispatch
Company (TRANSCO) is responsible for the
transfer of bulk supplies to the distribution
companies that pay for the service. On receipt,
these companies retail supplies to their cus-
tomers governed by tariffs and performance cri-
teria regulated by RSB.
Given all the supply constraints from ground-
water and the costs of RO from small and old-
fashioned plants, the pipeline capacity con-
necting Abu Dhabi city with the Al Ain area
was increased and desalinated water now
serves the domestic, industrial and agricul-
tural sector. And since 2004 additional desali-
nated supplies were provided from the
Fujairah pipeline.
Overall desalinated water supply was 856
Mcm in 2007 of which 30% (253 Mcm/year)
was transmitted to Al Ain. Figure 8a shows
how the total supply was distributed among
users according to the RSB; Figure 8b shows
the classification used by ADWEC for its 2008
demand forecast. Both organizations use the
same source data. The primary difference is
that ADWEC breaks down RSBs more gener-
al categories based upon surveys of how water
is actually used; RSB reports the administra-
tive allocation reported by the water compa-
nies. The different ways of reporting water
use illustrate the demand forecasting prob-
lem facing policy-makers. How much of the
expensive desalinated water is being used to
meet essential (indoor) human needs for
which it is the only source? According to
ADWECs classification 70% of desalinated
water is being used for plant and tree irriga-
tion for which other sources of water may be
available.
Water Availability and Water Use
41 40
Figure 8a: Users of Desalinated Water 2007 accord-
ing to RSB
Source: RSB. 2008. Water and electricity consump-
tion by residential customers.
Figure 8b: Users of Desalinated Water 2008 according
to ADWEC
Source: ADWEC. 2008. Base water peak demand fore-
cast. The other category is the water used by
palace gardens and estates
section 1- 2 1/28/10 11:27 AM Page 18
International data on minimum and maximum
residential water use are shown in Figure 9. The
south-western states of the USA provide the
closest comparators with desert climates simi-
lar to Abu Dhabi. The large range of residential
water use in the USA data is because the mini-
mum value is that for indoor water use whilst
the maximum includes external and garden use.
There is close agreement between RSBs data
on expatriates and UAE nationals and the USA
data in terms of household consumption where
there is no garden or external use. In the USA
indoor water use was 226 lcd; in Abu Dhabi it
was 165 to 220 lcd. These data also make sense
in terms of TSE generated as discussed earlier.
Summary on desalinated water use
Abu Dhabis desalinated water transmission
and distribution systems, and collection use
of TSE, is efficiently operated in terms of
minimizing water losses. It would be rated
towards the high end of international best
practice. This is not the case, however, for full
cost recovery and household per capita water
use that is two or three times the internation-
al comparators. Current tariffs require large
annual subsidies to operate and maintain the
systems.
The high level of hidden subsidies in the cur-
rent water tariff and the provision of free
water to Emiratis households provide few
incentives to conserve water.
High water use is primarily the result of the
use of expensive desalinated water for gar-
dens, landscapes, agriculture and forests.
Indoor water use levels, while high com-
pared with the England and Wales, are very
similar to those observed in the USA,
Canada and Australia. This suggests that
water conservation practices applied there
may provide relevant experience for Abu
Dhabi.
Industrial Water Use
The amounts and quality of water used in the
industrial sector is difficult to analyse as there
is very little data available (see Annex 5 for
more details) but from ADWEC 2008 figures is
around 6% of base peak demand. Many of the
major industries have developed their own
water supply systems. With moves to develop
major industrial zones in the coming years, the
needs in terms of both quantity and quality
will have an increasing influence on water
demand figures.
Forestry and Agricultural Water Use
Water used for forestry and agriculture and
grew rapidly since desert greening and agri-
cultural food self-sufficiency policies were
introduced in the 1960s. The total cultivated
water transmitted by TRANSCO to the water
distribution companies. The system contains
over 2,000 km of pipeline (ranging in diameter
from 500 to 1600 mm) and water is pumped at
high pressure. Water losses in the system are
small because of TRANSCOs focus on opera-
tion and maintenance given the almost total
reliance on desalinated water for potable sup-
plies, the high water pressure required and its
strategic importance. In 1999 water losses were
4% of desalinated production and they were
reduced to 1% or less after 2000.
Losses from the water companys
distribution network
The ADDC for example, manages an extensive
distribution system that connects more than
171,000 customers through a pipe network of
more than 6,100 km covering 86 zones. The lat-
est (2005) ADDC Annual reports that network
coverage is increasing at 10% a year. Breakage
of pipes accounted for over half (54%) of cus-
tomer complaints. Even so, on the basis of
international comparators supply outages from
breaks in the supply network were only two-
thirds of international norms (0.03 breaks/km).
Despite this ADDC management acknowledges
that leakage remains a problem and a leakage
management strategy was initiated in 2006.
According to ADDC total unaccounted-for-
water in 2007 was 35% of the supply. Physical
leakage accounted for 16% and technical and
administrative losses accounted for the bal-
ance. These latter losses include unregistered
connections and illegal connections and are pri-
marily a billing and financial accounting issue.
In 2007, ADDC retailed 69% of the Emirates
water supply.
Residential consumption is very high
by international standards
Per capita residential water use has grown
steadily over the last four decades in line with
national policy that there be no restriction of
water supplies to households. Rates of gross
water consumption were estimated to be 631
lcd in 2001 primarily because Emiratis
received free water whilst expatriates paid
only a modest monthly flat rate of US$13.61 a
month. After introduction of fixed rate volu-
metric tariffs in 2002 (for expatriates, govern-
ment, industry, commerce and farms) demand
decreased to about 490 lcd. More recently,
however, average gross consumption is report-
ed to have increased to 550 lcd. The latest
data released by the RSB give a range of 525-
600 lcd.
There are large variations in gross residential
water use among household types, Table 3.
The higher consumption in villas and sabiyats
is attributed to garden, car washing and other
uses, and the significant difference between
UAE nationals and expatriates is probably the
result of the tariff structure buy may also result
from differences in social and cultural practices.
Abu Dhabis overall average residential daily
water consumption is very high in comparison
to the experience of other countries.
Water Availability and Water Use
43 42
Figure 9 : The range of daily household water use
per person
Source: Ofwat.gov.uk. 2009; and Heaney and others.
1999. Nature Of Residential Water Use And
Effectiveness Of Conservation Programs. University
of Colorado
Nationality
Expatriates
UAE Nationals
Overall average
Property
Type
Min Max
Gross Consumption
(litre per capita)
220
730
-
1,760
1,010
600
170
270
165
400
610
525
Flats
Villas
Flats
Villas
Shabiyats
Table 3: Residential Daily Water Consumption by
Household Type
Source: (RSB 2005 and 2007) Water and electricity
consumption by residential customers. This is based
on volumes and accounts from the Water Supply
Companies and occupancy levels from the 2005
Census and the PB Power surveys (2005 and 2007)
section 1- 2 1/28/10 11:27 AM Page 20
and highways/roads. While it has a large
environmental value, it needs to be consid-
ered from both the water quality and quan-
tity perspective as well. This sector uses
mainly marginal quality water (wastewater,
brackish water, and sea water in the coastal
belts). TSE contributes about 54 percent of
the total water used for amenity proposes.
The other water sources include desalina-
tion and groundwater. Total amenity water
use is estimated at 547 Mcm/yr (including
private households) in 2007 (Table 2)
assuming that potable indoor water use is
250 lcd. In 2008, the Abu Dhabi Municipality
used 197 Mcm - 46% desalinated, 34% TSE
and 20% groundwater for amenity and
landscaping projects. In the Al Ain area
total water use was 47 Mcm. Three-quarters
came from TSE, the balance from ground-
water through about 400 municipal wells
provide amenity irrigation covering about
1,000 ha, and private wells that serve 6,600
ha of sports facilities and golf clubs.
The Master Plan for urban, park, amenity
and roadside irrigation states that consider-
able water savings are possible with hard
landscaping and plants better adapted to
the arid climate. This has been successful in
some new, prestigious housing develop-
ments in Dubai including the Arabian
Ranches which has a mixture of hard land-
scaping features and drought-resistant
planting.
area in the Emirate grew from 69,000 ha to
419,000 ha at present, a remarkable achieve-
ment (see Annex 6 for more detail). The long-
term average annual growth rate over the
period 1990-2007 was 19,100 ha for areas plant-
ed to forests and 4,400 ha for farm agriculture.
Forestry
Forested areas cover 305,000 ha. (Figure 10)
The forestry sector is heavily dependent on
groundwater, competing with agriculture and
other uses. The trickle irrigation network is
about 430,000 km in length. Current criteria
used in Abu Dhabi by EAD and USGS for
forestry water use is 1,900-2,500 m
3
/ha per day
when trees are spaced at 6 to 7 metre inter-
vals. EAD used an average value of 2,000
m
3
/ha per day from investigations in the
Western Region where 80 percent of the
Emirates forests are located (Brook 2004).
This rate of water demand is similar to
research results conducted by EAD in the
Western Region, and from the literature.
Within private estates forest water use is four
times higher but these cover only a relatively
small proportion of all forests. And because
almost all afforestation in Abu Dhabi is sup-
plied by high efficiency drip irrigation, gross
water demand is equivalent to net water con-
sumption and there are no return flows to the
groundwater reservoir. In 2007 the water
demand for forestry was about 670Mcm/yr
which is about 24 percent of the total water
demand.
Total water demand for afforested areas may
be overestimated. Not all seedlings planted
reach maturity. And unless the trees receive
adequate irrigation and water quality they
may stunt and die most trees are fed with
brackish water. Trickle irrigation with poor
quality water also creates problems because
removal of chemical deposition that clogs the
drip orifice requires regular maintenance.
Recent research by EAD (Dawoud 2008) indi-
cates that the majority of trees receive
under-irrigation[that] will lead to the
development of reduced canopies: no forests
have been observed which have a full canopy,
which indicates that they are young stands or
that they have been under-irrigated and their
growth restricted. Given that afforestation
started four decades ago this is surprising.
Determination of the actual area of forest and
its water use need considerably more
research. Use of the remote sensing Landsat
Thematic Mapper found 162,100 ha of total
vegetated area, including forest, in 2000 and
152,000 ha in 2004. In comparison EAD (2006)
estimated it to be 376,000 ha. While remote
sensing is clearly the way forward for EAD,
the biggest problem identified in the image
analysis was the mapping of scattered Acacia
trees against background noise accuracy
was in the range 50-64 percent. This was part-
ly a problem of the modest resolution (60 m
pixels) and could be improved upon using
more up-to-date US, French or Russian satel-
lite imagery whose resolution is over ten
times better.
Improving knowledge on the coverage, health
and density of the Emirates forests is essen-
tial. It would reveal their ecological advan-
tages and allow assessment of their develop-
ment effectiveness against their design objec-
tives: providing protected areas for wildlife
sanctuaries; protecting roads from sand
incursions, anchoring dune areas; and demar-
cating UAEs international border with Saudi
Arabia. Only thus can the cost-effectiveness
of desert greening be evaluated.
Amenity
Amenity
b
irrigation has been increasing in Abu
Dhabi with the growth of urban development
Water Availability and Water Use
45 44
Figure 10 : Forests in Abu Dhabi Emirate.
Source: Dawoud, 2008
b
Amenity includes parks, gardens and recreational areas.
section 1- 2 1/28/10 11:27 AM Page 22
all farmed area has decreased by about 5% since
2004-2005. Similarly, the maximum number of
farms under cultivation in 2004-2006 was 23,704.
Changes in cropped areas and number of farms
may be the result of changing government poli-
cy towards subsidized agriculture, declining
groundwater level and quality, increasing
pumping costs.
Agriculture is dominated by two perennial
crops: Dates and Rhodes Grass. There is culti-
vation of short-season annual vegetable crops
in fields and a limited area of cereals and
fruits. There is a limited area of high produc-
tivity horticulture in greenhouses and other
protected environments, and a number of tra-
ditional date palm gardens. Most agriculture
is on small private farms that have been
recently established induced by generous
UAE and Emirate-derived subsidies. There are
a number of larger forage production farms
sponsored by government. Figure 13 shows
the share of the area occupied by the major
crops.
Rhodes grass, the main forage crop capable of
Agriculture
In 2006-2007 the total cultivated agricultural
land under the citizens farms in Abu Dhabi was
70,375 ha and there were 40,494 wells.
C
The
growth of farms is shown in Figure 11 and their
distribution is shown in Figure 12.
Farms are being developed in dense clusters
with typically two wells with limited distance
between them. Such farm development has
forced groundwater resources to become more
stressed in terms of decreasing aquifer water
levels and groundwater quality. The Al Ain area
has grown faster than Western Region but over-
Water Availability and Water Use
46 47
Figure 11. Agricultural farm area in Abu Dhabi
Emirate
Source: Annual Statistical Book 2006/2007,
Agriculture Sector, Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
C. Emiratis wishing to become involved in agriculture production were granted 2 to 3 ha lands for farming. Each farm usually
has two drilled wells at opposite locations of the plot 100 to 200 m apart. Converting desert to farming communities effectively
creates a closely spaced well field. Closely spaced wells create interference that significantly increases local drawdown of
groundwater levels, increasing costs and causing upconing of deeper poorer quality groundwater. Substantial subsidies for land
leveling and irrigation development, wells and agricultural inputs encourage farming.
Figure 13: Major crops types in Abu Dhabis main agricultural Regions by area 2004-2007
Source: ICBA using Municipality data
Source: Dawoud, 2008
Figure 12. Agricultural farm locations in the Emirate
remaining productive and high-yielding for 5
to 10 years, has been widely adopted because
of its high salinity tolerance and high govern-
ment subsidies. Currently the government
purchase price is Dh 1,650 a ton and 3 tons are
required to produce one ton of dry forage. Thus
government pays Dh 4,950 for a ton of dried for-
age that is then sold back to livestock farmers
at Dh 300 a ton. It has replaced alfalfa as the
main forage crop because most new farms were
developed over brackish groundwater areas.
Typically it is irrigated by drip irrigation.
Declining Water Quality is a
Problem.
A survey of 23,900 wells by the Al Ain
Agricultural Department in 2000-2001 found
that 88% of wells had a salinity of more them
2,000 parts per million (ppm of total dissolved
solids) and 65% had salinity in excess of 4,000
ppm. A fifth had salinities greater then 8,000.
A number of crops can be grown at high salin-
ities, but with declining yields. Thus irrigating
crops with brackish water produces a lower
financial return at higher operating costs
section 1- 2 1/28/10 11:27 AM Page 24
Agricultural Water Use
While EAD estimated total cultivated area as
43,000 ha and agricultural consumption in 2003
at 1,949 Mcm/year, the USGS independently
calculated the value to be only 426 Mcm/year.
In contrast both have similar estimates for
forestry consumption: EADs estimate was 697
Mcm/year and USGSs estimate was 647
Mcm/year. A further study by Mott Mac
Donald in 2004 estimated gross demand to be
1,253 Mcm/year. The difference in total agri-
cultural consumption estimates is excessively
large. Given that agriculture is the largest con-
sumer of water, determining the correct quan-
tity of water consumption is critically impor-
tant. It significantly affects the medium- to
long-term viability of the agricultural sector
and those employed by it that depend on min-
ing a finite supply of groundwater. More
importantly, government has allowed farmers
to use desalinated water once fresh ground-
water resources are exhausted and this has
huge implications for additional desalination
infrastructure and energy consumption.
because of the leaching requirement. The
alternative is to secure high yields using
desalinated water maybe blended with brack-
ish groundwater to an acceptable quality.
Both options are expensive if the full unsubsi-
dized financial and environmental costs are
taken into account. However, there is little
information on the economics of irrigated
crops for Abu Dhabi to guide farmers crop
choice. Cropping choice is a response to the
incentives offered by subsidies.
Increasing groundwater salinity has induced
installation of small-scale reverse osmosis
treatment plants to improve the quality or
well water prior to irrigation of vegetables,
grasses, and date palm or to provide drinking
water to animals. In Al Ain Municipality, 74
RO plants are in operation. The capacity
varies from 15 to 450 m3 per day depending on
the area under crop production or livestock.
Apart from the increased energy demand over
and above that used to lift groundwater, safe
disposal of brine is a growing issue as it pol-
lutes the soils and groundwater.
If the larger value is accepted but the lower
value is correct two issues arise. First it
means that the residual volume of water in
the groundwater reservoir will be significantly
less than that estimated by USGS. EADs
estimated unit area agricultural water con-
sumption is 2,580 mm a year. Thus over the
period 1970-2005 the total volume of ground-
water extracted for agriculture would have
been 28,400 Mcm, compared with USGSs
estimate of 7,500 Mcm. In consequence there
would have been 380 percent more water
pumped from groundwater storage than
USGS estimates and consequently less water
in the reservoir.
Second it would lead to the conclusion that
fresh water resources are near total depletion
as most agricultural areas are developed over
the fresh water zones. This is clearly not the
case. It suggests EADs water consumption
estimate is probably on the high side. An
alternative explanation is that a significant
portion of groundwater extracted finds its
way back to the shallow groundwater reser-
voir via seepage and percolation in this case
about 77 percent. This high level of ground-
water recycling implies very low efficiencies of
irrigation water use: 23 percent. Given the
high level of investment in modern irrigation
technology since 1990, irrigation efficiencies
should be much higher in the 70 to 90 per-
cent range. The true value for agricultural
consumption net water consumption, the
water transpired by plants plus a small
allowance for direct water losses to evapora-
tion- probably falls between the EAD and
USGS values.
A number of studies have estimated crop water
requirements in the UAE and there is an abun-
dance of data from the UAE/FAO experimental
stations established in the 1970s. The research
data emanating from these are derived from
highly-managed irrigation systems designed
Water Availability and Water Use
48 49
and operated by specialists. Field inspection
indicates a different reality. Many on-farm irri-
gation systems are operated by unskilled expa-
triate labour who bring with them highly ineffi-
cient traditional practices. Although most
farms have irrigation hardware that is very effi-
cient at delivering water to the plants, the man-
agement skills are low-tech and frequently by-
pass the modern equipment to flood water
around the plants or trees. Education of farm
workers is thus a high priority as is the intro-
duction of incentives for farm owners to prac-
tice water conservation.
Apart from the managerial issues affecting on-
farm water use, some of the basic assumptions
used in the past to derive gross irrigation
demand are not standard, most important
being the area actually irrigated. It is normally
assumed that the whole field is irrigated, but
both the USGS and the Japanese Technical
Assistance (JICA under UAEs Ministry of
Agriculture and Fisheries in the 1990s) applied
correction factors for non-irrigated areas within
irrigated fields, orchards and forests. As a result
of these differing assumptions, estimates of unit
area gross water demand differ among previous
studies by as much as 50 percent. Typically they
ranged between 6,300 m
3
/ha and 20,290 m
3
/ha.
Additional groundwater will also be required to
leach salts for the soil and this varies between
10 and 50%.
To resolve this problem we have examined field
experimental data on net crop water demand
produced in UAE by JICA for 23 crops. These
have been split into three categories: tree crops;
field crops and vegetables, Table 4. After cor-
recting for water use efficiency assuming high-
tech irrigation and two levels of management,
gross unit area water demand by crop group is
found to range from 3,900 m
3
/ha under the best
conditions and crops to 19, 890 m
3
/ha under the
worst. Additional water would have to be added
to the estimated gross water demand to provide
section 1- 2 1/28/10 11:27 AM Page 26
Water Availability and Water Use
50 51
Table 5: Estimated groundwater use by major crops in 2007 (excluding leaching requirements)
Table 6: Livestock numbers and water
demand 2007
Source: Livestock numbers from UAE MOEF; per
head water demand FAO. 2006. Livestocks long
shadow environmental issues and options.
Figure 14: Livestock numbers have grown
Source: UAE MOAF
Source: ICBA based on MoAF and Municipalities Agricultural Department Data differing estimates, it is over
twice USGSs value but only over half that by EAD.
Crop
Rhodes Grass
Dates
Vegetables
Fruit
Total
Area (ha)
Water Demand
(m
3
/ha/year
Total Demand
(Mcm/year
Share of Total
Demand
30,000 20,000 600 59%
16,000 20,000 320 32%
10,100 6,700 68 7%
2,000 2,000 25 2%
58,100 - 1,013 100%
Goats &
Sheep
Camels
Cattle
Total
Number
of
animals
Water
Demand
l/head/day
Daily
Demand
m
3
/day
Annual
Demand
Mcm/year
2,300,000 16 36,800 13,44
277,000 52 14,404 5.28
28,000 130 3,640 1.33
2,650,000 - 54,844 20.05
adequate flow through the soil profile to leach
out any salts accumulated via evapotransipra-
tion. Depending on water quality and soil type
this may range between zero and 50% of the net
water demand. Thus the gross demand for
Rhodes grass under modest efficiency will be
about 26,000 m
3
/ha, or 30% more. While it may
mitigate the salt build-up in the soil, it signifi-
cantly increases the energy demand for irrigated
agriculture in brackish water areas. The national
share of groundwater going to Rhodes grass
alone is about 60% of total agricultural water use,
Table 5.
Actual gross water consumption will be deter-
mined by the mix of crops, cropping calendar
and the locality. In the traditional oases with
date palms under traditional management water
demand will be highest; in more modern areas
with mixed cropping and plastic tunnel horticul-
ture water demand will be the lowest. Much also
depends on the cropping calendar and cropping
intensity: two or three annual crops in rotation
may use as much water as perennial tree crops.
Using present cropping patterns (Figure 11), and
assuming overall modest water use efficiency,
the weighted average gross crop demand is esti-
mated to be 1,000 Mcm. Leaching requirements
could increase this by 25% to about 1,250
Mcm/year. While it closes the gap in the differing
estimates, it is over twice USGSs value but only
over half that by EAD.
Livestock
The incresed production of forage has led to a
substantial increase in livestock, particularly
sheep and goats whose numbers now exceed 1.5
million in Abu Dhabi (Table 6 and Figure 14 show
UAE changes) (see Annex 5 for more detail). This
has put a huge stress on rangelands and has a
major impact on natural vegetation. There is also
an increasing tendency to keep livestock in feed-
lots. Their high concentration results in large out-
puts of animal excreta that pollute the underly-
ing aquifer and shallow groundwater.
Summary findings on forestry,
agriculture and amenity use:
Agriculture is the largest consumer of water in
the Emirate and policies affecting its develop-
ment have major implications for water
resources planning. Policy to date has focussed
primarily on food self-sufficiency and employ-
ment. While there is considerable investment to
increase irrigation efficiency, concern about
Table 4: Estimates of crop water demand considering location and management efficiency,
but excluding leaching requirements
Source: ICBA based on MAF/JICA, 1996.
Crop
Trees
Date Palm
Fruit Trees
Field Crops
Rhodes Grass
Wheat
Vegetables
Average of 16
Water using sector and water use (Mcm/year)
Net Water Demand
m
3
/ha
High Efficiency (90%)
Al Ain Liwa Al Ain Liwa Al Ain Liwa
Modest Efficiency (70%)
13,200 13,500 14,670 15,000 18,860 19,290
8,430 8,780 9,370 9,760 12,040 12,540
13,800 14,200 15,330 15,780 19,710 20,290
3,500 3,600 3,890 4,000 5,000 5,140
4,330 4,690 4,810 5,210 6,190 6,700
section 1- 2 1/28/10 11:27 AM Page 28
Water Availability and Water Use
52
the sustainability of the water resource on
which it depends has been limited to EAD.
Knowledge on the agricultural water and
energy balance is lacking. Concerns for agri-
cultures environmental impacts have only
recently emerged under EADs leadership.
Understanding the agricultural water balance
is a prerequisite for sound policy and plan-
ning. Only then can there be confidence in
estimates of future water demand, the impact
on groundwater resources and the environ-
ment, energy requirements for pumping and
irrigation, and planning for alternative water
supplies.
These findings indicate that research and
modelling of groundwater is needed to define
more clearly the national water balance (and
its components spatially and temporally).
Environmental costs should be taken into
account. The lack of good baseline data
makes projection of potential future water
demand and environmental impacts a diffi-
cult and risky exercise.
The lack of knowledge could be very costly
from a decision-making perspective. Under
current policies and regulation, groundwater
is free in Abu Dhabi. If fresh or moderately
brackish groundwater became exhausted
then the cost of supplying agricultural
demand would be that of the next best alter-
native, desalination. This would place a huge
and costly burden on the Emirates water
infrastructure, particularly power and water
generation.
It is not known what type of agriculture and
crop are economic. Input and output prices
are distorted by subsidies. While some crops
may be economic, the lack of full cost informa-
tion precludes their rational selection.
Is the forested area fulfilling its design objec-
tives? Forested areas consume as much water
as the amount distributed from domestic use;
and in some areas expensive and scarce desali-
nated water is used. As forests are all irrigated
(using thousands of km of small-pipe trickle
irrigation systems pumped from wells or
pipelines) its energy consumption is substan-
tial. How much energy is used, however, is
unknown. It could be as large as that used by
the residential water distribution system.
TSE is a vital and growing resource for
amenity landscaping. Even though demand
will shortly exceed supply, more than a third
is disposed of into the sea because dedicat-
ed irrigation networks do not have the
capacity to distribute this resource.
Amenity plantations in urban areas tend to
have water-rich European-style planting.
Considerable water and energy savings
could be effected by converting to hard land-
scaping and adopting plants indigenous to
arid climates.
section 1- 2 1/28/10 11:27 AM Page 30
3. Environmental
Impacts of Water Use
53
section 3 1/28/10 11:29 AM Page 2
However, the secondary impacts of desaliniza-
tion and the use of electricity to pump water
around the extensive water distribution system
(and from groundwater) within the Emirate,
and collecting and treating wastewater require
power generation. And power for water will, in
turn, generate greenhouse gases. An alternative
perspective is that desalinated water is green-
house gas neutral and the only issue is improv-
ing pumping efficiency and reducing energy use.
This perspective sees desalination as a useful
by-product from the steam produced by fossil
fuel electrical power generation and the incre-
mental contribution of water production to
greenhouse gas emissions is negligible.
However, the steam has an alternative use for
secondary cogeneration of electricity, thus
allowing a reduction in primary power produc-
tion and capacity. This in turn would allow a
reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below
the cogeneration power-water option. If potable
water can be produced by a more energy-effi-
cient technology it would lower greenhouse
gases.
Desalination
The dominance of cogeneration in the Gulf
States to produce potable water using Multiple
Stage Flash Distillation Technology (MSF) at
power stations is the result of early market cap-
ture by this technology, in the 1970s and its high
degree of reliability (Box 2).
Total emissions in Abu Dhabi from power and
desalinization plants produce 13.5 million tonnes
of gases and particulates per year, and carbon
dioxide forms 99.65% of these emissions. The
next largest emission is nitrous oxide and nitro-
gen dioxide which total 34,000 tonnes per year.
While the volume of nitrous oxide is relatively
small it is 200 times more effective as a green-
house gas than CO
2
and is thus equivalent to 6.8
million tons of CO
2
. The emission hazard in Abu
Dhabi is exacerbated by increasing shortages of
offshore gas and several power plants burn high
sulphide oil in times of shortfall. Whilst a number
of the plants have undertaken initiatives to
increase fuel efficiency in recent years, it is not
Environmental impacts of present water use
practices are large and increasing. They are
both positive and negative. Historically, the
response to environmental impacts has been
reactive because most of them were negative.
Environmental impact assessments and state-
ments before development started were not
practised in the Emirate until fairly recently.
As a result, most of the environmental impacts
were unforeseen, and in the case of water sup-
ply in Liwa, for example, they called for precip-
itous action. Another problem is that environ-
mental impacts were seen as isolated and geo-
graphically separate. There is generally inade-
quate information on environmental conse-
quences of infrastructure development, includ-
ing the growth of the power and water sectors.
In agriculture there is a growing awareness of
farming practices and the use of fertilizer, pes-
ticides and herbicides on the local environ-
ment. But nationally-consistent standards and
databases are missing because monitoring and
evaluation has been partial and is spread
among a large number of independent agen-
cies with little information sharing. And there
is no nationally-agreed environmental manage-
ment model to integrate and manage environ-
mental flows. This chapter outlines known
impacts of present water-use practices.
Effects of Water Production
Water Production, Energy Use and
the Atmosphere
The interdependency of water and energy exac-
erbates environmental problems. Population
growth will require increasing amounts of water
which, in turn, require more energy to access
water resources and distribute water. Since this
increased electrical demand is largely met by
fossil fuel-fired electrical cogeneration plants,
more greenhouse gases are emitted that con-
tribute further to global warming. These inter-
dependencies, which until recently were usually
ignored in water and energy planning, create a
downward spiral among electrical generation,
climate change and water supplies that is
cumulative and non-linear.
Water use in itself will not affect the atmos-
phere of the Emirate although there may be
micro-climate modification in the vicinity of
newly-introduced vegetation and agriculture.
Environmental Impacts of Water Use
55 54
3. Environmental Impacts of Water Use
Box 2: Growth of Desalination in the Gulf
States
High oil prices in 1973 sparked the growth in
seawater desalination in the Middle East.
The inflow of funds allowed the Gulf States
to invest in the development of their infra-
structure on a grand scale. This included
investments in power and water. For desali-
nation the only viable technology available
was Multi-Stage Flash distillation (MSF)
invented in 1958. The new process was a
vast improvement on the previous technolo-
gy of Multiple Effect Boiling (MEB), offering
improved energy efficiency coupled to ease
of operation. By 1975 large plants of
20,000m3/day were being built. All of the
Gulf States invested heavily in this technol-
ogy and have continued to invest in it to the
present. The process today is much as it was
then but the units are larger up to
60,000m3/day and reliability has been
improved through the use of better material
and an improved understanding of the
process. To be cost effective, the MSF
process has to be coupled to a power plant
which can supply low grade steam. This is
often referred to as waste heat. This is a mis-
nomer. The steam used by an MSF plant
could be used to generate more electrical
power. By tapping this steam at a higher
temperature than necessary, the power out-
put of the power station is reduced. Even so,
capital costs have fallen; the process is well
understood and reliable. Most importantly
it has security of supply.
Commercialization of Reverse Osmosis
(RO) for seawater desalination plants start-
ed in the 1980s and subsequent growth has
been rapid it is now the preferred technol-
ogy outside the Gulf States. Initially the RO
membranes were expensive, pre-treatment
section 3 1/28/10 11:29 AM Page 4
possible to determine the impact of these efforts
as this data is commercially confidential to the
operators.
In terms of direct CO
2
emissions Abu Dhabis
power plants fit well within the expected range of
international efficiency standards for gas-fired
facilities about 380 grams equivalent per kWh. In
the UK for example, the range is 362 to 575 grams.
Determination of the share of total energy used
that goes to water production in MSF plants is
complex. Theoretical and empirical studies indi-
cate that Saudi Arabias MSF plants at Al Jubail
utilizes between 24 and 46 percent of energy for
water production depending on the accounting
method used and the power to water ratio.
Earlier studies in Abu Dhabi yielded similar
results. Clearly, reducing the demand for desali-
nated water produced by MSF would significant-
ly lower the carbon footprint of Abu Dhabi.
Energy and Water Use
Energy is required to move water from source to
tap and treat the inflows and outputs to accept-
able environmental standards. Each component
part of the water supply and disposal cycle (Figure
15) uses energy, and each step provides an oppor-
tunity to reduce energy consumption by econo-
mizing on use and increasing mechanical efficien-
cy. In aggregate the system-wide calculation is
called energy intensity (Box 3).
Where detailed inventories have been undertaken,
in for example California, water use accounted for
19 percent of the States total energy consump-
tion, Figure 16. A good portion of this is the result
of pumping water 600 m over the Tehachapi
Environmental Impacts of Water Use
56 57
not well understood and energy consump-
tion was high. Since then membrane prices
have fallen, their performance improved,
pre-treatment is better understood and
energy consumption has dropped dramati-
cally. Although the Gulf States remain the
most important market for desalination
plants, designing RO plants for operation in
the Gulf has to overcome the problems
caused by high salinity and seawater tem-
peratures. This affects RO plants but makes
little difference to distillation plants.
Globally, membrane desalination processes
(mostly RO) accounted for 56% of world-
wide online capacity in 2006.
Combining MSF and RO enables more effi-
cient use of energy and the UAE commis-
sioned the largest desalination hybrid plant
in the world at Fujairah in 2003. It can
potentially produce 624,000 m
3
/day. The
plant was situated on the Gulf of Oman to
mitigate the high salinity and temperature
problems in the Arabian Gulf. Almost two-
thirds of the water is produced by five MSF
units coupled with the power plant and over
a third is from seawater RO. This is a more
flexible system as RO helps to reduce the
electricity demand when there is a mis-
match between the water and electricity
demand in the summer. Singapore has sim-
ilarly recently completed the worlds largest
diameter seawater RO plant (10,000 m
3
/day)
as part of its Renewables Strategy and has
reduced energy use by 30% compared with
MSF.
Sources: The World Bank. 2004. Seawater and
Brackish Water Desalination in the Middle East,
North Africa and Central Asia; and, Water and
Wastewater Asia. January/February 2008.
Figure 15: The stages of energy use in water supply, distribution and use
Source: Natural Resources Defense Fund. 2004. ibid.
Source: NDRC. 2004. Energy down the Drain.
Box 3: How an increase in energy intensity can lead to overall energy savings
Energy intensity measures the amount of energy used per unit of water. Some water sources are
more energy intensive than others; for instance, desalination requires more energy than waste-
water recycling. Water conservation technology may either increase or decrease energy intensi-
ty.
Yet when water planners make decisions they should look not only at energy intensity but also
at the total energy used from source to tap. In the case of water conservation some programmes
may consume a lot of energy at one stage in the energy-water cycle but still decrease the over-
all energy use. The following three examples illustrate the interplay between energy intensity
and total energy use.
Water conservation may increase energy and increase total energy costs. A particular
irrigation technology could reduce water use by 5% but require so much energy that
overall energy increases by 10%. Thus total energy use would increase by 4.5%.
Water conservation may increase energy intensity and decrease energy use. The aver-
age high-efficiency dishwasher increases the energy intensity of dishwashing by 30% but
reduces water use by 34%. As a result of using less water (and therefore less energy to
supplying the water from source) the net total energy needed would decline by 14%.
Water conservation may increase energy intensity and decrease total energy use. The
average US high-efficiency clothes washer reduces water use by 29% compared with
low-efficiency machines and also lowers energy intensity by 27%. Energy intensity
declines because of mechanical improvements (agitators etc.). By reducing total water
use and energy intensity, total energy use is reduced by 48%.
Figure 16: The Water Sector Uses Considerable Energy
Source: Martha Krebs, 2007. Presentation to the State Congressional
Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife. February 20, 2007.
Mountains to supply Los Angles.
Nationally, because of ample
water and a significant propor-
tion of gravity water supply sys-
tems, it is about 4%. In Arizona a
public awareness-raising scheme
(Saving Water is Saving
Money) states that for a city of
50,000 people, approximately 2
million kWh/yr are required for all
water- related operations, with
more than 1.6 million kWh/yr
needed for pumping alone.
Groundwater is the next
largest user of energy
after desalination.
About two-thirds of the irri-
gated area serving agriculture,
forestry and amenity planta-
section 3 1/28/10 11:29 AM Page 6
Water Use and the Marine
Environment
The impacts of feed water abstraction and
wastewater disposal on the marine ecosystem
are potentially large in the near-shore environ-
ment. The main hazards are entrapment of
marine life on the intake side and the effects of
direct discharge of brine from desalination
plants, high temperature cooling water and
treated or untreated waste water effluent from
industrial and urban areas.
Brine Disposal
Brine disposal from desalination plants is rec-
ognized as an environmental hazard by EAD.
Each stage of the desalinization process either
adds or concentrates chemicals, most of which
are discharged in the brine at the end of the
process. Chemicals are frequently used to con-
trol marine growth, particularly mollusks
around the intake structures supplying the
desalinization plant. Within the plant, seawa-
ter or brackish/saline groundwater is again
subject to chemical and mechanical treatment
to remove suspended solids and control bio-
logical growth. During the application of ener-
gy to the treated seawater, brine is concentrat-
ed and returned to source including all of the
chemicals added during the treatment
process. The desalinated water is further treat-
ed with chemicals to prevent corrosion of the
downstream infrastructure and water distribu-
tion network. Typically calcium hydroxide is
added to increase the hardness and alkalinity
and sodium hydroxide is added to adjust the
acidity of the water.
The range of chemicals added to the intake
waters is large. In thermal combination
desalinization plants biocides, sulphur diox-
ide, coagulants such as ferric chloride, carbon
dioxide, poly-electrolytes, anti-scalants such
as polyacrylic acid, sodium bisulphite, anti-
tions requires energy to lift water 35 m, and
the remaining area requires lifts of over 60 m.
At a pumping efficiency of 70% the overall
energy consumption is about 2 million kWh
per day. Reducing irrigated area, increasing
the efficiency of irrigation water use, and
reducing leachate requirements would lead to
considerable energy savings. Leachate
requirements could be reduced by taking into
account soil properties when selecting areas
for crop types and irrigation.
Energy could also be reduced by better well-
field location and design. Current practice
subsidizes networks of wells that are not fine-
tuned to the local hydrogeology. They are
also too closely spaced to be hydraulically
efficient. Given that almost all irrigation sys-
tems are mechanized, pumping at night
would reduce evaporative water losses, thus
volumes pumped, and use cheaper off-peak
power. It has also been found that it is cheap-
er to pump groundwater into a surface receiv-
ing tank rather than using the wells pump to
pressurize the irrigation system. Water is
then pumped from the receiving tank using a
far smaller pump for rotational irrigation.
Energy consumption for wastewater
treatment
Wastewater collection, treatment and distri-
bution involve various activities that require
energy and therefore have a carbon foot-
print. This has become the subject of various
investigations in the world with results vary-
ing with treatment processing and distribu-
tion systems. In Abu Dhabi, the annual con-
sumption of electricity in the wastewater
processing in 2007 amounted to approxi-
mately 95,000 MWh, with Mafraq consuming
59,500 MWh and 27,300 MWh. Taking the
estimated carbon emission of 380g equiva-
lent per KWh this gives a carbon footprint of
36,100 tonnes a year.
foam agents, and polymers may be used.
Reverse osmosis plants in addition use hydro-
choloric acid, citiric acid, copper sulphate,
acrolein, propylene glycol, glycerine, or sodium
bisulphate. In addition to these additives, the
water is of a much higher density because of
the large increase in total dissolved solids. The
salinity of the brine discharge from desaliniza-
tion plants will of course be increased to that
of the Gulf waters but it is the significantly
higher temperatures that are likely to be most
damaging to the environment. Salinity of efflu-
ents from desalination plants around the world
typically ranges between 46,000 and 70,000
parts per million. In addition the combined
effects of higher temperatures, salinity and
chemical additives reduce the oxygen in the
water and make it less soluble. Without proper
dilution and aeration, a plume of elevated
salinity low oxygen discharge may extend over
a significant area and can harm the near-shore
ecosystem.
Overall, copper and chlorine are the most serious
environmental threats from seawater concen-
trate discharge. Chlorine is one of the major pol-
luters added to the feed water to prevent biofoul-
ing on heat exchange surfaces in MSF plants.
Chlorine is a strong oxidant and a highly effective
biocide; it also leads to oxidation by-products
such as halogenated organics. Residual levels of
Chlorine in the effluent discharge may therefore
be toxic to marine life at the discharge site. In the
USA the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) places the limits for exposure at 13 and 7.5
micro-grams per litre for short and long-term
exposure respectively. In Kuwait it was found
that concentrations up to 100 micro-grams 10
times the toxic levels for humans were found
one km from cogeneration plants outfalls. It is
believed these levels pose high risks to some
marine phytoplankton, invertebrates and verte-
brates. Halogenated compounds are generally
persistent in the marine environment and some
are carcinogenic to animals.
Environmental Impacts of Water Use
58 59
Heavy metals enter the brine stream as the
plants internal surfaces corrode. Copper con-
tamination is the major problem in MSF distil-
lation plants but in RO is almost absent
because of the use of nonmetallic materials and
stainless steel. Thus, in contrast, RO brine gen-
erally contains trace levels of iron, nickel,
chromium and molybdenum. Heavy metals
tend to enrich in suspended materials and sed-
iments and affect soft bottom habitats such as
those found in the Gulf. Many benthic inverte-
brates feed on this suspended or deposited
material with the risk that the metals are
enriched in their bodies and passed up the food
chain.
In the Emirate measures to mitigate the
adverse consequences of brine disposal appear
to be few although there is strict regulation of
the quality of the discharge. Different coastal
and marine ecosystems are likely to vary in their
sensitivities to concentrate discharge.
Generally salt marshes and mangroves in placid
water marine environments, have the highest
sensitivity to brine disposal.
Environmental Impacts of Brine
Disposal
The coastal waters of Abu Dhabi are a rich
habitat for marine organisms and Gulf fish-
eries, until recently were an important part of
the traditional economy. Over 280 species
have been recorded and the coastline accom-
modates the largest known population of the
dugong (dugong dugon) outside Australia.
Sea-grass colonies are a vital habitat for
much of the marine fauna. The largest area
of coral reefs in the southern Gulf lies within
Abu Dhabi and they support fisheries, habi-
tats critical for the maintenance of biodiver-
sity and recreation. And coastal mangrove
forests provide breeding and shelter for a
least 43 species of phytoplankton and 29
species of fish, and also provide habitat for
section 3 1/28/10 11:29 AM Page 8
The impact of brine and cooling water disposal
on fisheries is also unknown. There are over 350
commercial fish species and 14 shellfish species
inhabiting the continental shelves of the
Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian
Gulf. A comparison of surveys of the UAE por-
tion of the Arabian Gulf and the East Coast
Region conducted by FAO in 1978 and one com-
missioned by EAD in 2003 found that stocks of
bottom-feeding (demersal) fish had declined by
81%. In contrast the survey found the stocks of
surface feeding (pelagic) fish remained about
the same as 1978. A key finding was:
Most importantly this reduction in the abun-
dance in both the Arabian Gulf and the East
Coast Region was apparent for both commer-
cial and non-commercial species indicating
that commercial exploitation may not be the
only factor involved.
Recommendations that were implemented by
the Emirate include careful planning to develop
pelagic fisheries considering that many of the
ecological interdependencies are unknown and
strict regulation of the demersal fisheries. A key
recommendation relevant to this study was for
a closer examination of the reasons for the
decline in demersal stocks including the issue
of coastal habitat and its influence on demersal
stock abundance.
Wastewater and Sludge Disposal
Rapidly growing urbanization and the problems
associated with septic tanks in the coastal
region caused the Municipality of Abu Dhabi to
develop a master plan for sewage management
in 1975. Sewage and waste water generated off-
shore and on the islands is only temporarily
stored and then transported to some of the
small sewage treatment plants. All areas of Abu
Dhabi Emirate are now served by combined
sewerage and irrigation networks where sewage
is collected and treated and some of the waste
birds. Much of the attraction of Abu Dhabi to
the almost two million tourists envisaged in
the Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 Vision will be relat-
ed to marine-based activities. Thus conserva-
tion and biodiversity maintenance in the
near-shore environment has a high priority in
coastal zone management.
Catastrophic coral bleaching events occurred
in 1996 and 1998 and research has associated
these with prolonged elevation of seawater
temperature. Coral mortality up to 98%
occurred and in the Jebel Ali Wildlife
Sanctuary species diversity was reduced from
43 to 27 species. The causes of these warm-
ing events are predominantly natural and
linked to El Nino-induced changes in oceanic
processes however we do not know how far
these conditions are further exacerbated by
the relatively hot cooling water discharges.
The effect of brine discharge on the Gulfs
fauna is unknown. Research results else-
where have produced a range of findings. A
comprehensive study of a thermal desalina-
tion plant in Key West, Florida, found that
the heated brine effluent, which was highly
contaminated with dissolved copper,
markedly reduced biotic diversity over an 18-
month period. In contrast, in Spain there
were major impacts on seafloor communities
from brine discharges that raised near-shore
salinity to over 39,000 ppm. Specifically
nematodes (worm) prevalence increased
from 68 to 96 percent over two years and
other species declined. Studies in Spain on
sea grass habitats showed that even brief
exposure 15 days to salinities in excess of
40,000 ppm caused a 27% mortality of plants.
Generally, research indicates that the 38-
40,000 ppm zone represents a tolerance
threshold for marine organisms. Clearly,
brine discharge from desalinization plants
has the potential to significantly impact
near-shore environments and ecology.
water used for irrigation. Major low-lying urban
areas are served by a network of storm drains
and sub-surface drains. Without the sub-sur-
face drains there is a danger of corrosion of
building foundations by the generally saline
groundwater.
While the sewerage system has successfully mit-
igated health and environmental hazards
caused by uncontrolled human waste disposal,
the system is not without risks. The saline
groundwater environment in the coastal belt
and the long retention time of waste within sew-
ers, allied with the hot climate and the low alka-
linity of the sewage caused by the use of desali-
nated water, accelerates corrosion of the sew-
ers. Investigations for the Al Ain Drainage
Master Plan identified corrosion as being
responsible for leakage of sewage from the sys-
tem. This led to soil and groundwater contam-
ination and in isolated cases contamination of
drinking supplies reliant on groundwater.
These hazards have been mitigated through the
use of glass-reinforced plastic pipes and lining
to existing sewage infrastructure. Even so,
odour control is an important consideration in
the effective operation and maintenance of
sewage treatment plants.
Most TSE are used in landscaping. However, in
several cases excess effluents are discharged to
the desert or the coastal areas. Effluents from
dairy farms have been collected in large evapo-
ration ponds in the Al Ain region; others are col-
lected in septic tanks. All are discharged to the
desert where there is an extremely high risk of
contaminating groundwater.
The Effects of Water on Land Use
and Agriculture
Afforestation and Agriculture
The overwhelming impact has been environ-
mentally positive although much depends on
Environmental Impacts of Water Use
60 61
the viewpoint of the observer. The increase
in vegetated area as a result of water appli-
cation has provided habitat for flora and
fauna that has local and global benefits
derived from carbon sequestration in the
new vegetation and the creation of habitats
for various fauna, some of them transitory.
There are 47 species of mammals. Over 450
bird species have been recorded, and 15 of
these are on the World Conservation Unions
Red List of endangered species. Soil proper-
ties, particularly in the reclaimed areas, have
probably improved but there is no evidence
to determine how they have changed.
Monitoring and evaluation of the impact of
the vegetation and ground cover to establish
its ecological impact is only recent. There is
no national systematic evaluation or base-
line data against which to assess positive
impacts of land use change or their impact
on the local ecology. This needs to be
addressed. As far as can be determined,
there are no quantitative environmental val-
ues associated with the vegetation apart
from the commercial ones related to market-
ing of crops.
There are a number of negative impacts
associated with the vegetation. First, pris-
tine desert environments were bulldozed and
levelled to create exotic forestry plantations
and cultivable fields. Forestry and crops
have required the import of indigenous and
alien species of plants that profoundly
changed the natural ecology. Sustaining
these vegetation systems requires the import
of chemicals: specifically fertilizers, pesti-
cides and herbicides. Irrigation, allied with
the high rates of evaporation and unsophisti-
cated water management has increased the
salinization of soils in some areas.
Systematic soil surveys are yet to be under-
taken to determine the extent and nature of
the salinity or alkalinity changes and the
problems this may represent.
section 3 1/28/10 11:29 AM Page 10
lost to agriculture and the soil and vegetation
deteriorate quite quickly in the harsh environ-
ment. Some observers state that abandoned
farmlands are in a worse condition than the
pre-irrigated dry land.
Groundwater
Declining groundwater levels, increasing
pumping costs and deteriorating groundwater
quality are the main adverse impacts.
Aflaj
These are an environmental and cultural asset
that has been harmed by groundwater use for
agriculture. Historically, the traditional afalaj
systems supported date palm oases and, with
fishing, were the cradle of Emirati life.
Physically and culturally the agricultural and
related architectural environment has very
high cultural values appreciated by Emirates
and expatriates alike. Aflaj areas have sub-
stantial potential as tourist destinations pro-
vided they do not lose their unique identity.
Rapid development of wells for agriculture has
resulted in dewatering of the groundwater
reservoir: almost all afalaj are dry. The Aflaj
Committee of Al Ain Municipality maintains
and supervises seven falaj, only one of which
flows naturally. The adverse consequences of
past mismanagement have been reversed by
pumping groundwater into the aflaj systems,
thus restoring their historic role. And the loss
of local groundwater has been supplemented
by desalinated water imports from the
Fujairah.
Groundwater Storage Depletion
Even the smallest groundwater withdrawal
caused permanent depletion of the groundwater
reservoir because the natural recharge is so low.
The worst affected areas are to the west of Al Ain
where groundwater levels have fallen by as much
Sabkhas
Withdrawal of groundwater, particularly the
semi-brackish and brackish water, has proba-
bly reduced the natural through-flow that
sustains sabkhas. Lower groundwater levels
below sabkhas reduce the capillary feed to
the surface allowing it to desiccate and to be
eroded by the wind. The biological soil crusts
of inland sabkhas helps stabilise the soil, pre-
vent erosion, and fix carbon and nitrogen in
the soil. Well-developed biological sabkha
crusts have been shown to contain up to 10
soil lichens, three mosses, and ten cyanobac-
teria species.
Wetland and Artificial Lakes
Artificial wetlands have been created to pro-
duce recreational and environmental purpos-
es. The largest artificial surface water body is
the 132 ha Al Wathba protected wetland
reserve, 40 Km south-east of Abu Dhabi city.
This is a wetland of international importance
on the Central Asia Africa flyway and over
205 species of birds have been recorded to
date. In addition there are also other signifi-
cant lakes and ponds at Shahama, Khazna,
Mubazzarah, Ain Al Fayda and Ajban that
have high value recreational uses from miner-
al hot springs to boating.
Degraded Lands
Some cultivated land has been abandoned
and this can be considered a form of land
degradation. Reasons for abandonment are
many. They include financial non-viability
because of unsound cropping preferences
encouraged by generous subsidies, as was the
case of tomatoes in the late 1990s. Declining
groundwater levels that greatly increased
pumping costs, and deterioration in ground-
water quality, has caused many farmers to
abandon land. Most abandoned farmland is
as 65 meters between 1991 and 2001. While
groundwater levels have also declined in the
Liwa crescent area, substantially better
hydraulic conditions have reduced adverse
impacts; water levels have declined by a maxi-
mum of 10 meters in some areas.
This has four adverse environmental conse-
quences. First, the reservoir is permanently de-
watered. Second, the saturated thickness great-
ly reduces the ability to pump water at reason-
able cost. Third, the requirement to lift water
over a much greater elevation requires more
energy, and this has the indirect impact of
increasing the greenhouse gas emissions of the
power plants needed to produce the extra ener-
gy. Depending on local conditions, electrical
costs increase about 3.2 times for each 10m of
pumping depth and this may cause abandon-
ment of farming. It is estimated that 150,000 ha
of agricultural land in the United States has
already been abandoned because of high pump-
ing costs And fourth, in many cases the void cre-
Environmental Impacts of Water Use
62 63
ated by withdrawal of fresh groundwater is filled
by surrounding brackish or saline water, which is
normally an irreversible process. For example,
the freshwater area Al Ain to Al Saad has lost
142,000 hectares since the 1980s. In the Liwa cres-
cent area, the reduction is about 5,100 hectares.
Groundwater Quality
There are few naturallyoccurring chemical haz-
ards in groundwater that are injurious to the
health of both plants and mammals. Boron,
Fluoride, and Chromium become an environ-
mental hazard when groundwater is used.
According to the World Health Organization
guidelines: The permissible concentration of
chromium in drinking water is 50 micograms
per liter. At levels higher than this, there is a
risk of liver disease and gastro-intestinal irri-
tation. The USEPA adopts a higher level of 100
micrograms per liter and indicates that a life-
time exposure could cause damage to liver,
kidney, circulatory, nerve tissue and skin.
section 3 1/28/10 11:29 AM Page 12
of 1.5 milligrams per liter. At higher concentra-
tions it may cause crippling fluorosis. Like
boron and chromium, this is a health hazard in
much of the western region but there is an
almost negligible risk in the Al Ain area.
Groundwater pollution has also occurred.
Apart from the deterioration induced by min-
ing the groundwater reservoir and waste dis-
posal discussed above, there has been signifi-
cant groundwater pollution as a result of agro-
chemical use.
Residues from fertilizers are mobilized in seep-
age from irrigated areas to contaminate
groundwater. While the use of fertilizers is reg-
ulated at the federal level by the Ministry of
Agriculture and Fisheries, there are few data
on the quantities of fertilizer applied in the
Emirate. Periodic groundwater samples by
EAD from a network of 228 wells are made to
check the concentration of pesticides, nitrate
and nitrite. The permissible WHO guideline
level for nitrates for drinking water is 50 mil-
ligrams per liter. Higher concentrations are
associated with blue baby syndrome which
may be fatal to infants. Effects on livestock can
include reduced conception rates, sponta-
neous abortions, reduced rate of gain, and gen-
erally poor performance in dairy cows includ-
ing reduced milk production. Pregnant
women, those with health infirmities and preg-
nant or breeding animals should be protected
from high nitrate sources.
EADs monitoring program found 80 percent of
their sample exceeded the WHO guideline. In
contrast, the USGS national sampling network
found concentrations below the WHO permit-
ted level except in the Liwa crescent area,
Figure 17.
They found that very high levels of nitrate
occur where farms are developed over the
unconfined groundwater. Nitrate levels
increased along the access road to Liwa over
Chromium concentrations exceed the WHO
limits in much of the western region of the
Emirate but are less prevalent in the Al Ain
area. Even so, it is a risk to human health and
it is primarily for this reason that drinking sup-
plies from groundwater in the Liwa crescent
area were stopped.
Excess boron concentrations in drinking water
cause depression and gastro-intestinal distur-
bances. In plants, low boron concentrations are
essential for growth but levels higher than 1,000
micrograms per litre are harmful particularly to
fruit trees. Boron concentrations in groundwa-
ter water exceed WHO guidelines in most
areas of the Emirate; and concentrations
increase with increasing salinity.
Fluoride is essential for bone formation and
the health of teeth, but below concentrations
Environmental Impacts of Water Use
64 65
Figure 17: The Distribution of Nitrate in the Groundwater of Abu Dhabi
Source: Mooreland et. al 2007.
the period 1997-2006. Concentrations rose in
one case from about 20 milligrams per liter to
220 milligrams per liter over this period; in
another case, nitrates increased from about 70
milligrams per liter to almost 200 milligrams
per liter. Similar trends were noted in the
Ghayathi area in the western region. There is
thus a clear link between agricultural water
use and groundwater pollution levels. The dif-
fering findings of the EAD and USGS monitor-
ing may be due to sampling different wells and
aquifer intervals. There is clearly a need for a
more harmonized approach.
Finally, inland reverse osmosis desalination
plants using brackish or saline groundwater
discharge their brine effluent to desert depres-
sions. The amount discharged is not known
nor is the impact on underlying groundwater
quality.
Summary of the major environmental
impacts of water generation and use:
Provision of a safe and secure supply of
desalinated water and treatment of waste-
section 3 1/28/10 11:29 AM Page 14
water has reduced the risk of water-related
and water-bourn disease to negligible pro-
portions. This has made Abu Dhabi a safe
place to live and work and enhanced its
economic prospects.
The overwhelming impact has been envi-
ronmentally positive although much
depends on the viewpoint of the observer.
The increase in vegetated and amenity
areas as a result of water application has
provided habitat for flora and fauna that
has local and global benefits derived from
carbon sequestration in the new vegetation
and the creation of habitats for various
fauna, some of them transitory. It also has
high aesthetic value.
There is no national systematic evaluation
or baseline data against which to assess
positive impacts of land use change
brought about by irrigation or their impact
on the local ecology. This needs to be
addressed. As far as can be determined,
there are no quantitative environmental
values associated with the vegetation apart
from the commercial ones related to mar-
keting of crops.
The adverse direct and indirect impacts on
the environment of water use within the
Emirate are large. While the nature of the haz-
ards is known from direct observation, such as
groundwater pollution and storage depletion,
others including the explicit link between
freshwater generation activities from desalin-
ization and environmental impacts of brine
disposal are poorly defined. This is a major
omission to the integrated planning and
management of Abu Dhabis environment.
Generation of desalinated water uses a sig-
nificant portion of the Emirates energy
and is responsible for the generation of
greenhouse gases including CO2. Water
conservation programs in all sectors of the
economy would reduce the demand for
water and thus CO2 emissions.
Brine disposal as a side product of desali-
nation poses modest to severe environ-
mental risks to the water of the Gulf and to
shallow aquifers inland.
Most TSE are used in landscaping.
However, in several cases excess effluents
are discharged to the desert or the coastal
area creating a high potential for pollution
of groundwater.
Effluents from dairy farms have been col-
lected in large evaporation ponds in the Al
Ain region; others are collected in septic
tanks. All are discharged to the desert
where there is an extremely high risk of
contaminating groundwater.
Unfettered expansion of agriculture has
caused degradation of groundwater
resources through unregulated over-
pumping. In many areas irreversible salin-
ization of groundwater has occurred.
Upper layers of shallow aquifers have been
polluted by irrigation return flows contain-
ing chemicals, particularly nitrates.
Intense animal husbandry has locally exac-
erbated groundwater pollution and placed
a high stress on the fragile ecosystem and
natural vegetation.
Environmental Impacts of Water Use
66
section 3 1/28/10 11:29 AM Page 16
4. Future Water
Demand
67
section 4 1/28/10 11:31 AM Page 2
Forecasting
Forecasting can be particularly difficult in rapid-
ly urbanizing environments where past patterns
of water usage are less likely to be reflected in
future rates. Future potable water demand is
derived from information on a number of differ-
ent social, economic, political and natural envi-
ronmental variables including the following:
resident and seasonal population numbers,
density and distribution
number, market value and types of housing
units
per capita income
water and waste water prices and rate struc-
tures and the way these affect consumption
commercial and industrial activity and mix
conveyance efficiencies and water losses
hours of supply ( intermittent or continuous)
urban water use efficiency from implemen-
tation of Best Management Practices
irrigated acreage in residential, commercial
and public use
other water uses
climate and climate change conditions.
ADWEC are responsible for demand planning.
Their current planning horizon is to 2030 in
response to the development blueprint for city
and surrounding environs proposed in Plan
Abu Dhabi 2030. Recent exogenous factors are
affecting decision-making and risks the finan-
cial and economic crisis of late 2008 and the
end of the oil boom and these major factors
may soon make present forecasts redundant.
The risks attached to the demand forecast are
dependent on the accuracy and precision of the
sources of information used. And ADWEC has
drawn on many official and independent
sources to build a picture of the future econom-
ic, social and physical structure of the Emirate
(Miller, 2008). All ADWECs demand forecasts
were made on the basis of announced or antic-
ipated government policies. Future policy
changes could change the demand forecast and
ADWEC note that a decision to supply farmers
in the Western Region with desalinated water
would require recalculation.
In deriving values for future demands, many
different methodologies have been developing
using various statistical approaches for
accounting for uncertainty and risk. These
include both deterministic and probabilistic
methods, and recently multi-criteria analysis
and artificial neural networks have been used.
Since 2006, ADWEC have adopted a probabilis-
tic approach in which uncertainties around
various variables are represented by probabili-
ty distribution curves. A major uncertainty is
governments policy of the use of desalinated
water for agriculture. In addition an allowance
has been made for continuous improvements in
per capita consumption and landscape water
saving improvements resulting from demand-
side management.
The role of demand planning is to provide a
framework within which all the various compo-
nents, factors and information can be effec-
tively brought together to allow appropriate
decisions to be taken on future water manage-
ment, supply capacity needs, and investment.
Given the predominantly urban settlement in
the Emirate, the primary water planning issue
is securing a reliable and safe potable water
supply. Demand planning in Abu Dhabi is con-
fined primarily to the water and electricity sec-
tors that have traditionally been inter-depend-
ent. This is because investments tend to be
lumpy and long-term 20 or more years. A
cogeneration power station and its supporting
infrastructure and connections typically costs
around two billion dollars, takes 1-2 years to
plan, design, finance and contract, and 3 or
more years to construct. At the same time
existing cogeneration infrastructure is aging
and may be delivering sub-optimal perform-
ance. And allowance has to be made for this.
Once an acceptable projection of water
demand has been agreed and the supply gap
identified, plans for needed capacity enhance-
ments to desalination capacity, storage,
wastewater treatment and transmission and
distribution networks follow. Because the
purpose of demand planning is to correctly
predict the capacity of desalination plants
(including pumps and associated pipe work
and power supplies) designed to fill the
capacity gap, the focus is determining future
peak demands at the time the new equipment
reaches the end of its economic life. This is
not a simple task. For water supply networks
the objective is typically to determine the
gross daily peak demand and in power sta-
tions it may be hourly peak.
Demand planning for irrigation in the absence
of significant surface water resources tends to
be more concerned with water resources alloca-
tion and management than infrastructure.
Environmental issues have tended to be of sec-
ondary concern unless they pose risks to the
groundwater resource. This is because most
groundwater-based irrigation serves demand-
led fragmented agriculture whose future water
requirements cannot be well defined. It is also
small-scale, incremental and relatively inexpen-
sive and does not require either public-sector
appraisal or management.
In addition to the water demand within the
Emirate, Abu Dhabi exports water to the
Northern Emirates. These have risen from
7.03 million gallons a day (MGD) for peak
water supply in 2006 to 11.95 MGD in 2007.
The indicative peak supply of water is expect-
ed to increase to 20 MGD in 2008/2009 to 30
MGD from 2010 onwards. Given the geogra-
phy and distances involved, these supplies
can only currently be met from the Fujairah 1
plant and the future Fujairah 2 power and
water plants.
Future Water Demand
69 68
4. Future Water Demand
Figure 18: Future desalination demand and avail-
able capacity most likely
projection 2007-2030
Source: ADWEC. 2008. Statement of Future Capacity
Requirements
section 4 1/28/10 11:31 AM Page 4
may only make a modest contribution to con-
serving fresh groundwater for other uses. On the
other hand, restricting the use of desalinated
water in agriculture could immediately reduce
the demand by 11% on the basis of RSBs data,
and provide an even larger share according to
ADWECs analysis perhaps as much as a 50%
saving. Energy savings would be proportionate.
Future demand and supply
ADWEC made several projections of future
demand for desalinated water for the period
2007-2030. The most-likely scenario is
shown in Figure 18. Overall the growth in
demand in that period will be 123%. There
will be no shortfall in production until 2014,
but thereafter it will steadily increase in the
absence of new capacity. By 2020 the annual
shortfall will be 206 MGD, equivalent to 342
Mcm. This will increase to 673 Mcm by 2030.
Future desalinated supply
ADWEC states that a shortage of gas, the
traditional fuel for cogeneration desalina-
tion plants creates a huge problem for the
future provision of desalinated water. It is
expected that gas supplies from Dolphin
field will fall below local demand by
2014-2015. In anticipation the government
reviewed policy options in 2008 (Box 3).
Apart from nuclear energy, fuel oil or lique-
fied natural could also be considered.
However, on reflection ADWEC agues that it
may be better to sell the oil overseas as its
use locally is sub-economic in terms of fore-
gone revenue on existing electricity and
water tariffs. Subsequently government
endorsed the nuclear power option
The growing power shortage will lead to
increasing electricity generation and reduc-
ing desalination production. A change in
electricity generation technology particu-
larly nuclear - will cause a strategic reassess-
ment of the continued construction of cogen-
eration power and water plants. It may
become more economic to separate energy
generation and water production. If that
occurs then several other options become
available to manage future water supplies.
That is the subject of the next chapter.
Future agricultural demand
This is unknown as water use is driven by poli-
cies that anchor Emiratis to the rural domain
through an extensive program of subsidies for
housing, land improvement, energy, water and
agriculture. It is primarily a cultural issue. And
a major cultural concern is food self-sufficiency.
There is a lobby that argues that continued
support for agriculture contributes to food self-
sufficiency and is essential for national securi-
ty. However, it must be stated here that future
agricultural management and expansion must
be viewed within the context of available irriga-
tion water and energy sources to ensure sus-
tainability of production. Any changes must
also consider international indicators for food
production and recent UAE government initia-
tives to secure future supply.
Agricultural water demand is dependent on
future policy changes. In a normal case there
would be adequate socio-economic, agronom-
ic, agricultural and financial data available to
make informed decisions about costs and ben-
efits and how these provide incentives to farm-
ing specific crops or livestock. No such data
are available for Abu Dhabi. We can make,
however, logical guesses about how policy may
work.
Rhodes Grass is a prime example. It accounts
for more than half of agricultural water and
energy demand. How much Rhodes Grass is
irrigated using fresh or desalinated water is
unknown, but the indications are that the
majority of the area is irrigated from brackish
water. And policy on Rhodes Grass also has a
secondary impact on water demand for the
livestock sector. Thus reducing or eliminating
the large subsidy for Rhodes Grass would lead
to substantial energy savings (particularly
when RO is used to improve water quality) but
Future Water Demand
71 70
Box 3: Fuel for the future: Nuclear Power the UAE Governments 2008 Policy Paper
Annual peak demand for water is likely to rise to more than 40,000 MW, but the known volumes of natural
gas that could be made available to the nations electricity sector would be insufficient to meet 20,000
25,000 MW of power generation capacity by 2020.
While the burning of liquids (e.g. crude oil and/or diesel) was found to be logically viable, evaluation of this
option revealed that a heavy future reliance on liquids would entail extremely high economic costs, as well
as significant degradation in the environmental performance of UAEs electricity sector. While evaluation of
coal-fired power generation established its lower relative price compared to liquid-fired power generation,
its widespread use within the UAE would have an even more detrimental effect on environmental perform-
ance, while also raising thorny issues related to security of supply. Evaluation of alternative energies, includ-
ing solar and wind suggested that, while these options could be deployed in the UAE, even aggressive devel-
opment could only supply 6-7% of peak electricity demand by 2020.
Stacked against the above options, nuclear-powered generation emerged at a proven, environmentally
promising and commercially competitive option which could make a significant base-load contribution to
UAEs economy and energy security.
section 4 1/28/10 11:31 AM Page 6
5. Planning and
Development Options
73
section 5 1/28/10 11:31 AM Page 2
desalinated water supply sectors whilst others
such as agriculture and environment have
notable omissions. Social concerns regarding
access to affordable water supplies and sanita-
tion for all were alleviated by substantial invest-
ment since the 1970s and heavy subsidies since
then have significantly reduced the cost of
water for all users. However, free or very cheap
water is frequently misused and adds little eco-
nomic value despite its high cost.
While development options can be identified
there are insufficient financial, engineering and
economic data to cost development alterna-
tives and carry out trade-offs to determine the
optimal investment mix. Most of the required
data are either proprietary, not existent or were
not made available to this study.
Accordingly, this master plan pro-
poses a strategy to plan water
development that would be subse-
quently detailed in a plan that cov-
ers all the water sub-sectors. The
overall water planning process from
a national perspective is illustrated
in Figure 20. This master plan cov-
ers the four steps circled in red.
Once the overall approach is agreed
and the strategies are selected,
detailed planning can take place.
The planning process shown is a
series of linear steps as discussed
below. In reality the Australian and
other experience shows that the
process is considerably more itera-
tive as policy-makers, other stake-
holders, citizens and technical spe-
cialists exchange ideas and provide
better data analysis or information
to build policy, information and
data gaps. This has certainly been
the experience of this work and the
process is ongoing.
1. Planning Initiation. EAD has
completed this step. It involved
taking the decision that water needed to be
planned in an integrated way to maximize
environmental benefits and minimize adverse
impacts. ICBA was engaged to work in part-
nership with EAD to produce this report.
2. Situational Analysis. This looks at the cur-
rent state of the resources as presented in
Chapter 2 of this report. It also includes pub-
lic and environmental benefits and impacts
and risks as discussed in Chapter 3. It nor-
mally includes a thorough financial and eco-
nomic analysis but data to enable this to be
done was not available to the planning team.
Opportunities are covered in this chapter.
Future water demand can be met through a
combination of demand management and
development of alternative sources of supply. It
is not only concerned with meeting the demand
for desalinated water. Overall water demand for
the Emirate is the sum of project water use in
each water-using sector or cross-cutting con-
straint.
Thus water demand for potable, industrial and
agricultural sectors can be determined irrespec-
tive of the water source. Sound environmental
management may also require changes to water
uses in several sectors; similarly so may eco-
nomic and financial considerations, all of them
cutting across the specialist water using sec-
tors, Figure 19. And institutional knowledge
and capacity constraints may affect all sectors
and even the ability to plan across the Emirate.
In Abu Dhabi, for example, there is very high
human capacity in the desalination and water
distribution business and in terms of integrated
national planning. In contrast, the agricultural
sector is composed of a number of widely scat-
tered individuals and there is a need for a coher-
ent and integrated approach which includes
water and environmental perspectives. EAD is
assuming that responsibility but capacity and
relevant institutional structures for sound
strategic planning and sector management is
now only being developed. This plan is an initial
step in this process.
Theoretically the best combination of individ-
ual sector proposals would maximize economic
and social benefits and minimize or even
reverse adverse consequences to the environ-
ment. This chapter reviews the options applica-
ble to Abu Dhabi and five different scenarios for
the future are put forward.
Theoretically the best combination of individ-
ual sector proposals would maximize economic
and social benefits and minimize or even
reverse adverse consequences to the environ-
ment. This chapter reviews the options applica-
ble to Abu Dhabi and five different scenarios for
the future are put forward.
Cost considerations have not generally been a
prime consideration as capital has been readily
available for new infrastructure supplemented
by grants and extensive subsidies. Currently
the institutional environment governing water
development, use and planning is patchy with
some areas covered in great depth for example
the highly regulated power generation and
Planning and Development Options
75 74
5. Planning and Development Options
Figure 19: The relationship of the main water-using
sub-sectors to cross-cutting constraints
Figure 20: The water planning process and plan content
Source: ICBA
Source: Hamstead, M., C. Baldwin and V. OKeefe. 2008. Water
Allocation Planning in Australia Current Practices and Lessons
Learned. Waterlines Occasional Paper No 6, April 2008.
Australian National Water Commission.
3. Setting Directions. This follows from the situ-
ational analysis and provides the basis for
broad decisions on which way to go, including
objectives and outcome being sought. It
encompasses such things as vision state-
ments (as discussed in Chapter 1) and specif-
ic objectives and outcomes desired.
4. Identifying and Assessing Strategies. This is
usually achieved through a process of identify-
ing and assessing options based on benefits,
impacts and mitigation measures.
5. Strategy Selection. This involves comparing
trade-offs including socio-economic and equi-
section 5 1/28/10 11:31 AM Page 4
risks and formulating measures to mitigate
them. It is also important to agree feedback
procedures to inform policy-makers and man-
agement on progress and who does what
when corrections or changes of direction are
needed.
7. Plan Approval. This is the final step when the
minister or Executive Council endorses the
plan. It enables the outcomes of the planning
process to become law and frames enabling
legislation.
Development Objectives
Typically national water development is con-
strained by the availability of water, the costs of
supply and distribution, and the need to align
institutions with long-term development objec-
tives, social and environmental concerns and
security issues. There could be three primary
development objectives:
ty factors to determine and decide the pre-
ferred options and strategies. The outcomes
from this step are strategies, activities and
specification of measurable targets and
actions. These may include policy, institu-
tional strengthening, physical and economic
and environmental changes.
6. Building Adaptability. Few plans turn out as
predicted. Problems typically arising include
wrong assumptions, improved knowledge,
missing information, and unilateral decisions
by other actors (for example a new and
unforeseen MSF cogeneration plant or
change in agricultural policies).
Consequently this step identifies key yard-
sticks and indicators to measure monitor
progress against planning objectives and
what actions need to be taken when and by
whom if plans do not proceed as expected. In
engineering projects critical path analysis is a
key tool used to identify implementation
Planning and Development Options
76 77
Table 7: The impact of policy choice on planning constraints
Source: ICBA
Positive outcomes
Reduced agricultural use of desalinated water would signif-
icantly reduce the demand for energy and water produc-
tion.
There would be a one-off reduction in desalinated water
demand of at least 11% of present demand. This is equiv-
alent to about 11 Mcm a year or 3% of the 2030 supply
gap.
Pollution of groundwater from return irrigation flows may
decrease.
The released potable water could be used to meet the
needs of the expanding population and industry leading to
the potential of increasing TSE supplies
Adverse outcomes
Impact on the economic and social circumstances of the
farmers
Alternatively water supply systems will need to be devel-
oped which are likely to be based on groundwater sources
so adding to their depletion and possible soil salinization
Discussion:
Given the small contribution to meeting the long-term desalinated supply shortfall and the likely socio-economic reaction from well
placed farmers the political costs may be too high. Thus this policy option could be dropped as a constraint. Similar argument may
apply to the forestry sector unless they are strategically down-sized to the most economically and environmentally efficient areas.
Policy Option A Target reduction in the use of desalinated water in agriculture
1. Increase fresh water availability and its
security in Abu Dhabi
2. Sequencing new water supply infra-
structure to meet rapidly growing
demand, and
3. Minimization of the adverse environmen-
tal impacts of water production and use.
These objectives are subject to eleven policy
options that act as constraints:
a) Financial and administrative
b) Targets reduction of water use in agri-
culture - the biggest water user
c) Target reduced desalinated water use
in agriculture
d) Targets for household per capita
water consumption
e) Targets for energy demand in agricul-
ture
f) Targets for energy demand related to
household water use
g) Targets for energy use and increased
efficiency of wastewater treatment
and its distribution
h) Required security of potable water
supplies
i) Environmental impact targets for pro-
duction of desalinated water (covering
CO2 and other gas and particulate
emissions and brine disposal)
j) Targets for carbon offsets and or
sequestration in forests, amenity plan-
tations and agriculture, and
k) Reduced environmental pollution from
water-related activities in land man-
agement and agriculture.
These policy constraints are not independent or
mutually exclusive as the examples in Table 7, 8
and 9 illustrate.
section 5 1/28/10 11:31 AM Page 6
Planning and Development Options
78 79
Table 8: The impact of policy choice on planning constraints
Source: ICBA
Positive outcomes
Reduced water use may be sufficient to delay the need for addi-
tional desalination capacity. Providing the consumption target is
not less then about 250 lcd then generation of sewerage efflu-
ent would not be compromised
Reduce per capita and household energy use
Reduced per capita brine discharge and CO2 emissions
Reduced water sales may induce greater attention to leakage
reduction from the companys distribution system to increase
the share of billable water
Adverse outcomes
Reduced revenue for operation and maintenance of the
distribution system and for replacement investment
Reduce sewerage and so TSE supplies
Household gardens would become difficult to maintain
Biodiversity would decline as would carbon sequestration
Discussion:
From an environmental perspective the loss of biodiversity and sequestration would be traded-off against the reduction in brine discharge
and CO2 emissions. Probably the increase to the global common good fromCO2 emissions would significantly outweigh the local environ-
mental losses. Therefore it would make sense to drop biodiversity and brine output as constraints and make them dependent variables. To
measure environmental impact would require development of explicit relationships between energy, brine disposal and water production,
as well as better knowledge of the environmental services provided by household gardens.
While per capita energy and water use would decrease this would only offset and slow the growth in water and energy demand resulting
from population increases. Even so the water conservation would be significant. Taking the most likely population projection for 2030 of 4
million, the water saving of 300 lcd is equivalent to 440 Mcm a year or about 65% of the supply gap. The assumptions ADWEC used in its
demand forecast have not been made available and it could be that half of this projected saving is already included. We do not know. Even
so, 220Mcm is a large saving that arises from the willingness to apply demand-side management instruments the most effective being high-
er domestic water tariffs for all.
Physical distribution losses could be reduced with leak detection programs and pipe-work upgrades. However, at current loss levels and
water tariffs it may not be economic as the best marginal improvement would only be about 6%. Current water tariffs are US$0.06/m3.
This is only 0.3% of the actual cost of desalinated water that is, according to RSB, US$1.75/m3 (excluding capital, fuel and water subsidies).
In terms of income lost at present tariffs this would represent US$0.9 million if all the water were billed; however, as at least two-thirds of
distributed water is effectively free and the savings from loss prevention would be negligible. If tariffs were increased they could provide the
incentive to undertake system improvements - but only after justification through economic analysis. In terms of present water costs it could
be justified as the reduction of losses to 10% would lead to annual cost saving of US$151 million.
Policy Option B Target a reduction in per capita household water consumption
Table 9: The impact of policy choice on planning constraints
Source: ICBA
Positive outcomes
Reduced mining of the brackish groundwater resource that
could become a viable water supply source if nuclear ener-
gy became available.
Reduction in water and energy use perhaps by 50% of
present agricultural use. The primary benefit would be to
the energy sector and reduced gaseous emissions. Water
saved by phasing out Rhodes Grass is not a substitute for
desalinated water.
Reduction in livestock herds. Significant gains to rangeland
ecosystems and groundwater protection.
Significant gain to the treasury as subsidies are phased out
maybe more money for environmental management?
Adverse outcomes
Reduced income for farmers.
There may be an influx of farmers to urban areas as they
become under- or unemployed. Income subsidies may be
required to stem this flow.
The livestock sector would decline affecting the livelihoods
of those depending on it for a living.
Farmers may invest in small-scale RO for other types of agri-
culture, thereby lowering the environmental benefits of the
policy.
Biodiversity would decrease as would sequestration
Crop subsidy = Dh 140 million
Energy cost = Dh 0.214 per kWh
Energy tariff = Dh 0.03 per kWh
Subsidy rate = Dh 0.211 per kWh
Energy use = 3,125 million kWh
Energy Subsidy = Dh 659 million
Total crop and electricity subsidy Dh 799 million
A kWh of electricity generated from gas produces 380 grams
equivalent of CO2.
CO2 produced by Rhodes Grass by irrigation using 3,125 mil-
lion kWh is 1.2 million tons per year
In addition the subsidy of Rhodes grass led to a huge rise in
livestock numbers. They use 20 Mm3 of water and produce
0.8 million tons of CO2 equivalent a year
Discussion:
This is an easy choice from the energy perspective but a difficult one for the water sector. Water security may require that the mod-
erately brackish groundwater areas be put into a strategic reserve. The costs and benefits from an agricultural and social perspective
are unclear because of the paucity of socio-economic data. Almost nothing is known about the environmental flows associated with
Rhodes Grass and this would need to be clarified as the eventual solution would be a trade-off against global benefits.
Policy Option C Reduce the agricultural subsidy for Rhodes Grass
Economic Considerations
The simplest way of deciding the viability of
alternative ways of providing water supplies is
to compare costs and benefits and this has
tended to be the sole criteria in the Emirate for
most water investment to date. Financial
accounting and feasibility are directly con-
cerned with the availability and cost of funds.
However, as has been demonstrated, the invest-
ment and financial cash flows and benefits of
operating a utility or a well are only part of the
true costs of doing business. To fully account
for these additional costs requires an economic
analysis to internalize, as far as practicable, all
measurable costs, including environmental
ones. And an economic analysis does not always
lead to the same decision.
section 5 1/28/10 11:31 AM Page 8
It is important also to distinguish between pub-
lic and private costs and benefits. In an unregu-
lated environment, a water supply utility will
attempt to maximize benefits and minimize
costs. And this will probably be assisted by
being able to ignore the adverse consequences
of the utilities operation which could include,
for example, noise, odor, and polluting dis-
charges that the utility cannot sell. In a regulat-
ed environment, the utility may be forced to
reduce noise and odor and pay to clear up pol-
lution. Therefore the utilities costs contribute
towards benefits which accrue to the public at
large. On the benefits side the utility will sell
the water at cost plus a profit. However, utility
will not be able to charge the customers for the
health benefits of a regular supply of pure water
that is a public benefit.
Where the public costs or benefits are large, the
state may decide that because they are public
goods they should be paid for by the public, and
to encourage the production of clean water a
subsidy may be offered to defray the public
cost. From the health perspective, for example,
the government may see the subsidy for better
quality water as an off-set to public health
costs. To make the best decisions, all cost ben-
efits and subsidies should be as transparent as
possible. Hidden subsidies may create perverse
incentives to misuse resources. A clear example
of this is the groundwater over-exploitation
that has been caused by the large subsidies on
well construction and cheap electricity con-
sumption. If the government wants to keep the
farmers on the land and not have them migrate
to the cities, then a subsidy may be justified if it
is the same as the social cost borne by govern-
ment providing urban services. But providing
subsidies without a rational basis leads to
resource misuse and misallocation.
What do we do?
In practice all the variables in the planning
model would be integrated within a mathemat-
Planning and Development Options
80 81
Figure 21: Tariff reform is the most effective way of
closing the desalination supply gap
(A) Current capacity requirement with modest
demand management
(B) Application of leakage prevention programs
(C) Substantial increase in water tariffs to reduce
household demand
ical optimization model that simulates the
interaction of the various policy options and
constraints. The result would be outcomes that
can be judged against the objectives and
ranked accordingly. Generally the prime indica-
tor is incremental value-added to the economy.
In Abu Dhabi a proxy may be maximizing water
production from all sources with minimum
environmental impacts. However, lack of data
and information preclude such a modeling exer-
cise at this step in the planning process. This is
unfortunate as the adoption of a number of
demand management measures, while in them-
selves producing modest incremental benefits,
in aggregate they may produce synergies that
are not obvious at present. Integrated modeling
is the only way to find out efficiently.
The benefits of demand
management
Figure 21 summarizes the effects of the various
demand-side reduction policies discussed. Leak
detection, no matter how rigorously applied, has
only a marginal impact on the desalination sup-
ply gap. There is still a deficit after 2014.
Restricting agricultural use of desalinated water
has an almost identical impact. But together they
could have an opportunity cost of about $300
million a year. Conversely the most vigorously
applied tariff increase may solve the problem.
Diagram (C) shows that if household demand
were reduced to 250 lcd in 2008, then there would
be surplus throughout the planning horizon.
This indicates that a progressive increase of the
water tariff over a number of years may be the
policy to follow. There is sufficient time to
research into willingness to pay and testing of
appropriate tariff structures. The tariff structure
should be operational by the end of 2010 and
plan to reach to maximum in real terms by about
2020. This would allow the demand curve to
more closely match the supply. Of course, there
may be other policy objectives that would dic-
tate a different implementation schedule.
However, policy-makers may decide that tariff
reform is not viable. In that case the plan has to
address supply-side alternatives to supplement
desalination capacity.
Supply-side management is also
essential
Supply-side management is a very useful tool to
increase capacity and be sensitive to the environ-
mental implications of technology choice.
Supply Management Options
There are alternatives to seawater distillation
that are more energy efficient, use less source
water and discharge less waste water per unit
volume of potable water produced, Table 10. A
start has been made in Fujairah with the cogen-
eration-RO plant. The values for Abu Dhabi
plants were not available so details from general
studies are used.
While RO has many environmental advantages
over seawater distillation processes, removal of
Boron requires additional processing. Boron lev-
els below 0.5 mg/l are acceptable for potable use
but current membrane technology has difficulty
in achieving such low levels. And when high lev-
els of boron-rich desalinated water are use in
agriculture the results are toxic to many plants
(this is discussed under Groundwater below).
There are several solutions being developed, the
simplest being the passing of a fraction of the
water through a series of further stages to reduce
Boron further and then the blending of this with
the main product water to achieve permissible
levels.
RO is the preferred alternative for desalination
outside the Gulf Region primarily for environ-
mental and cost considerations, Table 11. These
costs are based on typical medium-sized installa-
tions. There are economies of scale with larger
MSF plants and water productions are given as
section 5 1/28/10 11:31 AM Page 10
US$0.84/m3 for the Taweelah A2 MSF distiller. It
is not known if subsidized or global market prices
are used for the cost estimate so actual econom-
ic costs could be higher. The main reason for the
lower costs for the RO process is that it does not
require energy to heat the water and the energy
cost for pumping and power is about US$0.13/m3.
In comparison, MSF distillation total energy
costs are US$0.35 of which US$0.24 are used for
heating
If RO is used to desalinate brackish water
energy costs will be significantly reduced as
will the environmental impacts. Using Abu
Dhabis substantial brackish groundwater
resources has also several advantages particu-
larly in terms of dispersing and securing
potable water supplies.
While disposal of inland brine effluent is cur-
Planning and Development Options
82 83
Table 10: Environmental and energy requirements for alternative desalination technologies Table 12: The Challenges of Inland Brine Disposal
Source: World Bank. 2004. Seawater and Brackish Water Desalination in the Middle East, North Africa and
Central Asia. Note: Mj = mega joules. Comparisons are based on a plant capacity of 32,000 m3/day.
Environmental Requirement or impact
Distillation Reverse Osmosis (RO)
Multiple Stage
Flash (MSF)
xMultiple Effect
(MED)
xSalt xBrackish
Volume of saline feed water per m3 of fresh water 4 3 2 to 2.5 1.3 to 1.4
Volume of brine effluent per m3 of fresh water 3 2 1 to 1.5 0.3 to 0.4
Energy Consumption Mj/m3 186 162 24 29
Table 11: Costs of Desalinated Water
Source: World Bank, 2004 ibid. Assumptions: Plant
capacity 30,000 m3/day; plant life 20 years, interest
rates 7% and labor at US$45,000/year.
MSF MED RO
Investment
Cost US$/m3/day 1,200-1,500 900 1,000 700-900
Total Water
Cost US$/m3 1.10 1.25 0.75 0.85 0.68 -0.82
Source: Australian Department of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Forests. 2002. Introduction to
Desalination Technologies in Australia.
Source: Modified after National Academy of Sciences (USA). 2008. Desalination - A National Perspective. Table
4-5. Notes: Magnitude of challenge: L = low; M = medium; H = High.
* Costs are site-specific and vary greatly
** Geologic requirements are concerned with risks of contaminating freshwater aquifers
Method of Disposal Capital Cost
*
O&M Costs
*
Land Required Env Impact Energy Public Concerns Geology
**
Deep Wells L M L L M M H
Evaporation Ponds M-H H H M L H H
Land Spreading M L H M-H L H H
Thermal Evaporation H H L L H L L
Sewers L L - M L L L
Box 4: Cutting the Costs of Environmental
Management Brine Harvesting
The Pyramid Salt Company of Northern
Victoria in Australia harvest salt evaporated
from saline groundwater. The product is
sold for stock feed, medical and chemical
uses. Using a proprietary process specific
dissolved minerals and compounds are
extracted individually using multiple evapo-
ration and/or cooling, supplemented by
chemical processing. Industries using these
compounds include, for example, wallboard
manufacturers, soil remediation and recla-
mation and waste water treatment.
Enterprises are typically medium- to large-
scale. Set-up costs are about US$10,000 per
ha and good quality salts can be sold for
US$12 to US$150 a ton.
Box 5: Evaporation Ponds The California
Experience
Saline agricultural drainage (producing
400,000 tons of salt annually) was not
allowed to be discharged to the San Joaquin
rently an uncontrolled problem, the establish-
ment of a government/private sector organiza-
tion that was responsible for the collection,
treatment and disposal, just as ADSSC is for
sewerage, would bring an integrated and com-
prehensive approach to its management.
Various options would be available for the actu-
al inland disposal of the brine and Table 12 lists
some of the management and environmental
challenges that should be considered in the
development of any new strategy.
Inland brine disposal using evaporation ponds
has potential commercial value as well as spe-
cific environmental concerns. Many of the fac-
tors considered in brine evaporation are also
applicable to collection and evaporation of agri-
cultural drainage although the waters have far
lower concentrations of total dissolved solids.
Brine waste can be viewed as an asset that
may be used to offset the cost of desalination
and may be used in various products such as
animal feeds. In Australia, for example, brine
water value-added enterprises are active in
reducing costs and meeting environmental
performance criteria (Box 4). However, there
are sometimes adverse environmental conse-
quences that need careful assessment as
examples from the San Jaoquin Valley in
California illustrate (Box 5).
River and over the period 1972-1985. Instead
the water was directed to 28 evaporation
ponds covering 2,900 ha. In addition to con-
centrating salts, the ponds also provided
seasonal resting, foraging and nesting habi-
tat for waterfowl and shore birds. An
Environmental Impact Report (EIR) in 1979
identified seepage, spillage from flooding,
accumulation of toxic or noxious wastes
(pesticide, nutrients and sewage), adverse
effects of wildlife and mosquitoes as adverse
environmental impacts. Many of these
impacts were mitigated through better
management and engineering measures.
Specific attention was paid, however, to
impacts on wildlife. It was found that seleni-
um occurred at elevated levels in the con-
centrated water (more than 0.2 ppm) and
its bioaccumulation in the aquatic food
chain reduced reproduction rates, caused
birth defects and killed water birds. The
worst-affected ponds had their operating
permits withdrawn by the Central Valley
Regional Water Control Board until mitiga-
tion was successful and the CVRWCB
entered into memoranda of understanding
with three operators to select consultants
for further EIRs ever three years. As a result
design and management practices of evapo-
ration ponds were significantly improved.
section 5 1/28/10 11:31 AM Page 12
Integrated Environmental
Management and Water Planning
Developing an Accounting Framework
Define and link the environmental parameters
of interest to water flows. This will be partly a
quantitative process and partly qualitative.
Water use and chemistry have to be explicitly
linked. The quantitative aspects would include,
for example, modeling groundwater and soil
chemical balances and the way in which they
change when water moves through the system.
It would also include model carbon sequestra-
tion by vegetation on the one hand, and green-
house gas emissions related to energy use on
the other. In turn, brine production related to
energy use for water could be explicitly linked
to the water balance and the health status on
near-shore waters. Similarly wastewater gener-
ation, usage and disposal could be linked
explicitly to water use. There is clearly a trade
off. And it is up to policy makers to make diffi-
cult trade-offs between competing economic,
social and environmental priorities. The funda-
mental challenge of valuing ecosystems and the
services they provide lies in providing an explic-
it description and adequate assessment of the
links between the structures and functions of
natural systems, the benefits derived by
humanity, and their subsequent values. An
example from for Protected Areas (PAs) is
shown in Figure 22. The way to model the
hydrological variables has already been pre-
sented; the next section discusses valuation of
ecosystem services.
Integrated Environmental
Management
The First Step is Modeling and Measuring
Environmental Flows. The concept of environ-
mental flows can be used as a framework to
integrate environmental management objec-
tives with water resources management.
Environmental flows are the flows needed to
maintain important aquatic ecosystem services.
They are defined as the quality, quantity and
timing of water flows required to maintain the
component, functions, processes, and the
resilience of aquatic ecosystems that produce
goods and services to people. While designed
initially to address the problems of integrated
river basin management, the concept of envi-
ronmental flows is equally applicable to the Abu
Dhabi Emirate. The additional element, possi-
bly unique to the Emirate, is the need to include
the effect of greenhouse gas emissions caused
by the high energy requirements of the water
sector and desalination.
The first requirement to define a water strategy
is to define more clearly the current status. The
uncertainties over determining the exact water
supply and use, efficiency of water use, the
goods and services it produces and the environ-
mental impact of these processes must be
resolved.
Develop and calibrate a water balance model.
The first step in the process is to develop a
three-dimensional mathematical model of the
physical environment that links the compo-
nents of water use from all sources to all uses
and develop a water balance. This will require a
clear definition of each water-using activity and
extensive empirical data to define input,
process and output quantities. While the geom-
etry of the groundwater reservoir and its prop-
erties are well-defined, this is not the case for
the buffer zone that links the atmosphere with
groundwater the soil profile. Effectively the
soil profile is the upper reservoir that drains
into the lower groundwater reservoir. Soil prop-
erties will define how much water and nutrients
can be stored for plant use and the likely quan-
tities of water that will drain from it to recharge
the water table under irrigated areas. This seep-
age water will also transport excess nutrients to
groundwater.
Planning and Development Options
84 85
Figure 22: Total Economic Valuation of Environmental Services
Source: Mekong Commission. 2005. http://www.mekong-protected-areas.org/mekong/docs/tlp-05.pdf
Accurately determine gross and net water use
by vegetation. To more clearly understand
water consumption by agriculture and forestry
the biggest unknown - it will be necessary to
map the extent and type of vegetation, soil
types, water application technology, and water
scheduling and water management practices.
Each would form a layer in a geographic infor-
mation system (GIS) set up to link the vari-
ables to location. Spatial mapping of seasonal
vegetation can be undertaken relatively quickly
using satellite imagery linked to the GIS.
Vegetation patterns should then be classified
into a series of ecosystems that represents fair-
ly uniform patterns of water use.
A deeper understanding of the water balance
can be determined from an array of detailed
three-dimensional water balance areas located
within sites representative of each ecosystem.
In practice the detailed water balance areas
should cover about one square kilometer and be
set within a large area, say 25 sq kms, which
would be a buffer zone. Within the water bal-
ance area an array of piezometers would be set
at three different depths on a 0.5 km array. The
cropping patterns and water and fertilizer
inputs and soil and groundwater levels would
be monitored daily. The experiment should
continue for at least one and preferably two
years. During this period the groundwater
section 5 1/28/10 11:31 AM Page 14
model can be calibrated using the empirical
data so obtained and a fairly exact knowledge of
gross and net water use will be determined. To
model the national water balance, the results
from these detailed water balance areas can be
interpolated using a finite difference grid cover-
ing the whole country. In Bangladesh, for exam-
ple, where the alluvial plains covered about
140,000 sq kms, ten detailed water balance
areas were sufficient to model and understand
the national water balance. Most importantly,
the model developed from the empirical obser-
vations was able to predict the impact of vari-
ous future development options on groundwa-
ter storage and recharge and the most appro-
priate well technology. It indicated the areas of
highest development potential based upon eco-
nomic returns and costs.
Valuing Ecosystem Services
Where an ecosystems services and goods can
be identified and measured, it will often be pos-
sible to assign values to them by employing
existing economic valuation methods.
Measurement of the environmental costs of
human activities or assessment of the benefits
of environmental protection and restoration is
challenging. Some ecosystem goods and servic-
es cannot be valued because they are not quan-
tifiable or because available methods are not
appropriate or reliable. The role of economic
valuation in environmental decision-making
depends on the specific criteria used to choose
among policy alternatives. If policy choices are
based primarily on intrinsic values -for example
a ranking system defining preferences - there is
little need for the quantification of values
through economic valuation. However, if policy-
makers consider trade-offs and benefits and
costs when making policy decisions, then quan-
tification of the value of ecosystem services is
essential. Failure to include some measure of
the value of ecosystem services in benefit-cost
calculations will implicitly assign them a value
of zero. And the experience is that services so
valued will be misused or over-exploited.
An in-depth review of use of different approach-
es to valuing environmental services was under-
taken by the US National Academy of Sciences
in 2005. The Academy summarized current
approaches and best-practice in 10 statements:
1. Ecosystem structure along with regulatory and
habitat/production functions produce ecosys-
tem goods and services that are valued by
humans. Examples include production of con-
sumable resources (e.g., water, food, medicine,
timber), provision of habitat for plants and ani-
mals, regulation of the environment (e.g., hydro-
logic and nutrient cycles, climate stabilization,
waste accumulation), and support for noncon-
sumptive uses (e.g., recreation, aesthetics).
2. In addition, many people value the existence
of aquatic ecosystems for their own sake, or
for the role they play in ensuring the preser-
vation of plant and animal species whose
existence is important to them. This value
can stem from a belief that these species or
ecosystems have intrinsic value or from the
benefits that humans get from their exis-
tence, even when that existence is not direct-
ly providing goods or services used by human
populations. In some cases, this nonuse
value may be the primary source of an ecosys-
tems value to humans.
3. The total economic value of ecosystem servic-
es is the sum of the use values derived direct-
ly from use of the ecosystem and the nonuse
value derived from its existence. Use value
can be broken down further into consumptive
uses (e.g., fish harvests) and non-consump-
tive uses (e.g., recreation).
4. Human actions affect the structure, func-
tions, and goods and services of ecosystems.
These impacts can occur not only from the
Planning and Development Options
86 87
direct, intentional use of the ecosystem
(e.g., for harvesting resources), but also
from the unintentional, indirect impacts of
other activities (e.g., upstream agriculture).
Human actions are, in turn, directly affected
by public policy and resource management
decisions.
5. Understanding the links between human
systems and ecosystems requires the inte-
gration of economics and ecology.
Economics can be used to better under-
stand the human behavior that impacts
ecosystems, while ecology aids in under-
standing the physical system that is both
impacted and valued by humans.
6. Nearly all policy and management decisions
imply changes relative to some baseline and
most changes imply trade-offs (i.e., more of
one good or service but less of another).
Protection of an ecosystem through a ban
on or reduction of a certain type of activity
implies an increase in ecosystem services
but a reduction in other services provided
by the restricted activity. Likewise, allowing
an activity that is deemed detrimental
implies a reduction in some ecosystem serv-
ices but an increase in the services generat-
ed by the allowed activity.
7. Information about these trade-offsthat is,
about the value of what has been increased
(what is being gained) as well as the value of
what has been decreased (what is being for-
gone or given up)can lead to better deci-
sions about ecosystem protection. Since
decisions involve choices, whenever these
choices reflect how valuable the alterna-
tives are, information about those values
will be an important input into the choice
among alternatives.
8. Because aquatic ecosystems are complex,
dynamic, variable, interconnected, and
often nonlinear, our understanding of the
services they provide, as well as how they
are affected by human actions, is imperfect
and linkages are difficult to quantify.
Likewise, information about how people
value ecosystem services is imperfect.
Difficulties in generating precise estimates
of the value of ecosystem services may arise
from insufficient ecological knowledge or
data, lack of precision in economic methods
or insufficient economic data, or lack of
integration of ecological and economic
analysis.
9. Nonetheless, the current state of both eco-
logical and economic analysis and modeling
in many cases allows for estimation of the
values people place on changes in ecosystem
services, particularly when focused on a sin-
gle service or a small subset of total services.
Use of the (imperfect) information about
these values is preferable to not incorporat-
ing any information about ecosystem values
into decision-making (i.e., ignoring them),
since the latter effectively assigns a value of
zero to all ecosystem services.
10.There is a much greater danger of underes-
timating the value of ecosystem goods and
services than over-estimating their value.
Underestimation stems primarily from the
failure to include in the value estimates all
of the affected goods and services and/or all
of the sources of value, or from use of a val-
uation method that provides only a lower
bound estimate of value. In many cases, this
reflects the limitations of the available eco-
nomic valuation methods. Over-estimation,
on the other hand, can stem from double-
counting or from possible biases in valua-
tion methods. However, it is likely that in
most applications the errors from omission
of relevant components of value will exceed
the errors from over-estimation of the com-
ponents that are included.
section 5 1/28/10 11:31 AM Page 16
30% of the current annual groundwater use for
agriculture or an equivalent of about 15,000 ha of
irrigation in 2020, increasing to 45% and 29,000 ha
in 2030.
Fresh water reserves. In terms of overall
groundwater resources, if only half the fresh
groundwater was utilized the aquifer has
could sustain water supplies for 40 to 80 years
providing it is not in competition with agri-
culture.
Moderately brackish reserves. If only half the
groundwater was utilized it could sustain
supplies for more than 100 years again pro-
viding it is not in competition with agricul-
ture.
The main well field would be located near Liwa
in location A (Figure 23). It would pump water
eastwards to meet the desalination demand in
Al Ain presently being supplied from Fujairah
through the pipeline indicated in yellow. The
Fujairah supply could then be dedicated to sup-
plying Abu Dhabi. The balance of well field As
discharge would be sent through existing
pipeline northwards to the coast then east to
Abu Dhabi. A similar arrangement would apply
at B near Al Waggan. In this case it would substi-
tute for the Fujairah desalination and allow the
entire Liwa well field to be dedicated to supply of
the Abu Dhabi area. The optimal configuration
would be determined by an in-depth engineering
and feasibility study.
Water treatment would probably be required and
RO is probably indicated subject to feasibility
studies. Pretreatment to remove Nitrates and
Boron may be required; alternatively special filers
could be fitted to the RO plants and double pass
filtration practiced. Feasibility of the well fields
would be subject to in-depth economic and envi-
ronmental assessment in addition to technical
appraisal. This RO derived water would not nec-
essarily be used for human consumption and
Alternative Water Supply Plans
In the absence of technical, economic and envi-
ronmental feasibility and appraisal, the best
choice for Abu Dhabis future water supplies is
difficult to determine. At this stage of the
Master Plan only some indications of what may
be feasible are presented. There are various
choices:
Build new cogeneration desalination plant to
fill the supply gap. Essentially this is a busi-
ness-as-usual (BAU) approach. The ques-
tion of energy sources makes this a difficult
choice at present, as discussed earlier.
Develop well fields in the fresh groundwater
areas
Develop well fields in brackish groundwater
areas.
Develop brackish water RO facilities
Wells have the distinct advantage that they can
de developed in small incremental units and
that they can be switched on and off very read-
ily. The aquifer acts as a reservoir and, provided
it is sufficiently large, is offers guaranteed sup-
plies for long periods of time. Abu Dhabi has
large resources of groundwater and they are
almost exclusively utilized by agriculture.
Groundwater quality has deteriorated but only
because agricultural extraction out-pumped
municipal water wells in Al Ain and caused the
influx and upconing of deeper and poorer quality
water. This could have been avoided with good
well design and effective regulation of access.
With proper regulation groundwater is extreme-
ly secure and is an ideal candidate for the
Emirates strategic water reserve. Locations for
properly-designed well fields are shown in Figure
23. The water supply gap will increase from 342
Mcm in 2020 to 673Mcm in 2030. This represents
Planning and Development Options
88 89
Figure 23: Meeting the desalination supply gap from groundwater resources some options
there would need to be a matching
of water quality with use.
These various alternatives need in-
depth analysis to understand their
economic, energy and environmen-
tal implications. Whichever alter-
native is selected there will be
adverse impacts and the choices
made will therefore need to be
through an integrated strategic
lens for the whole economic, social
and environmental landscape of
the Emirate.
The Governance and
Regulatory Framework
for Water and the
Environment Require
Attention
Water planning and management
will only work well if sound gover-
nance and institutions are put in
place. Figure 24 shows an overall
Figure 24: Governance and regulatory structure for water planning
section 5 1/28/10 11:31 AM Page 18
Of course other governmental organizations are
also involved in aspects of environmental man-
agement such as the National Centre for
Meteorology and Seismology under the aegis of
the Ministry of Presidential Affairs. To help
coordinate efforts, the FEA has established a
number of cross-ministry and cross-emirates
technical committees. Various national initia-
tives have resulted such as the National
Environmental Awareness and Information
Strategy, and the National Action Plan to
Combat Desertification. One such cross-organi-
zational structure is the National Committee
for the Environmental Strategy and
Sustainable Development, which was estab-
lished by the Council of Ministers Decree No.
(17) 2002, to implement the National
Environmental Strategy and National
Environmental Action Plan in the UAE.
In reviewing these various initiatives it becomes
obvious that many of the activities to date have
focused on protecting biodiversity and the
marine environment. Whilst this is understand-
able, especially given that water has only
recently become part of the Ministrys remit,
there is a clear need for an emirate-wide coher-
ent strategic policy for protecting groundwater
from over-exploitation and pollution. There is
also a need for a more developed plan for man-
aging the marine environment, particularly the
Arabian Gulf, given the rapidly expanding
desalination capacity of many of the countries
along its shores, proposals for the development
of nuclear power production, and return of
waste and process water to the sea.
At the emirate level, the Abu Dhabi government
has initiated many recent important moves in
environmental management. The competent
authority is EAD and its position within the
overall emirate governance system is shown in
Figure 25. It is directly answerable to the
Executive Council and its authority and respon-
sibilities are laid out in Abu Dhabi Law No. (4)
1996, subsequent amendments and
Abu Dhabi Law No. (16) 2005. Its
remit, as defined in these laws, cov-
ers many aspects of land and
marine management with a major
focus on research and monitoring.
It is also responsible for regulating
and reviewing activities that might
impact the environment and it is
the competent authority for imple-
menting environmental impact
assessment procedures and for per-
mitting various activities laid out by
the Federal Government.
EADs activities today are increas-
ingly directed at control of the envi-
ronment, with an increasing focus
on licensing, compliance, and
enforcement of established stan-
dards. This is reflected in its recent
strategic policy document (EAD,
2008) which highlights not only its
priority areas leading up to 2012, but
also its view that it is expected to
assume a more regulatory role dur-
ing that period. There has also been
increased involvement of EAD in
environmental policy development
under its responsibilities to plan and
inform the Executive Council. However, these
types of activities are not clearly defined in Law
No. (4) 1996, so there is a somewhat grey area
in responsibilities between EAD and other regu-
latory organizations.
Whilst the formal governance institutions at
both the federal and emirate level are the main
organizations directly involved in environmen-
tal management, informal civil society groups
contribute to the debates and discussions
through their individual depth of knowledge
and expertise, and representation of different
interests. These parties reflect both
structure needed to plan the sector effectively
and efficiently. This chapter reviews the area
shown in the red circle marked A.
The importance of sound governance for efficient,
economic and sustainable environmental and
water management has been emphasized
throughout the world. This can be broken down
in to various parts such as coherent and practica-
ble institutional structures, clear roles and
responsibilities, accountability, sound financial
management, informed and transparent deci-
sion-making, and checks-and-balance structures.
With good water governance in place, water poli-
cy objectives may be defined and realized in an
informed and transparent way.
Current governance institutions
and responsibilities
Environmental Management
In the UAE, water governance is shared
between federal and emirate level organization
(see Annex 7 for more details). This is similar to
many federations such as Australia, the USA,
and Brazil where organizations at different lev-
els of responsibility act as the competent
authority for various aspects of public adminis-
tration. Whilst for most aspects of environmen-
tal and water governance, emirate level organi-
zations hold this role, the federal level has
authority for strategic oversight and planning.
The second main authority, the independent
Federal Environment Agency/Authority (FEA),
was established in 1993. Its current remit as
defined by Federal Law No (2) of 2004 is that it
is charged with implementing various strate-
gies and activities to achieve these objectives.
Many programs are currently in place such as
developing national environmental strategies,
monitoring, and awareness-raising. Other
responsibilities lie in the evaluation of submit-
ted environmental impact assessments for
major projects.
Planning and Development Options
90 91
cultural/community affiliations and environ-
mental issues (for example, the Emirates
Environment Group), as well as particular areas
of expertise (various private sector organiza-
tions). There are no formal structures for the
timely inclusion of these groups in the decision-
making process, but traditional venues and
means of discussion facilitate consideration of
their ideas and knowledge.
Water Resources Management
There are overlapping areas between the roles
and responsibilities of organizations involved
Figure 25: Simplified Governance Structure of Abu Dhabi Emirate
Source: Abu Dhabi Government 2008
section 5 1/28/10 11:31 AM Page 20
(NGOs) on the water issue has been somewhat
limited to date.
Water Service Delivery
Water services in Abu Dhabi are developed and
managed at the emirate level the main gover-
nance institutions are within this jurisdiction.
However, at the Federal Level, the Electricity
and Water Sector of the Ministry of Energy is
currently developing UAE wide standards, laws
and regulations for the provision of this sector
that are likely to come into force in the next two
years.
In Abu Dhabi a major re-structuring of the water
sector came in the late 1980s with further devel-
opments in 2005. These changes signaled a move
away from government as major service
providers and managers, into a more regulatory
role. The private sector took on a greatly
increased role in generating and supplying water.
This obviously brought a new group of people
and organizations involved into the water servic-
es governance of Abu Dhabi.
The main government authorities are ADWEA
and the RSB who each report directly to the
Executive Council (Figure 26). The current
structure and authorities of the organizations
involved in the production and distribution of
drinking water were established under Law No
(2) of 1998, and amended by Law No (19) of 2007.
The main overarching authority is ADWEA.
Various organizations under its jurisdiction are
responsible for different aspects of water provi-
sions:
Production (Independent Water and Power
Producer - IWPPs and Generation and
Desalination- GDs);
Procurement and planning (ADWEC);
Transmission (TRANSCO);
Distribution of water (ADDC and AADC); and
with general environmental management and
specifically water resources. The Federal
Ministry for Environment and Water and the
FEA have responsibilities for introducing trans-
Emirate policy, laws and regulations for the man-
agement and control of natural water resource
such as the new draft law concerning water
resources which is currently before the UAE
Cabinet. Their remit involves a combination of
holistic strategic initiatives as well as practical
projects such as the building of recharge dams. It
is only recently that water has been added to the
responsibilities of this Ministry, so it is no sur-
prise that to date there has been little in terms of
strategies for water resources protection and
pollution control.
The principal level of responsibility for water
resources management in the UAE is at the emi-
rate level. In Abu Dhabi EAD is the competent
authority for managing the principal natural
resource groundwater. These responsibilities are
supported by Executive Decisions no 14 (session
8/2005) and No. 4 (Session 17/2005) which com-
missioned EAD to undertake an assessment of
groundwater resources. However, one of the
most important developments in water
resources management was the passing in 2006
of Law No 6, which authorizes EAD to regulate
the licensing and drilling of water wells and to
monitor usage.
In a broader context, EAD is responsible for the
expansion of water security initiatives which in
arid area such as Abu Dhabi is most important.
Recent exploratory work on aquifer storage and
recovery has highlighted potential opportunities
to support this remit.
The main informal groups involved with water
resources management are based on different
user groups both individual and community,
who have an active interest in the use and alloca-
tion of groundwater. The contribution of envi-
ronmental non-government-organizations
Sewerage Services (ADSSC).
These organizations have various ownership
structures involving different combinations of
the Abu Dhabi government and the private sec-
tor. All the activities and authority of these dif-
ferent organizations under ADWEA are defined
and controlled by licences issued by the RSB.
The eight IWPPs and two (GD) companies
involve international and local companies and a
mixture of private/public partnerships arrange-
ments, with Abu Dhabi government always own-
ing the majority stake largely through their
TAQA investment arm. This is a predominantly
privatized approach to water production and is
secured through competitive tendering with
licenses and economic and water quality regula-
tions, issued by the RSB, controlling their activ-
ities.
The recent addition to this organizational struc-
ture has been the Abu Dhabi Sewerage Service
Company (ADSSC) established under Law No
(17) of 2005, which is responsible for managing
the collection, treatment, disposal and recycling
of sewerage water and its associated infrastruc-
ture. Following this, Law no (18) of 2007 allowed
other sewerage services companies licensed by
Planning and Development Options
92 93
Figure 26: Abu Dhabi governmental organizations in water services governance
Source: adapted from ADWEC 2007
the RSB to connect to Abu Dhabi Sewerage
Services Company assets to support an expan-
sion of activities in this area. An example of this
is the recent granting of licenses for wastewater
treatment to Al Etihad Biwater Waste Water
Company, Archirodon Construction (Overseas)
Co. S.A., and Aldar Laing ORourke
Construction L.L.C.
An important part of the water supply system to
both consumers and commercial enterprises is
mineral/bottled water. There are over 25 compa-
nies involved in this business in Abu Dhabi
Emirate and their activities are controlled at the
Federal level by the Emirates Standards and
Metrology Authority (established under Federal
Law (28) 2001) and again there is a mixture of
governmental and private sector organizations
involved.
The main informal groups involved with water
services management are the different user
groups and their opinions are included in delib-
erations at the various levels through tradition-
al channels.
Water touches many different areas of decision
making so it is no surprise that cross-organiza-
tional committees have been established within
section 5 1/28/10 11:31 AM Page 22
gaps between the activities of the various feder-
al and emirate level environmental organiza-
tions such as in establishing regulations, con-
trolling natural resource use, collecting and
managing data etc. Whilst there is in theory an
established hierarchy of jurisdiction and power,
in practice EAD are perceived by many to be
the lead organization in developing new initia-
tives in responsible environmental manage-
ment standard-setting and regulation.
The Abu Dhabi institutions have collectively
established a reputation for environmental and
water leadership in the Arab world. However,
from the analysis undertaken of the governance
system and its comparison to international best
practices in Europe, Singapore and Australia
and the USA, the following suggestions are
made for consideration.
Establishment of the Abu Dhabi
Water Council
Water affects and impacts many areas of
authority and it is important that future strate-
gic planning involves input and knowledge from
these various groups. It is recommended that
an Abu Dhabi Water Council is established that
is chaired by a member of the Executive Council
and membership should be the heads of the
various departments, authorities and organiza-
tions. This would replace the various cross-cut-
ting committees and would support strategic
thinking across the whole of the water sector
rather than the compartmentalized system that
currently exists. The position of the new Water
Council is shown in Figure 27.
Formal establishment of an
environmental regulator
Given the development plans across many sec-
tors proposed over the next 20 years, and their
associated needs for water and other natural
resources, there is an imperative for an inde-
the Abu Dhabi government to support integrat-
ed thinking. These help to ensure that the
potential impacts of new policies and manage-
ment decisions on the water resources may be
examined in depth and include areas such as
waste water re-use and water in agriculture.
Various committees, involving members from
various departments and authorities have
already been established in this regard and
include the following:
Strategic Water Resources Committee;
Increasing Re-use and Biosalinity
Committee;
Water in Agriculture Committee; and
Use of Desalinated Water Committee.
Whilst these moves are important for the effec-
tiveness of these cross-organizational commit-
tees, that effectiveness is difficult to assess to
date.
Institutional and governance
developments
Within the Emirate, the current system of water
governance has reasonably clear lines of demar-
cation largely resulting from the use of seawater
for potable water supply (controlled by
ADWEA/RSB), and groundwater (controlled by
EAD) for the large-user sectors of agriculture,
forestry and landscaping. Abu Dhabi has a well-
developed structure for water services delivery
management and, with the establishment of
ADSSC, a more holistic view of all sources and
uses is now possible. The water services sector
has many of the necessary checks and balances in
place to support the governments strategic eco-
nomic, societal and environmental objectives,
although there are different degrees of trans-
parency in their operations.
The situation is less clear in the more general
areas of environmental and natural water
resources management. There are overlaps and
pendent environmental regulator within Abu
Dhabi Emirate to establish standards and
practices based on local environment condi-
tions. An organizational structure is shown in
Figure 28. Whilst EAD currently undertakes
some of these duties, there is a need to estab-
lish these roles and responsibilities more for-
mally and transparently. It is also important to
Planning and Development Options
94 95
Figure 27: The Proposed position of the Abu Dhabi Water Council
Source: ICBA
clearly define areas of responsibility vis--vis
the RSB and other authorities and ministries
to ensure consistent standards and avoid over-
lapping regulation.
The establishment of clear, transparent regula-
tions by one organization to control abstrac-
tions from and discharges to the environment
Figure 28: A framework for strategic environmental assessment and regulation
Source: ICBA
section 5 1/28/10 11:31 AM Page 24
by a number of laws, regulations and stan-
dards emanating from international agree-
ments, and various Federal and Emirate
authorities and are summarized in Table 13.
Arguably the most influential law is Federal
Law No (24) of 1999, Protection and
Development of the Environment, which cov-
ers various areas including:
the requirements forEnvironmental
Assessments of developments;
various aspects of environmental protec-
tion;
environmental monitoring;
emergency and disaster planning;
protection of the marine environment from
oil industries, transport;
polluted water discharges;
protection of drinking water quality from
storage tanks;
control of air emissions such as from vehi-
cles, the burning of soil and liquid wastes,
as well as from the oil extractive industries;
handling dangerous substances; and
natural reserves.
Following the passing of this law, numerous
regulations have been established through
decrees that cover specific areas of the envi-
ronment or give more details of the various
articles. For example, various water quality
levels are suggested for discharges into the
sea which include inorganic and organic
chemicals as well as trace metals and physical
properties. The implementation and enforce-
ment of these various articles falls to three
organizations, the Federal Environment
Agency, EAD and the RSB. EAD has the main
responsibilities in terms of setting environ-
mental standards, licensing and enforcing
compliance in the natural environment in Abu
Dhabi. A series of different controls have been
introduced by the agency for protecting and
managing various aspects of the environment
which are shown in Table 14.
(whether air, water, soils, wildlife, or seas) would
allow the various ministries and commercial
organizations undertaking activities in the
Emirate to have a clear idea of the standards
and to meet these using their own formulations
of technology or management practices. Many
of the companies already operating in Abu
Dhabi have experiences of working within such
environmental standards in other countries, and
their best practices could be brought into oper-
ation here too.
Roles and responsibilities at
Federal and Emirate levels need
clarification
The UAE is made of seven quite distinct emi-
rates which have their own drivers and policy
priorities. There is a certain degree of overlap
and some notable gaps in responsibilities and
roles that it would be useful to clarify. This does
not have to be a problem if there are suitable
agreements to ensure the areas of overlap and
gaps are addressed. There are a number of mod-
els of governance that may be explored for envi-
ronmental and water management across a fed-
eration. An example is in Australia where envi-
ronmental protection authorities in individual
States and Territories set air quality emissions
standards rather than the Federal government.
The Legal and Regulatory
frameworks
Laws, standards, regulations and their enforce-
ment are an important part of any governance
system ensuring the protection of human and
environmental health as well as economic effi-
ciency. They give direction, transparency and
clarity, in many areas such as in responsibilities,
roles, and standards for a particular environ-
ment or sector.
Organizations involved in the water and envi-
ronmental governance in Abu Dhabi are bound
Water Resources
The legal framework for the water sector in Abu
Dhabi is comprised of a number of different lev-
els of conventions, protocols, laws and regula-
tions which directly and indirectly affect policy
development and management. These play a
vital role in managing the scarce water
resources and protecting the environment.
The most important Federal legislation is Law
No. (24) 1999, the Protection and Development
Planning and Development Options
96 97
Table 13: Agreements and laws affecting the environment and water in Abu Dhabi
Source: EAD 2008a
Table 12: The Challenges of Inland Brine Disposal
1989 Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer (1985) and Montreal Protocol on
Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1987)
1990 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
(1973)
1990 Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their
disposal, (1989).
1995 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992).
1998 United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (1994)
1999 Convention on Biological Diversity (
2002 Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPS) ( 2001)
2002 Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in
International Trade (PIC Convention) (1998)
2005 Montreal Amendments (London 1990, Copenhagen 1992, Montreal 1997, Beijing 1999).
2005 Kyoto Protocol (1997)
2007 Ramsar Convention
1979 Kuwait Regional Convention for cooperation on the protection of the marine environment from
pollution (1978)
1990 Protocol concerning Marine Pollution resulting from Exploration and Exploitation of the
Continental Shelf (1989)
2003 Convention on Conservation of Wildlife and its Natural Habitats in the GCC countries
2005 Protocol on the Control of Marine Transboundary Movements and Disposal of Hazardous
Wastes and Other Wastes, 1998
1999 Law No. (24) the Protection and Development of the Environment
1999 Ministerial Declaration No (24) System for Assessment of Environmental Impacts
2001 Executive Order No. (37) concerning regulation of environmental impact assessment of projects
an various other items
2001 Executive Order No .(302) details the regulatory procedures for implementing 1999 Law No
(24)
2005 Law No (16) 2005 concerning the Re-organization of the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi.
(replaced Law No. (4) of 1996
2005 Law No (21) Administration of Waste Materials
Article (30) of Law No (2) of 1998
Article (20) of Law No (19) of 2007.
Administrative Order No (4) of 2005 issued by Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority
International agreements
Regional Agreements
Federal Level
Abu Dhabi Emirate
Legal Jurisdiction Date of ratification and legal instruments in place
of the Environment. Sections 2 and 3 are most
important for water as they concern the dis-
charges into seas from the land including
desalination, and the protection of surface
and underground water. Various Executive
Orders have subsequently been added to the
legislative body. EAD is the competent
authority for the implementation of this law.
The laws that most directly affect the man-
agement and policy development of natural
water have been passed at the emirate level
section 5 1/28/10 11:31 AM Page 26
and cover many aspects of resource develop-
ment. In Abu Dhabi, the passing in March
2006 of Law No 6, which regulates the licens-
ing and drilling of water wells, was an impor-
tant step forward towards the sustainable
management of the groundwater resources.
All owners who wish to dig a new well, or
expand, or add a larger pump, will now
require a licence which will give permission
and set a maximum abstraction rate and per-
mitting activity in recent years is given in
Table 15.
This, in tandem with the recent work in inven-
torying, assessment and monitoring wells in
the Emirate (Abu Dhabi Executive Decisions
No (14) session 8/2005 and No (4) session
17/2005), will begin help to control the use of
groundwater. Even organizations such as
other government departments require these
licenses. However, a more coherent legislative
framework is needed to protect and manage
groundwater which would include pollution
protection as well as abstraction controls.
There is also a need for enforcement of the
licenses granted and an expansion of metering
to ensure an accurate picture of the abstraction
of groundwater possible.
Water Services Management
The most important laws and regulations for
water services are at the Emirate level in Abu
Dhabi. The legal framework, organizational
structure and roles and responsibilities were
established in Law No. (2) 1998 concerning the
Regulation of the Water and Electricity Sector
and has subsequently been amended by Law
No.(19) of 2007. The legal starting point for
water provision is Article (30) of the 1998 Law
(and the 2007 law) which states that It shall be
the duty of the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity
Company to ensure that there is provided suffi-
cient production capacity to ensure that, at all
times, all reasonable demand for water and elec-
tricity in the Emirate is satisfied. Under Article
(32) of the same Act, ADWEC are charged with
the duty of ensuring the long term security of the
supply of water in the Emirate through contract-
ing new or additional production capacity
through desalination and additional storage to
meet Article 30. This article is of course open to
interpretation. Deciding on what is a reasonable
demand for water, especially desalinated water,
is difficult and this should be more formally
defined in the future given the economic and
environmental costs involved in the production
of this precious resource.
Given the natural scarcity of water in this region,
there is also an important need to manage
demand relative to supply rather than the other
way around. In the Draft Consultation on the
Water Supply Regulations 2008 under item 3
(RSB, 2008), it is suggested that the Distribution
Companies have a duty under law to promote
the conservation and efficient use of water, and
to prevent its waste and over-consumption. It
also includes a section which states that it will be
the duty of the responsible person to ensure
immediate steps are taken to repair leaks in
water fittings. These are important regulatory
steps to support government initiatives to
reduce water demand.
Planning and Development Options
98 99
Table 14: EAD Environmental Protection and Management Controls
Source: ICBA
Table 12: The Challenges of Inland Brine Disposal
Environmental
Impacts
Air
Water
Land
Biodiversity
Marine
Regulatory
instruments
Regulator
EIA
EAD EAD RSB
International
Banks FEA
RSB
EAD/
Fujairah
Municipality
International
Banks FEA
FEA FEA
EAD
EAD
FEA
FEA
EAD
EIA EIA
Technical,
economic,
environ-
mental and
health stan-
dards
EIA
Technical,
economic,
environ-
mental and
health stan-
dards
EIA EIA
Permits
Licensing of
wells Fishing
permits
EIA of pro-
cessing plants
EIA
Permits for
certain
activities,
facilities and
substances
Sector Urban
services
Rural
services
Rural
services
Transport
Water
production &
distribution
Minerals
and mining
Agriculture
and fishing
Industry
Wastewater was formally added to the legal
framework by Law No (17) of 2005 which estab-
lished and gave responsibility for the control and
development of all the Emirates sewerage servic-
es to ADSSC. Wastewater management was fur-
ther developed under Law No. (18) of 2007 which
allows other sewerage services companies
licensed by the Bureau to connect to Abu Dhabi
Sewerage Services Company assets. And Law No
(19) 2007 adds waste water to the more general
laws on the regulation of the water sector and
includes responsibilities associated with the col-
lection, treatment, processing and subsequent
disposal of sewerage and wastewater from the
premises. The recent passing of Law No (12) of
2008 now allows ADSSC to sell treated waste-
water effluent to any body or company. These
developments are in line with best practices in
other countries such as the UK, USA and
Singapore where there is an integration of water
and wastewater management within one organi-
zation.
Subsequent to these various laws, the RSB has
developed an increasingly comprehensive set of
economic, technical and water quality regula-
tions and license agreements with various organ-
izations involved in the water and waste water
sectors. These can be viewed easily on the RSB
website (www.rsb.gov.ae) and the transparency
of this organization is to be commended.
The regulation of mineral waters, which are an
important part of the domestic and commercial
water supply system, is under both Federal and
Emirate level authority and must meet stan-
dards established under Abu Dhabi
Administrative Order No (4) of 2005. This was
issued by the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority
in response to the debate of inconsistency of
water quality of bottled waters. It regulates the
quality, treatment, transportation and storage of
three types of mineral water - bottled drinking
waters, non-bottled drinking water and natural
mineral bottled water.
Table 15: Permissible activities by EAD Abu Dhabi
2006-2007
Source: EAD 2008a
2006 Type of Permit 2007 Total
Deepening an existing well 10 268 278
Replacing an old well 0 15 15
Maintaining an existing well 11 5 16
Drilling new well 1890 3600 5490
Total 1911 3888 5799
section 5 1/28/10 11:31 AM Page 28
The legal and regulatory framework within this
sector is further developed through other levels
of organizations. The FEA has set various regu-
latory controls following Law No. (24) 1999 of the
Protection and Development of the
Environment and subsequent directives, which
have set guideline limits on gaseous emissions
and discharges into the marine environment as
shown in Table 2.1. They are also responsible for
the environmental impact assessments of
planned projects such as new desalination
plants.
An important group of organizations that influ-
ence water services delivery and environmental
management standards are the international
banks who fund these projects through loans.
Many of these international banks have signed
various international conventions and protocols,
such as the Kyoto Protocol, and so ensure that
developments funded by them meet various envi-
ronmental standards. These include the desalina-
tion and power plants in Abu Dhabi.
Regulatory Enforcement
The establishment of standards and the licensing
and permitting of activities is only one part of the
regulatory system. Ensuring compliance and
enforcement is key to protecting the environ-
ment. The most monitored and inspected area in
Abu Dhabi is in water services through work of
both the RSB and the large degree of self-regula-
tion by the licensed power and water generating
and sewerage companies. There are laboratories
in Abu Dhabi that meet international criteria for
accuracy and excellence that are used for the
analysis of samples. This is important and should
continue to be actively supported. In the water
service sector there is a focus on developing best
practices for the future as much as direct punish-
ment for incursions.
In the bottled water industry the Abu Dhabi
Agriculture and Food Safety Authority enforces
standards at the Emirate level through directives
and inspections of manufacturing plants and of
food establishments.
In terms of the enforcement of environmental
regulations, there are few human resources to
support these activities. Thus whilst important
steps have been made to develop standards and
controls of potentially harmful activities, there is
way of judging their effectiveness.
Future legal and regulatory
developments
The progressive development of legal and regula-
tory frameworks (and their associated gover-
nance structures) for the environment and water
sectors of Abu Dhabi has led to a system that has
many protective checks and balances in place.
The main focus of many of the activities has been
the regulation of the water service sector to
ensure the reliable supply of adequate and whole-
some water, and protection of the marine envi-
ronment from discharges.
Law-makers and regulators in any country are
being confronted with many new water and envi-
ronmental challenges today and Abu Dhabi is no
exception. Various gaps have been identified in
this analysis that should be considered address-
ing to give a firm platform for future develop-
ments.
There are gaps in legal and
regulatory frameworks
The legal and regulatory measures in place for
protecting the natural water resources and envi-
ronmental management may be described as
being strong in terms of managing biodiversity,
but more limited in other areas. Whilst the
Federal Law of 1999 covers many important
aspects, its terms are necessarily general and
there are a number of gaps in the subsequent
enable legislation/regulation. There is a need for
substantive measures for protecting groundwa-
ter depletion, and pollution control of air and
water.
In many countries a coherent body of legislation
has been developed for environmental manage-
ment. For example in Singapore in 1999 all legis-
lation on pollution control (air, water, noise and
hazardous substances), was brought together in
the comprehensive Environmental Pollution
Control Act (recently renamed Environmental
Protection and Management Act). This estab-
lished a comprehensive and transparent system
for managing pollution in the country which
could be replicated in Abu Dhabi.
There is also a need to establish a water law that
considers all sources of water within the same
framework and that establishes some legal or reg-
ulatory obligation by the various authorities and
supply companies to encourage environmental
protection, water demand management and effi-
cient practices. At the moment the split between
natural and produced water management does
not support the development of coherent water
policies and laws. In the UK, for example, under
the Water Act 2003, relevant authorities ranging
from ministries to water companies, have a duty
to encourage water conservation.
Responsibilities need clearer
demarcation
Whether or not the recommendation of this
report for the establishment of an independent
environmental regulator at the Abu Dhabi
Emirate Level is taken on board, in the future
there are likely to be an increase in potential over-
laps in responsibilities between the RSB and
EAD. Such overlaps occur in the management of
waste water re-use and subsequent effluent dis-
posal, definition of standards for effluent dis-
charges, groundwater use in desalination, water
demand management, and the challenges of cli-
mate change and managing carbon emissions of
Planning and Development Options
100 101
water and waste water treatment. It is important
to develop a broader environmental regulatory
framework with associated institutional respon-
sibilities between the two organizations.
Cooperation will be critical in defining standards
and enforcement mechanisms for the coming
years.
There should be a legal
requirement to share information
This study has found a very guarded, bureaucrat-
ic approach to data and information. Whilst in
areas of commercial confidentiality this is to be
expected, however, in other areas the difficulties
involved in obtaining data often means knowl-
edge within the water and environmental com-
munities of Abu Dhabi is not used. This leads to
planning and management that will be sub-opti-
mal.
Adequate human resources are
needed for enforcement
The regulatory system in the UAE and Abu
Dhabi is developing and the work undertaken so
far is to be commended. However, it is important
that EAD and the RSB have sufficient human
capacity to ensure environmental laws and regu-
lations are complied with. In the area of water
resources management, for example, the new
well licensing system in Abu Dhabi has brought
groundwater use under greater control. However,
these measures need to be backed up by effective
monitoring and enforcement of the terms of the
licenses, to ensure the policy goals are met. This
obviously requires trained human resources and
the use of suitable measuring technology and
analysis facilities. Major improvements have been
made in these areas in many areas of the world in
the last decade and these experiences could be
learnt from. Many countries ensure designated
officers have the right to access water bodies to
measure and check compliance and obstruction
or the refusal to provide information or falsifica-
section 5 1/28/10 11:31 AM Page 30
others will impact the environment. There would
be greater control of activities in the protected
areas and in particular greater enforcement of
laws. For example, there is a need for greater pro-
tection of important groundwater recharge areas,
especially where irrigation waters makes up the
bulk of the waters returning to the aquifers (see
Annex 1 for further detail).
Strategic Environmental
Assessments are required
An area not currently addressed in existing laws
and regulations is strategic environmental
assessment. There are in place a number of meas-
ures for the environmental impact assessment of
individual projects, but with the growing rate of
development there is a need for greater in-depth
analysis of strategies / policies / plans and their
interaction.
The cumulative impact of a series of projects
which make up a plan can have many detri-
mental effects on the environment that would
not be detected in individual appraisals.
These strategic environmental assessments
should be undertaken under the aegis of the
relevant government body to ensure any of the
problems already identified around the world
i.e. by project developers doing their own
analysis and reporting are avoided.
It is important that the new economic devel-
opments such as those proposed under Plan
2030 are more comprehensively assessed for
the positive and negative environmental
impacts. Any new legislation and subsequent
definitions of standards will allow large plans
to be thoroughly assessed, managed and
where possible mitigated during the develop-
ments rather than as remedial procedures.
There are many examples to be found of envi-
ronmental problems resulting in rapidly
expanding areas where due diligence of
impacts was undertaken.
tion of devices brings penalties that act as deter-
rents. Whilst Abu Dhabi has many such punitive
measures in place, it needs the resources to
check for compliance.
Environmental Standards need to
be established for Abu Dhabi
Most of the various environmental standards
being used in Abu Dhabi today are based on
those already defined by organizations such as
the World Health Organization or Australian gov-
ernment and whilst these might be fit for purpose
in those countries, there is inadequate knowledge
as to whether they are appropriate for the envi-
ronmental conditions of Abu Dhabi. For example,
the high air pressure systems over the region for
much of the year and the warm temperatures
often mean that chemical air pollution is more
severe than in other areas. Similarly little
research has been undertaken on the specific
conditions of the Arabian Gulf and the impacts of
changing inputs from Abu Dhabi and various
industrial complexes along its shores. There is
obviously a need of concerted research efforts to
support setting of standards to ensure the envi-
ronment is indeed protected
Land Use in Sensitive areas needs
to be regulated
An area that has been little explored to date in
Abu Dhabi is in the zoning of environmental reg-
ulations and laws, particularly in areas of sensitiv-
ity. Whilst integration and coherence is impor-
tant in these areas, best practices from other
countries would suggest that there is also a need
to manage the environment and water resources
of the Emirate in a less universal manner and to
apply different degrees of regulation and control
within. This would involve the identification of
key areas which might be determined by ecologi-
cal, cultural or other measures, and introduce
more stringent management policies in these,
whilst accepting that economic development in
Planning and Development Options
102
section 5 1/28/10 11:31 AM Page 32
6. Main Findings and
Recommendations
103
section 6 1/28/10 11:32 AM Page 2
The lack of renewable freshwater resources in
Abu Dhabi Emirate is a major challenge for sus-
tainable development and management of
water supplies. Since the 1960s the growth in
population, higher standards of living, and
expansion of the agricultural, forestry and
industrial sectors has created a huge demand
for more fresh water. Initially demand was met
from fresh groundwater resources but that is
being depleted rapidly. Increased reliance on
non-conventional water supplies is required to
maintain economic growth in the Emirate. One
of the most important challenges for the
Emirate is to balance water supply and demand
as efficiently as possible given that the per capi-
ta consumption of fresh water is among the
highest in the world and new water supplies are
expensive.
To this end a series of recommendations are
made in each technical annex. These are a com-
bination of institutional, policy, management
and technology suggestions. Many of these
need further analysis but the principles
involved are important directions in balancing
the many complexities of future water supply
and demand in Abu Dhabi. The key findings
and recommendations will now be summarized.
Water Availability
Natural Resources Ancient fossil groundwater
and seawater are the principal natural water
resources of Abu Dhabi. Rainfall in compari-
son is a negligible resource except in the east-
ern plains below the Omani Mountains.
Desalinated installed capacity exceeded aver-
age annual domestic demand in 2003 because
it is designed to meet short-term peak demand
and future growth in the medium-term.
Seawater is effectively an infinite supply con-
strained only by the costs of desalination and
environmental impacts. Groundwater
resources can be thought of as a large under-
ground reservoir whose use is constrained by its
quality and the willingness of users to finance
the cost of raising it to the land surface. In many
areas nearby brackish or saline groundwater
may be drawn into the freshwater reservoir if
the rate of freshwater withdrawal is too high.
Generated Resources Desalinated seawater
currently represents the primary source of
potable water available in Abu Dhabi. Capacity
to desalinate water to supplement groundwater
supplies was initiated in the 1960s and has
expanded steadily ever since in response to
growing demand for potable water supplies).
Desalination capacity increased by over 360%
between 1998 and 2007. Initially all desalination
plants were owned and operated by the govern-
ment. But since 2000 a change of policy has pri-
vatized operation and maintenance under long-
term management contracts. By 2007 only 4
percent of capacity remained to be divested to
the private sector. Security of supplies, water
quality and sound financial management is
guaranteed by Abu Dhabis strong and inde-
pendent regulatory authority: the Regulation
and Supervision Bureau (RSB).
Total installed capacity of the major cogenera-
tion plants at the end of 2007 was 1,044 Mcm
and production was 847 Mcm. The few small
desalination plants using thermal and reverse
osmosis serve some remote communities and
oil production facilities and produce about 8
Mcm. There is almost no storage capacity in the
desalination water transmission system. If the
desalination plants Abu Dhabi would have only
two days water supply. Power and water pro-
duction peaks in the summer but falls off in the
winter. Potentially excess desalination capaci-
ty of 58 Mcm could be used to generate water
that could be stored for summer use in ground-
water or surface reservoirs but it is probably
not cost-effective.
Recycled Wastewater Recycled desalinated
water - wastewater collected by the sewer sys-
tem - is a valuable resource in a water-scarce
country and modern treatment methods are
capable of producing potable water meeting
WHO water quality standards. The recent
Master Plan (2008) prepared for Abu Dhabi
Sewerage Services Company (ADSSC) clearly
shows that the future urban demand for TSE in
Abu Dhabi and Al Ain greatly exceeds estimates
of future supply. Ongoing expansion of the TSE
distribution network will quickly be able to uti-
lize the volume dumped to the Gulf. Even so,
demand will not be met. Thus a new policy for
water conserving amenity planting is proposed
in ADSSCs Master Plan. This policy promotes
adoption of an arid landscape that includes
dry landscaping and greater use of desert and
xerophitic plants better suited to the arid cli-
mate.
Water Use
Total water use in Abu Dhabi was estimated to
be about 2,800 Mcm per year in 2007.
Agriculture and forestry were the largest users
and together they account for 76% of total
water use. As municipal and amenity water use
is primarily for landscaping and roadside plan-
tations this means that 85% of all water use in
Abu Dhabi is for vegetation. Groundwater
accounted for a very small percent of domestic
water supplies in 2007 because of declining
water quality and increased pumping costs as
groundwater levels declined. In the Liwa
Crescent area domestic water supplies from
groundwater grew rapidly between the late
1970s until 1996 when production was about 14
Mcm/year. By 1997 it was zero. Pumping was
reduced because of the high levels of boron and
nitrate in the groundwater both of which
exceeded health guidelines.
Household and Urban water use Desalinated
water accounted for almost a 36% of total water
supply: 30% is directly from the desalination
plants and 6% is from reuse of urban waste-
water as TSE. Overall desalinated water supply
was 856 Mcm in 2007 of which 30% (253
Mcm/year) was transmitted to Al Ain.
According to ADWECs classification 70% of
desalinated water is being used for plant and
tree irrigation for which other sources of water
may be available.
The sector currently assumes total network loss-
es to be approximately 10% - around 2% from
transmission and 8% from distribution. Recent
information from Abu Dhabi Distribution
Company (ADDC) suggests higher distribution
system losses about 16%. Adopting the ADDC
figure for the Emirate as a whole and adding
TRANSCOs losses, total water losses were
about 145 Mcm in 2007. By international per-
formance standards this is an excellent perform-
ance given the age, construction and materials
used in the distribution system.
Per capita residential water use has grown
steadily over the last four decades in line with
national policy that there be no restriction of
water supplies to households. Rates of gross
water consumption were estimated to be 631
lcd in 2001. After the introduction of fixed rate
volumetric tariffs in 2002 (for expatriates, gov-
ernment, industry, commerce and farms)
demand decreased to about 490 lcd. More
recently, however, average gross consumption
is reported to have increased to 550 lcd. The lat-
est data released by the RSB give a range of
525-600 lcd.
Abu Dhabis desalinated water transmission
and distribution systems, and collection use of
TSE, is efficiently operated in terms of minimiz-
ing water losses. It would be rated towards the
high end of international best practice. This is
not the case, however, for full cost recovery and
household per capita water use that is two or
three times the international comparators.
Current tariffs require large annual subsidies to
operate and maintain the systems.
Main Findings and Recommendations
105 104
6. Main Findings and Recommendations
section 6 1/28/10 11:32 AM Page 4
The lack of knowledge could be very costly from
a decision-making perspective. Under current
policies and regulation, groundwater is free in
Abu Dhabi. If fresh or moderately brackish
groundwater became exhausted then the cost
of supplying agricultural demand would be that
of the next best alternative, desalination. This
would place a huge and costly burden on the
Emirates water infrastructure, particularly
power and water generation.
Forested areas cover 305,000 ha. The forestry
sector is heavily dependent on groundwater,
competing with agriculture and other uses.
Almost all afforestation in Abu Dhabi is sup-
plied by high efficiency drip irrigation, gross
water demand is equivalent to net water con-
sumption and there are no return flows to the
groundwater reservoir. In 2007 the water
demand for forestry was about 670Mm3/yr
which is about 24 percent of the total water
demand.
Amenity irrigation has been increasing in Abu
Dhabi with the growth of urban development
and highways/roads. While it has a large envi-
ronmental value, it needs to be looked at from
the water quality and quantity perspective as
well. This sector uses mainly marginal quality
water (wastewater, brackish water, and sea
water in the coastal belts). TSE contributes
about 54 percent of the total water used for
amenity proposes. The other water sources
include desalination and groundwater. Total
amenity water use is estimated at 547 Mcm/yr
(including private households) in 2007 assum-
ing that potable indoor water use is 250 lcd.
Amenity plantations in urban areas tend to
have water-rich European-style planting.
Considerable water and energy savings could be
effected by converting to hard landscaping and
adopting plants indigenous to arid climates.
There are many different crop and irrigation
practices that could be introduced into Abu
Dhabi to support a more optimal, efficient use
of water (see Annex 6 for more details). These
should be supported in any new agricultural
policies.
Water Production, Energy Use and
the Atmosphere
The interdependency of water and energy exac-
erbates environmental problems. Population
growth will require increasing amounts of water
which, in turn, require more energy to access
water resources and distribute water. Since this
increased electrical demand is largely met by
fossil fuel-fired electrical cogeneration plants,
more greenhouse gases are emitted that con-
tribute further to global warming. These inter-
dependencies, which are usually ignored in
water and energy planning, create a downward
spiral among electrical generation, climate
change and water supplies that is cumulative
and non-linear.
Provision of a safe and secure supply of
desalinated water and treatment of waste-
water has reduced the risk of water-related
and water-borne disease to negligible propor-
tions. This has made Abu Dhabi a safe place
to live and work and enhanced its economic
prospects.
The overwhelming impact has been environ-
mentally positive although much depends on
the viewpoint of the observer. The increase
in vegetated and amenity areas as a result of
water application has provided habitat for
flora and fauna that has local and global ben-
efits derived from carbon sequestration in the
new vegetation and the creation of habitats
for various fauna, some of them transitory. It
also has high aesthetic value.
There is no national systematic evaluation or
baseline data against which to assess positive
impacts of land use change brought about by
The high level of hidden subsidies in the cur-
rent water tariff and the provision of free water
to Emiratis households provide few incentives
to conserve water. High water use is primarily
the result of the use of expensive desalinated
water for gardens, landscapes, agriculture and
forests.
Indoor water use levels, while high compared
with the England and Wales, are very similar to
those observed in the USA, Canada and
Australia. This suggests that water conserva-
tion practices applied there may provide rele-
vant experience for Abu Dhabi.
Forest and Agricultural Water Use Water used
for forestry and agriculture and grew rapidly
since desert greening and agricultural food
self-sufficiency policies were introduced in the
1960s. The total cultivated area in the Emirate
grew from 69,000 ha to 419,000 ha at present, a
remarkable achievement. The long-term aver-
age annual growth rate over the period 1990-
2007 was 19,100 ha for areas planted to forests
and 4,400 ha for farm agriculture. Agriculture is
the largest consumer of water in the Emirate
and policies affecting its development have
major implications for water resources plan-
ning. Policy to date has focussed primarily on
food self-sufficiency and employment.
In 2006-2007 the total cultivated agricultural
land under the citizens farms in Abu Dhabi
was 70,375 ha and there were 40,494 wells.
Agriculture is dominated by two perennial
crops: Dates and Rhodes Grass. There is culti-
vation of short-season annual vegetable crops
in fields and a limited area of cereals and fruits.
There is a limited area of high productivity
horticulture in greenhouses and other protect-
ed environments, and a number of traditional
date palm gardens. Most agriculture is on
small private farms that have been recently
established induced by generous UAE and
Emirati subsidies. A survey of 23,900 wells by
the Al Ain Agricultural Department in 2000-
2001 found that 88% of wells had a salinity of
more them 2,000 parts per million (ppm of
total dissolved solids) and 65% had salinity in
excess of 4,000 ppm. A fifth had salinities
greater then 8,000. A number of crops can be
grown at high salinities, but with declining
yields. Under present cropping patterns the
weighted annual average gross crop demand is
estimated to be 1,000 Mcm. Leaching require-
ments could increase this by 25% to about
1,250 Mcm/year. Water demand from livestock
was estimated to be about 20 Mcm/year in
2007.
Rhodes Grass accounts for more than half of
agricultural water and energy demand. How
much Rhodes Grass is irrigated using fresh or
desalinated water is unknown, but the indica-
tions are that the majority of the area is irrigat-
ed from brackish water. And policy on Rhodes
Grass also has a secondary impact on water
demand for the livestock sector.
Knowledge on the agricultural water and ener-
gy balance is lacking. Concerns for agricul-
tures environmental impacts have only
recently emerged under EADs leadership.
Understanding the agricultural water balance
is a prerequisite for sound policy and planning.
Only then can there be confidence in estimates
of future water demand, the impact on ground-
water resources and the environment, energy
requirements for pumping and irrigation, and
planning for alternative water supplies.
These findings indicate that research and
modelling of groundwater is needed to define
more clearly the national water balance (and
its components spatially and temporally).
Environmental costs should be taken into
account. The lack of good baseline data makes
projection of potential future water demand
and environmental impacts a difficult and
risky exercise.
Main Findings and Recommendations
107 106
section 6 1/28/10 11:32 AM Page 6
by grants and extensive subsidies. Currently
the institutional environment governing water
development, use and planning is patchy with
some areas covered in great depth for example
the highly regulated power generation and
desalinated water supply sectors whilst others
such as agriculture and environment have
notable omissions. Social concerns regarding
access to affordable water supplies and sanita-
tion for all were alleviated by substantial invest-
ment since the 1970s and heavy subsidies since
then have significantly reduced the cost of
water for all users. However, free or very cheap
water is frequently misused and adds little eco-
nomic value despite its high cost.
While development options can be identified
there are insufficient financial, engineering and
economic data to cost development alterna-
tives and carry out trade-offs to determine the
optimal investment mix. Most of the required
data are either proprietary, not existent or were
not made available to this study. Accordingly,
this master plan proposes a strategy to plan
water development that would be subsequently
detailed in a water master plan that covers all
the water sub-sectors.
Demand management is going to be a key com-
ponent of future planning. Leak detection, no
matter how rigorously applied, has only a mar-
ginal impact on the desalination supply gap.
There is still a deficit after 2014. Restricting
agricultural use of desalinated water has an
almost identical impact. But together they
could have an opportunity cost of about $300
million a year. Conversely the most vigorously
applied tariff increase may solve the problem.
A progressive increase of the water tariff over a
number of years may be the policy to follow.
There is sufficient time to research into will-
ingness to pay and testing of appropriate tariff
structures. The tariff structure should be oper-
ational by the end of 2010 and plan to reach to
maximum in real terms by about 2020. This
would allow the demand curve to more closely
match the supply.
Supply-side management is a very useful tool
to increase capacity and be sensitive to the
environmental implications of technology
choice. If RO is used to desalinate brackish
water energy costs will be significantly reduced
as will the environmental impacts. Using Abu
Dhabis substantial brackish groundwater
resources has also several advantages particu-
larly in terms of dispersing and securing
potable water supplies. The problems of brine
disposal should be addressed with an overall
strategy which includes the establishment of
an organization responsible for this.
With this planning the concept of environmen-
tal flows should be applied to the Abu Dhabi
Emirate. The additional element, possibly
unique to the Emirate, is the need to include
the effect of greenhouse gas emissions caused
by the high energy requirements of the water
sector and desalination. AR present there are
few data and no capability to measure environ-
mental flows. A first step will be to construct a
dynamic water balance model of the whole
supply and demand system. A second step will
be to quantify the key environmental impacts
associated with each major water sub-sector.
Alternative Water Supply Plans
In the absence of technical, economic and
environmental feasibility and appraisal, the
best choice for Abu Dhabis future water sup-
plies is difficult to determine. At this stage of
the Master Plan only some indications of what
may be feasible are presented. There are vari-
ous choices:
Build new cogeneration desalination plant
to fill the supply gap. Essentially this is a
business-as-usual (BAU) approach. The
question of energy sources makes this a
irrigation or their impact on the local ecology.
This needs to be addressed. As far as can be
determined, there are no quantitative envi-
ronmental values associated with the vegeta-
tion apart from the commercial ones related
to marketing of crops.
The adverse direct and indirect impacts on
the environment of water use within the
Emirate are large. While the nature of the
hazards is known from direct observation,
such as groundwater pollution and storage
depletion, others including the explicit link
between freshwater generation activities
from desalinization and environmental
impacts of brine disposal are poorly defined.
This is a major omission to the integrated
planning and management of Abu Dhabis
environment.
Generation of desalinated water uses a signif-
icant portion of the Emirates energy and is
responsible for the generation of greenhouse
gases including CO2. Water conservation pro-
grams in all sectors of the economy would
reduce the demand for water and thus CO2
emissions.
Brine disposal as a side product of desalina-
tion poses modest to severe environmental
risks to the water of the Gulf and to shallow
aquifers inland..
Unfettered expansion of agriculture has
caused degradation of groundwater
resources through unregulated over-
pumping. In many areas irreversible salin-
ization of groundwater has occurred.
Upper layers of shallow aquifers have been
polluted by irrigation return flows contain-
ing chemicals, particularly nitrates.
Intense animal husbandry has locally exac-
erbated groundwater pollution and placed
a high stress on the fragile ecosystem and
natural vegetation.
Planning future demand and
supply
ADWEC made several projections of future
demand for desalinated water for the period
2007-2030. Overall the growth in demand in that
period will be 123%. There will be no shortfall in
production until 2014, but thereafter it will
steadily increase in the absence of new capaci-
ty. By 2020 the annual shortfall will be 206
MGD, equivalent to 342 Mcm. This will increase
to 673 Mcm by 2030.
The growing power shortage will lead to
increasing electricity generation and reducing
desalination production. A change in electricity
generation technology particularly nuclear -
will cause a strategic reassessment of the con-
tinued construction of cogeneration power and
water plants. It may become more economic to
separate energy generation and water produc-
tion. If that occurs then several other options
become available to manage future water sup-
plies.
Future agricultural demand is unknown as
water use is driven by policies that anchor
Emiratis to the rural domain through an exten-
sive program of subsidies for housing, land
improvement, energy, water and agriculture. It
is primarily a cultural issue. And a major cultur-
al concern is food self-sufficiency.
Abu Dhabi has a very high human capacity in
the desalination and water distribution busi-
ness and in terms of integrated national plan-
ning. In contrast, the agricultural sector is com-
posed of a number of widely scattered individu-
als and this is a need for a coherent, integrated
approach which includes water and environ-
mental perspectives.
Cost considerations have not generally been a
prime consideration as capital has been readily
available for new infrastructure supplemented
Main Findings and Recommendations
109 108
section 6 1/28/10 11:32 AM Page 8
in defining standards and enforcement mecha-
nisms for the coming years.
Following from that there is a clear need to
develop environmental standards based on the
natural conditions of Abu Dhabi rather than
international best-practice. Research needs to
be undertaken on the specific conditions of the
Arabian Gulf and the impacts of changing
inputs from Abu Dhabi and various industrial
complexes along its shores.
An area that has been little explored to date in
Abu Dhabi is in the zoning of environmental
regulations and laws, particularly in areas of
sensitivity. Whilst integration and coherence is
important in these areas, best practices from
other countries would suggest that there is also
a need to manage the environment and water
resources of the Emirate in a less universal
manner and to apply different degrees of regu-
lation and control within. This requires greater
control of activities in the protected areas and
in particular greater enforcement of laws
A final area that is currently addressed in exist-
ing laws and regulations is strategic environ-
mental assessment. There are in place a num-
ber of measures for the environmental impact
assessment of individual projects, but with the
growing rate of development there is a need for
greater in-depth analysis of
strategies/policies/plans and their interaction.
The cumulative impact of a series of projects
which make up a plan can have many detrimen-
tal effects on the environment that would not
be detected in individual appraisals.
Support requirements for these
recommendations
Whilst this reports has submitted many new
policy and practice recommendations there a
number of key areas that need to be developed
to support any future implementation. These
are knowledge provision, capacity building and
awareness-raising and these will now be consid-
ered.
Good decision-making needs good
information
The role of knowledge and information in gov-
erning and governance is increasingly being
emphasized. This study has found a very guard-
ed, bureaucratic approach to data and informa-
tion. Whilst in areas of commercial confidential-
ity this is to be expected, however, in other
areas the difficulties involved in obtaining data
often means knowledge within the water and
environmental communities of Abu Dhabi is
not used. This leads to planning and manage-
ment that will be sub-optimal. It also became
apparent that environmental and water data-
bases are maintained in different organizations
and there is little easy access to this informa-
tion, even by those working in these fields. This
is inefficient as there is an urgent need to
ensure decision-making is supported and
informed by current and accurate information.
Capacity building
The proposed recommendations will require
the enhancement and development of various
skills within the human resources of EAD and
other departments and organizations. It is there-
fore important that a structured and well-
resourced capacity building development plan is
drawn-up in a number of key areas including
environmental regulation, and irrigation and
landscaping management. .Various approaches
should be used including training in a traditional
teaching environment, but also placements of
key staff in organizations outside of the UAE to
learn-best practices. This twinning could also
involve member from outside organizations
spending time in Abu Dhabi helping to develop
capacity in key areas. E-learning initiatives
should be very much encouraged as the support
risky choice at present as discussed earlier,
and this is now an unlikely option.
Develop well fields in the fresh groundwater
areas
Develop well fields in brackish groundwater
areas
Develop brackish RO capabilities
These various alternatives need in-depth
analysis to understand their economic, energy
and environmental implications. Whichever
alternative is selected there will be adverse
impacts and the choices made will therefore
need to be through an integrated strategic lens
for the whole economic, social and environ-
mental landscape of the Emirate.
Institutional and Governance
reforms
Water planning and management will only
work well if sound governance and institutions
are put in place. Emirate level cross-cutting
committees for aspects of water management
are in place but there is little coordination
among them. It is recommended that an Abu
Dhabi Water Council is established that is
chaired by a member of the Executive Council
and membership should be the heads of the
various departments, authorities and organi-
zations. The Council would support strategic
thinking across the whole of the water sector
rather than the compartmentalized system
that currently exists.
There is also the need to establish formally an
environmental regulator. Given the develop-
ment plans across many sectors proposed over
the next 20 years, and their associated needs
for water and other natural resources, there is
an imperative for an independent environmen-
tal regulator within Abu Dhabi Emirate to
establish standards and practices based on
local environment conditions. Whilst EAD cur-
rently undertakes some of these duties, there
is a need to establish these roles and responsi-
bilities more formally and transparently. It is
also important to clearly define areas of
responsibility vis--vis the RSB and other
authorities and ministries to ensure consistent
standards and avoid overlapping regulation.
Legal and regulatory framework
development
The legal and regulatory measures in place for
protecting the natural water resources and
environmental management may be described
as being strong in terms of managing biodiver-
sity, but more limited in other areas. Whilst the
Federal Law of 1999 covers many important
aspects, its terms are necessarily general and
there are a number of gaps in the subsequent
enable legislation/regulation. There is a need
for substantive measures for protecting
groundwater depletion, and pollution control
of air and water.
There is a need to establish a water law that
considers all sources of water within the same
framework and that establishes some legal or
regulatory obligation by the various authori-
ties and supply companies to encourage envi-
ronmental protection, water demand manage-
ment and efficient practices. At the moment
the split between natural and produced water
management does not support the develop-
ment of coherent water policies and laws.
In the future there are likely to be an increase in
potential overlaps in responsibilities between
the RSB and EAD. Such overlaps occur in the
management of waste water re-use and subse-
quent effluent disposal, definition of standards
for effluent discharges, groundwater use in
desalination, water demand management, and
the challenges of climate change and managing
carbon emissions of water and waste water
treatment. It is important to develop a broader
environmental regulatory framework with asso-
ciated institutional responsibilities between the
two organizations. Cooperation will be critical
Main Findings and Recommendations
111 110
section 6 1/28/10 11:32 AM Page 10
the transfer of information and knowledge to all
who might be involved in the various new devel-
opments rather than just key staff.
Awareness raising
Any change in any environment will bring resist-
ance and inertia. It is important to give as much
information as possible to allow those affected to
understand the reasons for any decision-making.
Awareness-raising will be an important compo-
nent of future water developments in Abu Dhabi.
While there is an increasing coverage of water
issues in the media and in educational programs,
there is an important need to highlight the com-
plexities and the actions needed in managing
tomorrows water environment. There is a great
love of the Emirate amongst the population and
organizations. It became very obvious in the var-
ious discussions involved in developing this
report that citizens, businesses and government
departments alike realize there is a need for
change and were willing to take this onboard.
This should be mobilized to support any new
water initiatives.
Concluding remark
There are many possibilities for managing Abu
Dhabis future water demands. From the find-
ings of this report it is obvious that there is not
one solution but an inter-mixed need for changes
in both demand and supply management to
adapt to the needs of the next 20 years.
Environmental variables along with economic
and social considerations need to be part of any
future deliberations. Through an integrated
water policy program important changes may be
made that will help secure the economic and
environmental prosperity for Abu Dhabi to 2030.
Main Findings and Recommendations
113 112
1. Jogensen and Al Tikriti. 2002.
2. Morelands, J.A., D.W. Clark, and J.L. Imes, 2007.
Ground Water Abu Dhabis Hidden Treasure
3. World Bank, 2004. Seawater and Brackish Water
4. Desalinization in the Middle East, North Africa and
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5. Brook, M. 2006. Water Resources on Abu Dhabi
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Electricity and Water. Presentation by Mr. Keith
Miller. MEED Adu Dhabi Conference 2007. 18-19th
November.
7. This volume is derived from the discussion in
Moreland and others (2007) op cit. on pages 121 to
124, and from Brook (2004) op cit.
8. Symonds et al. 2005.
9. Imes and Clark, 2006.
10. Wood and Imes, 1995.
11. Total installed desalination capacity in 2007 was
1,044 Mcm a year. 85% of the installed capacity
uses multi-stage flash technology in association
with electrical power stations.
12. Dawoud, Md. A. 2008. Strategic Water Reserve:
New Approach For Old Concept In GCC
Countries. AED, Abu Dhabi.
13. Hutchinson, C.B., K.D. Al Aidrous and O.A.
Budebes. 1996. History of water resources devel-
opment in Abu Dhabi Emirate. USGS/NDC.
14. Heaney, James P., William DeOreo, Peter Mayer,
Paul Lander, Jeff Harpring, Laurel Stadjuhar,
Beorn Courtney, and Lynn Buhlig. 1999. NATURE
OF RESIDENTIAL WATER USE AND EFFEC-
TIVENESS OF CONSERVATION PROGRAMS.
University of Colorado. For each of 12 cities across
North America, a sample of 1,000 houses was
selected based on evaluation of local demograph-
ics and historical water use. A questionnaire was
sent to each of these 1,000 houses. The average
response rate was 46%. Based on the returned
questionnaires, a sample of 100 houses was select-
ed. Then, detailed monitoring was done on each of
these houses during two 14-day periods, one
warmer and one cooler. Data was successfully
obtained from all but 12 of the 1,200 homes.
15. RSB. 2008. Annual Work Plan for 2009.
16. ADDC. 2008. Letter from Ahmad Saeid Al
Mareikhi, General Manager.
17. ABU QDAIS H. A. and L NASSAY H. I. 2001.
Water Policy. Vol. 3 (3), 207-214.
Endnotes
18. Todorova, V. 2008. Abu Dhabis water conserva-
tion plans. The National. Sunday, June 15, 2008
13. At 7 m spacing a one ha block would require 14.2
rows of irrigation pipe. As 305,000 ha are under irri-
gation the total length is 14.2 x 305,000 = 433,100
km.
14. Water use by trees in the Nagev desert.
www2.alterra.wur.nl/Internet/webdocs/ilri-publi-
caties/publicaties/Pub55/pub55-h6.pdf.
15. Bainbridge, D.A., M. Fidelibus and R. MacAller.
1995. Techniques for plant establishment in arid
ecosystems. Restoration and Management Notes
13(2):198-202.
16. Brook, M. 2004. HRH Private Department in Abu
Dhabi indicated that 2.5 gall/day were required per
1.5 sq.m of canopy; for a forest with 20% cover this
would equate to 2.25 mm/day.) This is equivalent
to 822 mm/year.
17. Starbuck, M., and Tamayo, J.M., 2005,
Monitoring vegetation change in Abu Dhabi
Emirate from 1996 to 2000 using Landsat satel-
lite imagery: NDC-USGS Technical Series
Administrative Report 2001-001, 32 p.
18. Mohamed, A.M.O., M. Marraqa and J. Al
Handhaly. 2005. Impact of land disposal of reject
brine from desalination plants on soil and ground-
water. Desalination. 182. 411-413.
19. See Moreland et alia. 2007, page 132. USGS sate
that the net water consumption (presumably after
percolation return flow has been subtracted) is
600 mm per unit area per year.
20. The EAD value for forestry use of water is taken
from Water Resources of Abu Dhabi Emirate, UAE
(2006), page 55. 607 Mcm/year of water was used
to irrigate 305,243 ha of forest. This is equivalent to
200 mm per unit area per year. While this may
appear small compared with evapotanspiration
rates there are 210 trees planted her ha at approx-
imately 7 m spacing. The USGS estimated is taken
from Moreland et alia, 2007. The total groundwa-
ter use over the period 1970-2005 was 6,800 Mcm.
Over this period the cumulative area irrigated was
about 3.2 million ha. By calculation water use was
200 mm per unit area per year.
21. MottMacDonald. 2004. Preliminary Assessment Of
The Water Situation In The Eastern And Central
Regions Of Abu Dhabi Emirate. UAE Offsets
Group. Abu Dhabi.
22. The Irrigation supporting annex shows that X per-
cent of Adu Dhabis irrigation is equipped with
section 6 1/28/10 11:32 AM Page 12
modern and high efficiency water application tech-
nology. [ELABORATE].
23. EAD 2006. Waste and Pollution Sources in Abu
Dhabi Emirate. Environmental Data Initiative.
Environment Agency Abu Dhabi. Pages 62-67.
24. Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.
2000. Energy The Changing Climate. The
Stationary Office. London.
25. Hamed, O.A, et al. 2000. Thermodynamic Analysis
of the Al Jubail Power/water Co-generation Cycles.
Saline water Conversion Corporation. Technical
report No. TR 3808 APP98002. November 2000.
26. El-Nashar, A.M. et al. 1995. Overview of the Design
Features, Performance and Economics of the MSF
Plants Operated by Abu Dhabi Water and
Electricity Authority. Proceeedings of the IDA
World Congress on Desalination and Water
Sciences. Abu Dhabi. UAE. 3. 101-125.
27. National Resources Defense Council. 2004. Energy
Down The Drain The Hidden Costs of Californias
Water Supply. Pacific Institute, Oakland,
California. August 2004.
28. Center for Sustainable Environments, 2005. The
Water and Energy Fact Sheet. Northern Arizona
University. September, 2005
29. Latterman, S., and T Hopner. 2007. Impacts of sea-
water desalination plants on marine environment
in the Gulf. In: Protecting the Gulfs Marine
Ecosystems from Pollution, A. Abuxinada, H.-J
Barth, F. Krupp, B. Boer and T. Abdelsalaam
Editors. Switzerland: Birkhauser Verlag.
30. Letterman, S. 2005. Chemicals in brine stream.
Clean Ocean Foundation.
31. Hopner, T., and J. Windelberg. 1966. Elements of
environmental impact studies on coastal desalin-
ization plants. Desalinization 108, 11-18.
32. Al Jahani, A.A. 2008. Dugongs Waning Populace in
Arabian Gulf: A Chronicle. MoEW. UAE.
33. Grandcourt, E. 2003. The status and management
of coral reefs in the United Arab Emirates.
ERDWA.
34. Chesher, R.H. 1975. Biological impact of a large-
scale desalination plant at Key West, Florida. Pp
99-181 in: Tropical Marine Pollution. Furgson, E.J.
and R.E. Johannes, editors. Elsevier Scientific.
New York.
35. Pilar Ruso, Y.D., J.A. Ossa Carretero, F.Giminez
Casaduero, and J. L. Sanchez Lizaso. 2007. Spatial
and temporal changes in infaunal communities
inhabiting soft-bottoms affected by brine dis-
charges. Marine Environmental Research. 64,492-
503.
36. Latorre, M. 2005. Environmental Impact of Brine
Disposal on Posidonia Sea-grasses. Desalination
182, 517-524.
37. Jenkins, S.A., and J.B. Graham. 2006.
Oceanographic considerations for desalinization
plants in southern Californian coastal waters, parts
1 &2. Presentation given at meeting of National
Research Council Committee on Advancing
Desalinization technology, Irvine, C.A.
38. Sideek, M. S. M, M.M. Fouda and G.V. Hermosa.
1999. Demersal fisheries of the Arabian Sea, the
Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Gulf. International
Conference on the Biology of Coastal
Environments, Bahrain. Vol 49, SUPA. Pp 87-97.
39. Bruce Shallard & Associates. 2003. Fisheries
Resource Assessment Survey of Abu Dhabi and
UAE Waters. ERDWA. March 2003.
40. Maunsell. 2004. The Master Plan, Traffic and
Transportation Study for Al Ain and its Region to
the year 2005. Stage2: Environment and
Conservation Sector Study, August, 2004.
41. Belnap, J., 2002. Biological Soil Crusts of Arabian
Sabkhat. In Sabkha Ecosystems, Barth and Boer
Editors. Kluwer Academic Publishers. The
Netherlands.
42. Khan, A. 1997.
43. Personal Communication. Mr. Sultan Ahmed Al
Kuwaiti, Consultant for the Aflaj Committee, Al
Ain Municipality.
44. David Pimental, et al., 2004. Water Resources:
Agricultural and Environmental Issues.,
BioScience, Vol. 54, No. 10, October 2004.
45. Moreland, J.A., et al, 2007, pages 147-155.
46. RSB. Annual Report 2007. Actual water costs are
given as AED 29.2 per thousand imperial gallons,
equivalent to US$1.75/m3.
47. Glueckstern, P and M. Priel. 2003. Optimization of
Boron removal in old and new SWRO systems.
European Desalination Services. Malta
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Flows. Water for People Water for Nature. TNC
MRCSO1730. The Nature Conservancy, Boulder,
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Main Findings and Recommendations
114
section 6 1/28/10 11:32 AM Page 14
Annex 1.
Groundwater
115
annex 1 1/28/10 11:35 AM Page 2
The main source of water in the Emirate of Abu
Dhabi is derived from pumping groundwater.
This resource occurs in the Emirate of Abu
Dhabi in consolidated and unconsolidated sur-
ficial aquifers and in bedrock aquifers. In 2003,
groundwater constituted 79 percent (%) of the
total water resources used in the Emirate,
although by 2006 this had reduced to 71.2 %.
At the current rates of extraction, both fresh
and brackish groundwater resources will be
exhausted in the next 50 years (USGS 2006).
This makes the sustainable management, use
and conservation of groundwater resources of
vital importance for the people of the Emirate.
Some measures have been put into place to
address this recently and the passing in March
2006 in Abu Dhabi of Law No. 6 has brought reg-
ulatory instruments into effect to control the
drilling and abstraction of water wells (dis-
cussed in detail in Annex 1).
Physical Status of Groundwater
Resources
The groundwater in Abu Dhabi may be catego-
rized into two main groups: the first are the sur-
ficial aquifers that are found in the unconsoli-
dated material and that have been the main
sources of water to date; and the second are the
bedrock aquifers that are found in predomi-
nantly carbon-rich rock formations.
Distributions of both kinds of aquifers are
shown in Figure 1.1.
Unconsolidated Aquifers
The sand dunes and alluvial deposits comprise
the most common and productive aquifers in
the Emirate (Rizk et al. 1997). The shallow
unconfined aquifer is present throughout the
Emirate and about 80% of the Emirate has
Quaternary sand and gravel aquifers (Figure
3.1). In the Eastern Region the main aquifers
are Quaternary sand and gravel aquifers
underlain by the Upper Fars Formation which
continues eastward into the Sultanate of
Oman, the Lower Fars Formation in the south-
eastern Umm Al Zamoul area, the Dammam
and Simsima limestone bedrock aquifers, and
discontinuous carbonate units north of Al Ain.
In the Western Region, the Quaternary sand
aquifer is directly underlain by the Lower Fars
Formation as a basal unit which acts as a
regional aquiclude (Wood et al. 2003).
There are also thin coastal sabkha aquifers and
the Baynunah Formation comprising of Upper
Miocene sandstones and conglomerates with
gypsiferous cap rock that form numerous low-
lying shallow and uneconomic aquifers. Both
formations are underlain by the regional Lower
Fars aquiclude (Hutchinson 1996).
Bedrock Aquifers
Bedrock aquifers occur throughout the
Emirate and are mostly carbonate deposits
laid down in shallow marine seas. They occur
generally at significant depth and have not
been explored or exploited like the shallow
unconsolidated aquifers. The main water bear-
ing formations are as follows:
The Asmari Formation (Whittle and
Alsharhan 1994);
The Karstic Limestone Formations (Khalifa
1997; Bright and Silva 1998);
The Dammam and Rus formations (EAD
2006);
The Rus Formation (Al Amari 1997);
The Umm er Radhuma Formation (Hassan
and Al Aidarous 1985); and
The Simsima Formation (Hamdan and Anan
1989).
Total groundwater reserves for the Emirate
have been assessed by two independent stud-
ies. One study was jointly conducted by the
National Drilling Company (NDC) and the
United States Geological Survey (USGS)
under the auspices of the Groundwater
Research Program (GWRP). The second study
was undertaken jointly by the German
Technical Cooperation and Abu Dhabi
National Oil Company (GTZ/ADNOC) under
the joint Groundwater Assessment Project
(GWAP) (GTZ 2004). Both projects assessed
current groundwater reserves, however, the
methods used differ somewhat, but both have
used average saturated thickness and specific
yields to estimate stored volumes.
The volume for the calculated fresh groundwa-
ter reserves differs by 8%. The USGS GWRP is
shown in Table 1.1. The GWAP by GTZ (2005)
indicated total freshwater reserves were 16,500
Mm3 of which 4000 Mm3 are in the Eastern
Region and that 12,500 Mm3 or more than
three-quarters of the fresh water in storage
occurs in the Liwa lens (Wood and Imes 2003).
It is also impossible to compare the estimates of
brackish groundwater reserves as each study
has used different salinity ranges for brackish
water. Whereas the USGS study defined brack-
ish groundwater between 1500 mg/l and 15,000
mg/l, the GTZ study used 1500 mg/l to 10,000
mg/l as brackish and 10,000 mg/l to 100,000 mg/l
as saline. In this report we have used the
groundwater reserves as estimated by USGS
summarized in Table 1.1, i.e. brackish water up
to 15,000 mg/l is being used for forest irrigation.
EAD has undertaken extensive inventorying,
assessment and monitoring of wells in the
Emirate (Abu Dhabi Executive Decisions No (14)
session 8/2005 and No (4) session 17/2005). These
findings have been integrated with the previous
work of USGS and GTZ to create an integrated
database.
Aquifer Recharge
Abu Dhabi Emirate is located in an arid region
with an average precipitation of less than 120 mm
so there is little active recharge of the aquifers
(Boer 1997). Rainfall is scare in amount but errat-
ic both in time and distribution. The mean annu-
Annex 1. Groundwater
117 116
Introduction
annex 1 1/28/10 11:35 AM Page 4
be built in the next 5 years (H2O 2008). Some of
these structures are within Abu Dhabi Emirate.
Chemical Status of Groundwater
Resources
The chemical status of groundwater is an
important consideration in any resource analy-
sis as it controls the possibilities of usage. The
chemistry is controlled by the recharge
processes, the geology of the host rocks, and
long residence times of groundwater and dis-
charge processes. For example, flow times
from recharge zones in the east to the sabkha
discharge zones along the Arabian Gulf coast-
line can take up to 15,000 years. This slow
groundwater movement allows for consider-
able dissolution of salts in the groundwater
leading to the hyper-saline groundwater in
excess of 200,000 mg/l found along the Abu
Dhabi coastline. In recent decades, anthro-
pogenic activities have also contributed to the
chemical status of the groundwater. Farming
and development (Al-Hogaraty et al. 2008),
brine and sewage disposal, and upward leakage
from deeper formations because of increased
extraction rates are all leading to increased
concentrations of particular chemical vari-
ables.
In terms of salinity, Figure 1.2 shows the spatial
distribution across the shallow surficial
aquifers. The least saline groundwater reserves
are found in the recharge area near Al Ain and
beneath the sand dunes north of the Liwa
Crescent. In the latter, 40% of the total storage al rainfall within Abu Dhabi Emirate varies from
46 millimeters (mm) at Jebel Dhanna in the
Western Region to 119 mm at Al Wagan, south of
Al Ain.
Most of the terrains of Abu Dhabi Emirate are flat
consisting of sandy soil with scattered sand dunes
and some low elevation sabkhas. There is there-
fore little runoff from these areas and any rainfall
infiltrates the surface quickly. The recharge is
thus negligible and is only locally boosted by wadi
flows originating from the east (Woodward and
Menges 1991).
In the Eastern Region, on the escarpments of
the Al Hajar Mountains, rainfall produces runoff
that drains into the wadis that flow westward
crossing Abu Dhabi borders into the inlands
with an average annual surface water flow of
about 7.6 million cubic meters (MCM) annually.
This runoff produces a natural recharge of
groundwater estimated to be about 30.9 MCM
per year, predominantly in the gravel alluvial fans
and gravel plains of these mountain areas. Table
1.2 summarizes the catchment flow for a number
of wadis.
To increase the recharge of the aquifers from sur-
face water, 100 dams and barrier structures have
been built to divert/retain runoff water in the
UAE (Al Asam 1994; Rizk and Alsharhan 2003).
This is being further developed with the recent
announcement that 68 new recharge dams would
Annex 1. Groundwater
119 118
Table 1.1 Groundwater Reserves Estimate for the Emirate
Source: USGS 1996
Table 1.2 Catchment Flow within UAE Abu Dhabi
Emirate (Mm
3
/yr)
Figure 1.2 Groundwater Salinity in the Shallow Surficial Aquifer of the Emirate
Source: EAD, 2008
xSalinity Zone
Fresh (<1500 mg/l)
xSalinity Zone
Brackish (>1500 and <15,000 mg/l)
xArea
(m
2
x106)
xAvg. Saturated
Thickness (m)
xAverage
Specific Yield
xVolume in
Storage (Mm
3
)
Fresh Eastern Region 1440 20 0.14 4,000
Fresh Western Region 2400 26 0.23 14,000
Fresh Emirate 3840 18,000
Brackish below Fresh Water Eastern Region 1440 40 0.14 8,000
Brackish below Fresh Water Western Region 2400 69 0.23 38,000
Brackish Remaining Areas 29,983 42 0.15 189,000
Brackish Emirate 235,000
Total Fresh and Brackish Groundwater 253,000
Sumayni 0.2 1.4
Safwan 1.48 2.6
Musaydirah Kahal 1.4 1.9
Al Wadiyain 0.6 4.7
Hamad 1.9 1.1
Ajran 0.0 1.0
Sifah 0.0 2.6
Sharri 0.0 2.4
Al Fatah 2.1 2.0
Dank 0.0 7.0
Sawmahan 0.0 2.6
Al Hawl 0.0 1.6
Total 7.6 30.9
xCatchments
xMm
3
/year
xSurface water
runoff
(wadi flow)
xGroundwater
(through flow)
annex 1 1/28/10 11:35 AM Page 6
in the Liwa Crescent area that contain high con-
centrations of nitrate are located near farming
areas (Alsharhan et al. 2001).
In the Central Region at the Al Wathba Wetland,
monitoring work by EAD has indicated ground-
water nitrate values exceeding 200 mg/l as NO
3
.
Local observation and piezometric evidence
strongly suggests that nitrate is entering the
groundwater system from fertilizer application
and urea at a nearby camel fodder farm.
Fluoride
The mineral fluorapatite (Ca5(PO4)3F) is found
in the heavy mineral component of windblown
sand and is the probable source of fluoride
(Wood et al. 2003). In the Western Region con-
centrations of fluoride in fresh groundwater are
more than 10 times greater than in the Eastern
Region and in many wells fluoride concentration
exceed 1.5 mg/l (WHO drinking water guide-
lines). Higher concentrations are most likely due
to the longer residence time of groundwater in
contact with fluoride minerals along the long
flow path. In the eastern recharge areas the res-
idence time of the groundwater is relatively
short and concentrations of fluoride salts do not
build up, consequently the fluoride concentra-
tion in groundwater in the Eastern Region is
generally low.
Boron
Boron concentrations exceed 500 micro grams
per litre (g/l), which is in excess of the WHO
Guidelines for drinking-water quality in most
areas of the Emirate. Concentrations of boron
in groundwater in the surficial aquifer increase
with salinity levels and are controlled, in part,
by evaporation. The source of boron in the sur-
ficial aquifer is derived from trace minerals from
the ophiolitic rocks of the Al Hajar Mountains,
and possibly from mixing of saline water that
has leaked upward from underlying strata of
marine origin
Chromium
Groundwater in most of the Emirate contains
chromium in excess of WHO drinking water
guidelines of 50 g/l. In the Liwa Crescent area,
chromium concentrations of groundwater exceed
WHO guidelines but are generally lower in the
eastern recharge areas. Wells in the northeastern
recharge area near Al Ain and Mohayer have
water with chromium concentrations below the
WHO drinking water standards. The highest
chromium concentrations occur where the surfi-
cial aquifer contains saline water. In the western
area high concentrations of chromium in fresh
groundwater indicate that geochemical process-
es rather than evaporation affect chromium con-
centrations. Chromium concentrations in ground-
water build up due to the longer residence time of
groundwater in the western areas.
Radon
In some areas such as Mubazzarah, chemical
and isotopic analyses have revealed high levels
of radioactive Radon.
Human Inputs
A number of human activities also contribute
to the chemical status of the groundwater.
These are often concentrated in particular
areas so bring locally increased pollution lev-
els. Farming lots where a number of animals
are contained in a defined area will ensure
enhanced levels of nitrogen and phosphate
species are released onto the land and infil-
trate to the local surficial aquifers. Similarly
applications of chemicals used in agriculture
such as fertilizers and pesticides seep into the
groundwater and the enhanced levels in
aquifers underlying cultivated areas have
already been mentioned.
In recent years the number of Brackish Water
Reverse Osmosis (BWRO) plants has rapidly
are fresh (<1500 mg/l) or low brackish (1500 -
6000 mg/l) waters. A few isolated bodies of fresh
groundwater are known to exist in some locations
where local rainfall has accumulated in thin lens-
es of fresh water floating on top of more saline
water. Although most of these thin, fresh ground-
water lenses are not considered to be a significant
resource; however, in a few areas of the Emirate,
these isolated layers of fresh water are thick
enough to yield fresh water. For example, fresh
water from drilled wells has been reported to
occur near well GWP-150, south of Ghayathi
(USGS 2007).
Moderately-brackish groundwater is found on the
fringes of the fresh groundwater areas and around
the Liwa mound. Two zones of moderately-brack-
ish water extend from the fresh groundwater
mound underlying the Liwa Crescent area.
On the east side of Jabal Hafit, salinity levels
increase over a relatively short distance near the
base of the mountain (Rizk et al. 1998b; and Al
Nuaimi 2003) caused by fresh groundwater prob-
ably mixing with upwelling brackish water or
saline deep basin brines. On the west side of Jabal
Hafit increases in salinity are in part due to the
upward movement of deep-basin brines through
underlying fractured bedrock (Imes et al. 1993).
In any analysis of the groundwater as a possible
resource, it is also important to consider the con-
tent of various trace materials. In Abu Dhabi,
Moreland et al. (2007) have indicated that
nitrates, fluoride, boron and chromium concen-
trations in fresh groundwater in the surficial
aquifer exceed World Health Organization
(WHO) Guidelines for drinking-water quality and
that average nitrate and boron concentrations in
groundwater increase with increasing salinity.
Nitrates
Excessive nitrate concentrations occur natural-
ly in many wells in the Liwa Crescent (Wood et
al. 2003). This is thought to result from a lack of
vegetation in the arid climate of Abu Dhabi,
where given that little or no nitrogen up-take
occurs from the soil, nitrate concentrations con-
tinue to increase over time. The highest concen-
trations of nitrate occur in the saline water
zones where evaporative concentration in
sabkhas is a controlling factor.
These naturally occurring concentrations have
been increased by anthropogenic activities. In
Abu Dhabi, the farming areas in the east are
upon sandy permeable soils which overlie an
interbedded section of gravels, sands and clay-
silts which support a shallow and normally
unconfined aquifer with static water levels
between 10-20 m; and a pattern of the over-appli-
cation of fertilizer (in particular, urea) and, under
continuous crop irrigation.
The USGS-NDC project has monitored the pro-
file for nitrate, using a series of piezometers con-
centrated on the margins of wellfields used for
potable water supply. Most of the wells sampled
in the surficial aquifer have nitrate concentra-
tions below the 50 mg/l guideline for drinking
water as shown in Figure 1.3. Many of the wells
Annex 1. Groundwater
121 120
Figure 1.3 Nitrate Map of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi
Source: Mooreland et. al 2007
annex 1 1/28/10 11:35 AM Page 8
been charged with developing, managing, con-
serving and protecting water resources. One of
the resulting initiatives has been to enact a
licensing and permitting system for wells and
Table 1.4 shows recent activities in this field. It is
important that monitoring and evaluation of
agreed licenses is in place to ensure compliance.
Whilst most anthropogenic activities have
extracted groundwater from the systems, a
recent initiative is centred on utilizing the water
storage capacity of the aquifers for strategic secu-
rity reasons. The Aquifer Storage and Recovery
(ASR) project is being assessed with a pilot study
to inject desalinated water into the sand aquifer
in the Liwa area via recharge wells and to build
up a substantial strategic reserve of groundwater
for emergency drinking water for Abu Dhabi City
and in the Western Region.
Environmental Impacts
Much of the groundwater abstraction during the
last 30 years has been from the natural storage of
fossil water with only limited modern day
recharge. This is confirmed by declines in well
yields and large water level falls observed in wells
in the Al Ain region, as depletion of the shallow
aquifer has far exceeded the recharge inflow.
Water levels have declined more than 100 m in
some areas in the Eastern Region and declines in
excess of 10 m have been noted throughout the
area. In the Liwa Crescent area, water levels have
declined 10 m or more in some developed areas.
As groundwater levels have declined, salinity lev-
els have increased (Dawoud, 2008). This results
from a number of different factors including
saline intrusion in coastal zones, and the move-
ment of deeper, more saline groundwaters into
the shallower aquifers.
These changes also have a major impact on natu-
ral ecosystems. Declining water tables and
increases in salinity ensure the vegetation within
natural ecosystems become stressed and in the
dieback of species results. Given the natural sen-
sitivity of these areas, changes in growth and
species can have a disastrous impact on these
systems.
Recommendations
The exploitation of groundwater resources of the
Abu Dhabi Emirate has been an important com-
ponent in supporting its economic and social
development of the area. This will continue but it
is important that management initiatives are
part of an overall water strategy. There are a
number of recommendations that can be made
based on international practice.
Management
1) Optimising the Use of Groundwater
It is important that the groundwater manage-
ment is analysed within the total water supply
and demand budgets of the Emirate. Its use both
in raw terms and as an input to desalination
should be considered not only in terms of irriga-
tion but also for other uses. Efficiency of usage of
the resource should particularly be considered
and best practices suggested. Trade-offs are like-
ly to be part of this analysis and the total benefits
and costs social, economic and environmental
should be considered.
increased in the Emirate. The principal method
of disposal of the reject brine is in surface
impoundments of unlined ponds. In recent
research (Dawoud, 2008) it was found that dis-
posal in this way lead to increased levels of salin-
ity and heavy metals in the underlying aquifers.
Groundwater Use
Historically, the entire Emirates water require-
ments were met solely from groundwater
obtained from shallow hand dug wells and the
traditional Falaj systems. Today goundwater
continues to be used predominantly for irriga-
tion, but now includes both agricultural and
forestry areas and accounts for approximately
67% of total use (EAD 2008). Other sectors
include the municipalities, and industry.
The scale of usage has changed markedly and
with the availability of motorized pumps and
other enabling technologies, faster rates of
abstraction and distribution have been possible.
This fact, coupled with cheap energy, and a rapid
expansion of agricultural and forestry activities
(see Annex 6 for details), has ensured that over
the last 20-25 years this system has been placed
under increasing stress from declining ground-
water levels. Current estimates indicate water
use is 26 times total annual renewable water
resources (EAD 2006).
Table 1.3 shows the decrease of fresh groundwa-
ter reserves in the Emirate from an estimated
29,694 Mm3 during the pre-development stage of
the surficial aquifer to 26,269 Mm3 in 2005. The
greatest decrease of 47.7% occurred in the north-
eastern region which declined from 4,730 to 2,475
Mm3 caused by over-abstraction resulting in a
decline in the average saturated thickness of the
surficial aquifer from 22 m to 12 m. In the region
between Al Ain and Al Saad, high pumping den-
sity and over-abstraction has virtually depleted
the entire pre-development saturated thickness
of fresh groundwater (Mooreland et al. 2007).
Moderately-brackish groundwater in the
Emirate declined by 5.6%, however, most of this
decline occurred in the northeastern region
where the decline was 26.5% from 17,284 to 12,706
Mm3. Most of the declines occurred between Al
Ain and Al Khaznah, and near Al Wagan where
dense concentrations of farms use large quanti-
ties of groundwater (Mooreland et al. 2007).
The need for increased control of the groundwa-
ter has already been recognized and EAD has
Annex 1. Groundwater
123 122
Table 1.3 Pre-development and Present Day Groundwater Reserves Estimate for the Emirate
Source: Dawoud, 2008
xSalinity Zone
Fresh (<1500 mg/l)
xPre-development
Volume in Storage
(Mm
3
)
xPresent day 2005
Volume in Storage
(Mm
3
)
xChange in
groundwater
storage %
Fresh Northeastern Region 4,730 2,475 -47.7
Fresh Western Region 24,964 23,794 -4.7
Fresh Emirate 29,694 26,269 -11.5
Moderately Brackish Northeastern Region 17,284 12,706 -26.5
Moderately Brackish Western Region 77,039 76,304 -1.0
Moderately Brackish 94,322 89,010 -5.6
Brackish 137,578 132,311 -3.8
Saline 77,371 76,931 -0.6
Brine 80,193 79,915 -0.3
Brackish, Saline, & Brine 295,142 289,157
Total Fresh and Brackish 419,158 404,436
Table 1.2 Catchment Flow within UAE Abu Dhabi
Emirate (Mm3/yr)
Source: EAD 2008
Deepening an existing well 10 268 278
Replacing an old well 0 15 15
Maintaining an existing well 11 5 16
Drilling new well 1890 3600 5490
Total 1911 3888 5799
xType of Permit
x2006 x2007 Total
annex 1 1/28/10 11:35 AM Page 10
2) Increased Enforcement of Current and
Future Regulation
The major moves to increase the regulation of
groundwater use are important. Regulation
needs to be further developed and just as
importantly enforced. If a license abstraction
rate is agreed, then monitoring should be pos-
sible to ensure compliance. It would be good
to include pumping rates as well as total
abstraction as part of the agreements to mini-
mize environmental impacts.
3) Establishing Groundwater Management
Areas (GWMA)
Establishing Groundwater Management Areas
(GWMA) has been undertaken successfully in
many countries to give protection to impor-
tant aquifers and to reduce the costs of clean-
ing water that has been polluted by human
activities. These areas are defined where a par-
ticular aquifer is significant for water supply or
environmental value. Those undertaking activ-
ities in these areas are set management condi-
tions that reduce the impact such as the use of
organic farming. Compensation is paid to
make up for any economic losses.
4) Raising Awareness
All the recommendations involve working with
various stakeholders. It is important that
there is an understanding of why and how var-
ious changes might be brought into effect. This
would involve various levels of engagement
and the use of various media to highlight the
benefits of stakeholders working together.
Information and Knowledge
Future decisions on the use of groundwater
need to be based on sound knowledge of the
nature of both the supply and demand sides.
Recent moves to establish the Abu Dhabi
Water Information System are commendable.
There are, however, some gaps that need
to be filled:
5) Evaluation of Current Monitoring Networks
The recent rationalization of various datasets
will ensure that as much information as possible
may be gained from previous work. Based on this
and future management plans, the current mon-
itoring network should be assessed to ensure
that it will provide the data required to support
the initiatives and so is cost-effective. Numerous
developments in data collections techniques can
be utilized.
6) Increased Knowledge of Physical and
Chemical Status of Aquifers
Increased knowledge of the deep aquifers, such
as the Dammam, Umm er Radhuma, and
Simsima formations is required, as these may be
possible sources of brackish groundwater for
future RO.
7) Increased Information on Water Demand
It is important that there is increased knowledge
of the water users and their demand patterns.
This could be used in future modeling of water
budgets, but could also help target areas where
groundwater use could be optimized.
8) Modelling of Water Budget
There is a need to bring together the supply and
demand for groundwater and develop future sce-
narios for management. This will allow decisions
to be made on allocation within the sectors and
to support any initiatives towards sustainable
management.
Institutional Aspects
9) Groundwater Representation on Abu Dhabi
Water Council
It is important that groundwater is viewed as a
component of the total water resources available
in the Emirate and not as a separate resource.
Day to day management should remain within
EAD, but strategic initiatives which might
include groundwater development or conserva-
tion should be considered within the suggested
higher authority (see main report).
Annex 1. Groundwater
125 124
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Demand and Supply, 1990-2025: Scenarios and
Issues. Rept. 19, International Water Management
Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
- Symonds, R., Robledo, A., and Al Shateri, H.,
2005, National Drilling Company-U.S. General
Survey Technical Services Administrative
Report. 2005-001, 24 p.
- USGS, see U.S. Geological Survey
- U.S. Geological Survey, 1994,
- U.S. Geological Survey / NDC Administrative
Report 1994. Groundwater Resources of the Liwa
Crescent Area, Abu Dhabi Emirate.
- U.S. Geological Survey, 1996. Groundwater
resources of Abu Dhabi Emirate.
- U.S. Geological Survey, 2006,
- U.S. Geological Survey, 2007,
- Whittle, G.L., and Alsharhan, A.S., 1994,
Dolomitization and chertification of the Early
Eocene Rus Formation in Abu Dhabi, United Arab
Emirates: Sedimentary Geology 92, pp. 272-285.
- WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water quality.
- Wilkinson, J.C., 1981, Falajes as means of irrigation
in Oman: Ministry of National Heritage and
Culture, Sultanate of Oman, 129 p.
- Wood, W.W., and Imes, J.L., 1995, How wet is wet?
Constraints on late Quaternary climate in south-
ern Arabian Peninsula: Journal of Hydrology 164:
263-268.
- Wood, W.W., and Imes, J., 2003, Dating of Holocene
groundwater recharge in western part of Abu
Dhabi UAE: Constrains on global climate-change
models, In: Water Resources Perspective:
Evaluation, Management and Policy, A.S.
Alsharhan and W.W.Wood (Eds), pp. 379-385,
Development in Water Science 50, Elsevier,
Amsterdem, The Netherlands.
- Wood, W.W., Rizk, Z.S., and Alsharhan, A.S., 2003,
Timing of Recharge, and the Origin, Evolution and
Distribution of Solutes in a Hyperarid Aquifer
System, Developments in Water Science (50).
Water Resources Perspectives: Evaluation,
Management and Policy (ed., A.S. Alsharhan and
W.W. Wood): Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp. 245-264.
- Woodward, D.G., and Menges, C.M., 1991,
Application of uphole data from petroleum seismic
surveys to ground water investigations, Abu
Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Geoexploration, v.
27, pp. 193-212.
- World Bank, 2005, Report on evaluation of water
sector in the GCC countries, Challenges facing
water resources and water management and the
way ahead: Arab Gulf Program for United Nations
Development Organizations, 113 p. (in Arabic).
Annex 1. Groundwater
126
annex 1 1/28/10 11:35 AM Page 14
Annex 2.
Desalinated Water
127
annex 2 1/28/10 11:34 AM Page 2
The water desalination sector in Abu Dhabi is
well established and currently makes a major
contribution to the development of the Emirate.
Desalinated seawater currently represents the
primary source of potable water available in the
emirate and production is in two main areas.
The largest production fields are on the coast
and are almost exclusively combined power gen-
eration/thermal desalination plants operating
on seawater as feed, although reverse osmosis is
increasingly being used in new hybrid plants and
these are managed under the Abu Dhabi Water
and Electricity Authority (ADWEA). The sec-
ond plants, found inland and based on reverse
osmosis technology, are associated with the pro-
duction of freshwater for irrigation of agricultur-
al activities.
The key limits to future desalinated water pro-
duction centre on future energy availability and
transfer prices. In addition to energy con-
straints, seawater salinity and temperature may
limit desalinated water production in thermal
plants on the Arabian Gulf coast, and locations
on the Gulf of Oman involving inter-emirate
water trading, are likely to be important strate-
gic options.
Currently, the water desalination sector is able
to satisfy demand, but forecasts based on pop-
ulation growth and industrial expansion indi-
cates that future demand will exceed current
maximum production capacity (Annex 4).
Planned increased production will most proba-
bly satisfy this increased demand, but there is
a need to consider the full economic, environ-
mental, and social consequences of such a
strategy for the various sectors of predicted
growth. Brackish water desalination and water
mixing might solve future water demand in
locations away from the coast for certain sec-
tor users. Desalinated water is not an unlimit-
ed resource and water produced in this way
should be reserved for essential and high
added-value uses.
Current and Developing Status of
Desalinated Water Production
under ADWEAs Authority
The authority responsible for the large water
production plants is the Abu Dhabi Water and
Energy Authority (ADWEA) (see Annex 7 for
more detail). In the large power and water pro-
duction in Abu Dhabi, co-generation systems
are principally used because of their robust-
ness and energy efficiency. Such operations
provide both electricity supply from turbines
and water by condensing the steam, thereby
optimizing overall process economics. In
recent years, hybrid systems have been built
which not only support co-generation but have
additional water generation from Reverse
Osmosis (RO) technology in the plant.
These plants, known as Independent Water
and Power Producers (IWPP), have been
developed almost exclusively by the private
sector in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi.
(See Annex 7 for further details).
Water production by the major
IWPPs
Water is produced using thermal and, more
recently, membrane technologies. Currently
used thermal technologies include multistage
flash (MSF) technology and multi effect
(MED) technology, while membrane technolo-
gy is restricted to reverse osmosis (RO) tech-
nology and their relative contributions to the
potable water production in 2008 in Million
Gallons Day (MGD) is shown in Table 2.1 and
Figure 2.1
Multistage Flash Distillation
MSF represents the major fraction of installed
capacity in Abu Dhabi, due mainly to large unit
capacity, reliability of operation and its good
match with power generation which yield much
greater efficiencies than when used in stand-
alone operation. Recent developments in the
technology include adding cooling towers to
reduce the energy used in desalination and inte-
gration of the technology with other thermal and
RO technologies (e.g. Fujairah 1 and Taweelah
A1, providing hybrid production, with perform-
ance ratios between 13 and 15). Such integration
is aimed to reduce the energy used and thus
increase the performance ration to 13-15. The
technology has been given a lifetime of 20 years
since it initial adaptation in the early 70s in the
region. With proactive maintenance programs,
many plants has been in service for more than 25
years and technology companies are forecasting
40 years for these plants in the future.
Multi Effect Distillation
In recent years Multi Effect distillation (MED)
capacity has been built both in the regions and
in Abu Dhabi city, as their attractiveness has
increased due to their more efficient use of
energy. MED is typically characterized by
about 10% less thermal energy consumption
than MSF, whilst they can use lower quality
steam, but achieve similar production capaci-
ties. When MED incorporates thermal vapour
compression, it can exhibit performance ratios
as high as 15. ADWEA has recently awarded a
contract to build a large (120 MIGD) capacity
plant at the Fujairah II installation using MED
and RO technology, and is also considering
further MED units to increase the capacity of
the Al Taweelah plant. Advances in MED tech-
nology and an increased availability of low
quality steam and waste heat from various
new industries is expected to make MED the
dominant future technology in Abu Dhabi.
Annex 2. Desalinated Water
128 129
Introduction
Table 2.1 Current Desalination Capacity by Technology and Station (in MGD)
Source: ADWEC 2008 a and b
xCompany
TAPCO Taweelah B1 70 70
TAPCO Taweelah B2 23 23
TAPCO Taweelah B new 35 35
ECPC Taweelah A2 51 51
GTTPC Taweelah a1 32 53 85
AMPC Al Mirfa 39 39
APC Umm Al Nar 138 7 145
SCIPCO Shuweihat 1 101 101
Emirates Sembcorp Fujairah 1 64 38 102
Totals 553 60 38 651
Station MSF MED RO Total
Figure 2.1 Current desalination capacity by
technology (%)
Source: ADWEC 2008a and b
annex 2 1/28/10 11:34 AM Page 4
(136,500 cubic meter of water per day) tech-
nology.
In July 2008, the Build Own Operate (BOO)
contract for Shuweihat S2 IWPP was award-
ed to GDF Suez; GDF Suez and ADWEA also
signed a 20-year power and water purchase
agreement. In the same month the USD810
million EPC contract for the power genera-
tion facility was awarded to Samsung
Corporation and the USD800 million EPC
contract for the desalination facility was
awarded to Doosan Heavy Industries (Zawya
Projects, 2008).
A third system a Shuweihat (S3) has been
offered to the Japanese contractor Marubeni
(MEED, 2008).
The Storage and Transmission of
Desalinated Water
The total storage capacity available at desalina-
tion plants is one days production capacity as
per the requirements of Transcos Water
Transmission Code (version 3). The exception
to this will be at Fujairah 2 where site con-
straints will limit storage to 50MGD. Other
than this, there is some small storage capacity
at distribution sites. In total very little strategic
storage exists, i.e. some 650 MIG in addition to
the one days production at the plants.
The transmission of water involves two main
organizations. Trancsco is responsible for trans-
porting the water from the IWPPs to the two dis-
tribution companies of Al Ain and Abu Dhabi,
and contractual agreements exist at each set of
connections. The major developments in water
trunk mains in the last few years have markedly
increased the water supply to the regions. In
particular, water supply to Al Ain has increased
by 20 MIGD which was mainly achieved by the
new 185 km transmission line from Fujairah.
Most of the customers in the Emirate are now
connected to the distribution network and a
very high percentage of them receive a continu-
ous supply of water.
Transco estimate the losses in the trunk mains
to be less than 2% (Dandachi, 2008). The high
pressure of the water carried through these
pipelines ensures that leaks are soon visible
through marked water losses. In the distribu-
tion company networks, losses are likely to be
more given the age of some of the pipelines and
connections. Al Mariekhi (2008) estimates that
water losses are around 35% of the received
amount for the Abu Dhabi Distribution
Company (ADDC). Other sources, (ADWEC
and RSB personal communication) estimate
physical leakage from the system to be around
18-22%. Other unaccounted for water losses
resulted from unregistered or unmeasured con-
nections.
Currently, it is hard to define accurately the
physical losses as not all areas and connec-
tions are metered. In order to address this
problem, the distribution companies are in the
process of completing a major program of
installing automatic smart meters to all out-
lets, to ensure a more accurate accounting of
losses. This will allows the companies to detect
both how much and where leaks are occurring
and so focus repair works. This program of
meter installation is to be welcomed and
reflects similar initiatives in many countries to
reduce losses in the system. In Singapore, for
example, all meters are replaced on a 5 year
cycle to ensure accuracy in readings. This has
been found to be both cost and environmental-
ly effective.
Current Status of Desalinated
Water Production by Small Private
Enterprises
The production of desalinated water for agricul-
ture and small communities involves small
Reverse Osmosis
RO involves the diffusion of water molecules
from a dilute aqueous solution through a semi
permeable membrane into a concentrated aque-
ous solution, until equilibrium is established, by
the application of pressure to the concentrate.
Although the technology has been on the mar-
ket for seawater desalination since the 1960s,
water production costs remained high until
improvements in membrane efficiency, reduc-
tion in membrane fabrication costs and more
effective means of feed water pre-treatment
became available. Such developments have
brought RO into direct competition with ther-
mal process in existing and future installations.
Existing thermal plants can be extended by
addition of RO and such hybrid systems are now
considered to be successful alternatives to single
technology systems as exemplified by the
Fujairah I plant and the repeat use of hybrid
technology in the new Fujairah II plant. There is
a long history of RO deployment in other
Emirates (Ajman for 17 years) and Gulf States,
but the plants to date have been of small capac-
ity relative to the thermal technology based sys-
tems.
Productivity efficiency in the RO processes relies
heavily on pre-treatment RO. These plants are
based on the ability of the membranes to pass
water molecules and not salt. Membranes recov-
ery (defined as amount of fresh water produced
per feed water) ranges between 40 to 50% and
relies on the water quality being treated and fed
to the membrane. Removal of suspended solids
and biofouling molecules is achieved by efficient
pre-treatment before the RO. In conventional
systems, this is achieved by a combination of
sand filters, pH adjustment and bag house ves-
sels that provides low levels of silt and solids to
the RO membranes.
It is therefore important when developing RO
plants, that the physical and chemical charac-
teristics of marine water over time are carefully
analysed and the intake is positioned to mini-
mize the need for pre-treatment. The recent
problems of algal blooms of Ras Al Khaimah
and Fujairah have highlighted this. Whilst pro-
duction at the hybrid plant in Fujairah ceased
in December 2008, leading to estimated losses
of over $100 000 a day, the RO plant, in close
proximity, continued working uninterrupted.
Membrane life and recovery deteriorates over
time and biofouling plays a major factor in this
phenomena. In the hot temperature conditions
of Abu Dhabi this is a particular concern. There
are, however, recent innovations based on
nanofiltration processes, which would replace
conventional pre-treatment methods which
would significantly improve the recovery and
membrane life. The cost of the water under the
new pre-treatment scheme need to be re-evalu-
ated and adjusted over long period pf operation
to validate such improvements.
More large capacity plants have been commis-
sioned in the region and both Saudi Arabia and
Kuwait have invested in this challenge.
Near-Future Capacity Developments
Further increases in capacity are planned for
the coming 5 years and include the following
projects:
Taweelah B IWPP (TAPCO) will come online
in late 2008 adding 69MGD in total over a
period of time (ADWEC 2008b).
A second plant is also being constructed at
Qidfa in Fujairah, which will have a net
capacity of 132 MGD. Some of the capacity of
Fujairah 2 will meet Abu Dhabi emirates
needs but some will be exported to the North
Emirates. For the water desalination, the
plant will use a combination of MED (455,000
cubic meter of water per day) and RO
Annex 2. Desalinated Water
131 130
annex 2 1/28/10 11:34 AM Page 6
Government of Abu Dhabi launched Masdar, a
company whose core business is to investigate
and invest in alternative renewable energy
resources, primarily for power generation and
water desalination. Two possible renewable
energy resources exist in Abu Dhabi; solar sys-
tems of either the thermal or photovoltaic (PV)
types and wind power.
Solar intensity in the Gulf region can exceed 1
kw/m2 and availability throughout the year is
relatively high although of course limited
through diurnal cycles. Many researchers out-
side of Masdar have been investigating the use
of solar power in desalination (Delgado-Torres
and Garca-Rodrguez, 2007; Trieb and Mller-
Steinhagen, 2008; Bermudez-Contreras et al,
2008; Bardi, 2008; Qiblawey and Banat, 2008).
However, the current technology does not offer
at the moment the capacity or security required
in Abu Dhabi, but the results of recent moves
towards large-scale solar fields in the Emirate
as well as developments internationally (see
Box 2.1) should be followed closely.
A clear decision to evaluate and develop
nuclear energy was signaled with the publica-
tion of a policy white paper in April 2008 (UAE
Government, 2008). This strategy will bring
increased energy reliability from ~2017
onwards although stringent environmental reg-
ulation will be needed to protect the local envi-
ronment. There will however, be a gap in sup-
plies, as calculated by ADWEC (2008b) before
then and various options including increase
local gas provision and demand management
will need to be seriously considered.
The most important implication of the policy
decision to supply energy through nuclear ener-
gy is that water production by thermal tech-
nologies will be prohibitively energy inefficient.
This will mean that water and power produc-
decentralized brackish water reverse osmosis
(BWRO) plants and the size of these units
varies from around 25 000 -75 000 gallons a day.
They are powered by electricity from the
National Grid, but there is no available data on
their energy consumption as they are private
enterprises with no need to publish data on
their operations.
These plants are not subject to an environmen-
tal assessment or the regulatory control of the
RSB or EAD. From field analysis undertaken by
this reports team it was found that the dispos-
al of the brine is not controlled and often
involves dumping it in the desert with environ-
mental pollution. (There is an urgent need to
review these operations to ensure many aspects
of protection, including environmental, are in
place.
Energy Requirements for Water
Production
The energy demand for desalination plants is
high. Thermal processes are obviously ther-
mal energy (steam) intensive, while RO
plants depend on electrical energy for pump-
ing. MSF and MED require heat at 70-130C
and use 25-200 kWh/water m_. Reverse
Osmosis needs about 4-6 kWh kWh/water m_
for inland sea water (depending on its salt
content), whilst for brackish water and recla-
mation of municipal wastewater RO requires
about 1 kWh/m3 (World Nuclear Association,
2008). The relative energy costs presently
quoted for RO: MED: MSF: are 1: 1.4: 2 per
unit mass of desalinated water produced. It
would be useful to have actual figures for Abu
Dhabi in this comparison.
Current Energy supply
Currently most of the energy for co-genera-
tion plants in Abu Dhabi is derived from nat-
ural gas; either from the Emirates own gas
supply network or the Dolphin Gas Pipeline
from Qatar (see Figure 2.2). The Fujairah I
plant is supplied with natural gas from Oman,
and the completion of the Dolphin Pipeline
extension to Oman will ensure an increased
supply will be available. Since 2006, actual gas
supply shortages at current desalination
plants has lead to the use of fuel, gas and
crude oil being used to supplement supplies
at certain times.
The total energy requirements for the sector
will grow as more desalination plants are
required in Abu Dhabi to meet future water
demand. Meeting these energy needs will
require careful consideration as gas supply con-
straints from Qatar are likely to limit available
capacity unless energy can be provided from
other sources.
Future Possible Energy Sources and
their Environmental Implications
The various possibilities for future energy
sources to augment supplies from the current
sources have been discussed by many
researchers (ADWEC, 2008b). The choices
available do not make decision making an
easy task when variables such as fuel and
energy security, and environmental conditions
are taken into account. In terms of the envi-
ronment, the alternative of coal-fired power
stations would bring environmental pollution
problems; Abu Dhabi is in an area of high air
atmospheric pressure so diffusion of pollu-
tants is limited. Oil fired-power stations have
again an environmental air pollution problem
but also an opportunity cost in burning oil
that might be otherwise be sold on the export
market (ADWEC, 2008b).
Of course renewable energy offers a less damag-
ing environmental option and various studies in
other countries have been undertaken to this
end (Mathioulakis et al, 2007). The
Annex 2. Desalinated Water
133 132
Box 2.1
Siemens Energy has been awarded an order
to supply the largest ever fully solar-pow-
ered steam turbine-generator set for the
first commercial solar tower power plant
project to break ground in the U.S. The pur-
chaser is BrightSource Energy, Inc., a devel-
oper of utility-scale solar power plants. The
123-megawatt (MW) steam turbine-genera-
tor set will be operated at BrightSources
Ivanpah Solar Complex in Southern
Californias Mojave Desert.
Siemens will supply a reheat SST-900 indus-
trial steam turbine, which was specially
adapted to meet solar technology require-
ments, for BrightSources first 100-MW plant
at its Ivanpah Solar Power Complex. This
type of turbine offers very high efficiency
under varying operating conditions. With
maximum steam data similar to convention-
al fossil-fired plants, the SST-900 design also
allows for flexible operation with load swings
and frequent starting and stopping. The
units are shipped fully assembled to shorten
the installation time. The turbine will be
manufactured in Sweden, and the generator
in Germany, and both are scheduled to be
delivered to the site in early 2011. The plant
is expected to be operational and supplying
clean solar energy to more than 35,000
households in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Source: Masdar World Future Energy News
January 2009
tion in new facilities are likely to be de-coupled.
This will in turn raise arguments concerning the
relative energy efficiencies and environmental
impacts of the various desalination technologies.
Innovations in Desalination
Technologies
With the increasing use of desalination technol-
ogy for water provision throughout the world it
annex 2 1/28/10 11:34 AM Page 8
order to achieve effective FO desalination, the
draw solution used must have high osmotic pres-
sure and contain solutes that are simple and eco-
nomic to remove and reuse. In the ammoniacar-
bon dioxide FO process, the draw solution is
composed of ammonium salts formed from the
mixture of ammonia and carbon dioxide gases in
an aqueous solution. The salt species formed
include ammonium bicarbonate, and ammoni-
umcarbonate.
Capacitance Carbon Deionization
Process
Capacitance Deionization (CDI) is an elec-
trosorption process that removes inorganic ions
by charge separation. An aqueous solution of , ,
or other salts is passed between numerous pairs
of carbon aerogel electrodes. After polarization,
ions such as , are removed from the electrolyte
by the imposed electric field and held as electric
double layers at the surfaces of the electrodes.
The effluent from the cell is purified water. This
process is also capable of simultaneously
removing a variety of other impurities. After the
carbon aerogel electrodes became saturated
with salt, breakthrough is observed. Electrodes
are regenerated by electrical discharge prior to
breakthrough in process applications, which
allow the captured salt ions to be released into
a relatively small, concentrated purge stream.
The process has been developed for continu-
ously removing ionic impurities from aqueous
streams.
The high surface area and good electrical con-
ductivity of carbon aerogel makes them ideal
for such applications. Carbon aerogel CDI
appears to be an energy-efficient alternative to
evaporation, electrodialysis and reverse osmo-
sis. The process has shown potential at the lab-
oratory scale, but needs further examination on
a larger scale before it can be considered as a
realistic possibility for industrial scale seawater
desalination.
is unsurprising that there are major research
efforts to in developing technology to reduce
both the energy and capital costs of current sys-
tems. The current moves already in Abu Dhabi
to integrated MSF-MED or MED-RO systems
will increase the energy efficiency of operations.
Other refinements are in the improving process-
ing where improved feed water pre-treatment,
particularly in the case of RO systems, is increas-
ing efficiency.
In addition to technology modification, entirely
new process concepts are under consideration
for possible water desalination in future decades.
Amongst these are: humidification dehumidifi-
cation processes, forward osmosis, membrane
distillation, gas hydrate affinity and capacitance
deionization processes, but all are at early stages
of process research and can only be expected to
provide possible long term solutions.
Forward Osmosis
The forward osmosis (FO) process uses an
ammonium bicarbonate draw solution to extract
water from saline feed water across a semi-per-
meable polymeric membrane. Very large osmotic
pressures generated by the highly soluble ammo-
nium bicarbonate draw solution yield high water
fluxes and can result in very high feed water
recoveries. Upon moderate heating, ammonium
bicarbonate decomposes into ammonia and car-
bon dioxide gases that can be separated and
recycled as draw solutes, leaving the fresh prod-
uct water. Experiments with a laboratory-scale
FO unit utilizing a flat sheet cellulose tri-acetate
membrane demonstrated high product water
flux and relatively high salt rejection.
The FO process uses the natural tendency of
water to flow in the direction of higher osmotic
pressure, to draw water from the saline feed
stream into a highly concentrated draw solution,
thus effectively separating the fresh water per-
meate from the saline feed water stream. In
Environmental Impact of
Desalination
Any type of industrial production will have an
impact on the environment which can be both
positive and negative. In Abu Dhabi, this is
taken on-board in the planning process and it is
necessary for developers to undertake an
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The
problems of the developer being responsible for
such an evaluation in usually a short time are
well known (Buckley 1991; Fairweather 1989).
There is a need for strategic cumulative analysis
to be undertaken in any further developments
to ensure the load capacity of this fragile envi-
ronment is not being exceeded by desalination
and other development activities.
Co-generation processes, involving a combina-
tion of power generation and fresh water pro-
duction are used, almost exclusively, to satisfy
the electricity and fresh water requirements of
Abu Dhabi. Their operations impact both the
atmospheric and coastal marine compartments
of the environment and it is these particular
impacts that will be discussed in the present
Section.
Air Pollution
Historically air pollution control was primarily
concerned with smoke (ultra-fine particulate
matter), aerosols and odour elimination. Less
immediately obvious air pollutants, such as
invisible odourless gases were frequently disre-
garded until more recent times when sensitive
analytical techniques for a wide spectrum of
gaseous phase pollutants become available and
concerns were raised on changing acidity of
air/land/water and the radiative impact of
increased gases in the atmosphere.
The impact of greenhouse gases on the climate
has been studied and modelled in great detail
(IPCC, 2007). These gases are not restricted to
Annex 2. Desalinated Water
134 135
carbon dioxide alone, and comprise range of
gaseous chemicals that are involved in either
direct or indirect radiative forcing. They
include, in the direct category, carbon dioxide,
methane, nitrous oxide, per-fluorocarbons and
sulphur hexafluoride, which are specified in the
1997 Kyoto Protocol (the UAE ratified the
Kyoto Protocol in 2005). The indirect category
includes those gases that do not contribute
directly to radiative forcing, but as a result of
chemical reactions, increase radiative forcing in
the atmosphere. They include carbon monox-
ide, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen
oxides (NOx) and tropospheric compound (pol-
lutant) release on the ozone layer.
The thermal co-generation of electricity and
desalinated water in Abu Dhabi involves the
combustion of huge tonnages of fossil fuels, pre-
dominantly natural gas, but also in times of nat-
ural gas shortage, diesel/fuel oil. The major
combustion products of both natural gas and
fuel oil are carbon dioxide and water vapour
thus contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.
Comparisons between emissions from natural
gas and diesel/fuel oil with respect to carbon
dioxide production can be carried out on an
equivalent theoretical heat production basis. If
diesel oil is represented as n-pentadecane (n-
C15H32), unit mass, completely burnt, pro-
duces 1.132 times the mass of carbon dioxide
than does unit mass of methane on the same
basis. Also, the heat of combustion of methane
is 1.137 times that of n-C15H32, on a unit mass
basis. Hence, on an equivalent theoretical heat
production basis, n-C15H32 produces 1.29 times
more carbon dioxide than does methane.
However, if this figure is corrected for inerts in
unassociated natural gas, it reduces to ca. 1.2
times, a figure that will reduce marginally if the
carbon dioxide in the original gas is also taken
into account. Thus 20 percent greater carbon
dioxide production from diesel fuel is clearly
significant as far as total greenhouse gas emis-
sions are concerned.
annex 2 1/28/10 11:34 AM Page 10
to the Earths surface by rain, i.e., those dis-
solved and particulate substances contained in
rain, or as dry deposition, as the flux of particles
and gases, to the surface in the absence of rain.
Deposition also occurs through fog aerosols and
droplets, which are deposited on vegetation
and on the surfaces of structures, particularly
reinforced concrete surfaces, which require an
alkaline environment for the maintenance of
their longer term integrity.
Measures in place in Abu Dhabi to limit the
impact involve regulating emissions through
the licence of each PWPA. The Federal
Environment Agency (FEA), in order to com-
ply with Law No. (24) 1999 the Protection and
Development of the Environment and subse-
quent directives, have set guideline limits on
gaseous and these various standards. These
actual standards vary with each IWPP and
have become more stringent, reflecting or
exceeding the 2006 FEA guidelines, over time.
Whilst these are useful guidelines, they do not
include standards for the main greenhouse
gases, and are based on WHO limits rather
than those suited to local Abu Dhabi condi-
tions. However, the RSB require in addition
the submission of monthly reports of air qual-
ity from the various sites and this includes
values for CO2.
Coastal Marine Zone Pollution
The coastal marine zone acts as the source of
the seawater feed for desalination plants and
also as the sink for residual concentrated brine,
the by-product of seawater desalination. The
natural conditions of the Gulf waters are
remarkably variable especially in terms of tem-
perature and salinity. The minimum and maxi-
mum temperature for EAD collected data
(2002-2005) at various monitoring stations
along the Abu Dhabi coastline at the depths of
surf, 5m and 10m, showed surprisingly little
variation between the sites, or with depth.
Depending on both the origins and the quality
of the fossil fuel used, secondary combustion
products including sulphur and nitrogen oxides
are produced from impurities in the fuel. Two
major categories of natural gas exist; associated
gas produced simultaneously with crude oil
from crude oil deposits and unassociated gas
produced independently of crude oil from natu-
ral gas deposits. Associated gas is predomi-
nantly methane but is frequently sour, termi-
nology that indicates significant sulphur con-
tent, and prior to its combustion requires purifi-
cation (desulphurization), but such processes
do not produce a fuel from which sulphur has
been completely eliminated.
Associated gas frequently contains a significant
percentage of ethane, propane and n-butane,
which are also removed for either cracking in
the case of ethane or liquefied petroleum gas
(LPG) production, in the case of both propane
and n-butane. Unassociated natural gas can
often be essentially sulphur free, but often com-
prises, in addition to methane, small percent-
ages of ethane, nitrogen and carbon dioxide.
When used as a fuel, the lowering of its heat of
combustion by the nitrogen and the carbon
dioxide (inerts) must be taken into account, as
must additional carbon dioxide passing to the
stack. Generally, unassociated gas will be more
than 92 volume percent methane. When consid-
ering carbon dioxide production from unassoci-
ated natural gas combustion, the lowering of
the heat of combustion per unit mass of gas
must also be taken into consideration.
In addition to greenhouse gases, fossil fuel com-
bustion brings about the oxidation of carbon,
sulphur and nitrogen. The resulting impact is
greatest on the atmosphere and the products of
subsequent chemical and physical reactions
eventually leads to acidic compounds being
returned to the Earths surface either as wet
deposition (washout or rainout) which includes
the flux of all those components that are carried
Maximum values were around 35oC
whilst minimum was around 20oC.
Salinity showed more variation and
the values are given in Figure 2.2.
The high maximum salinity levels
have implications for future desali-
nation processing.
The environmental impacts on
marine water result from both phys-
ical and chemical changes to the
water. The main problem is the tem-
perature of the discharge effluent
which is often substantially higher
than natural ambient condition in
the seas. Cooling this water is diffi-
cult given the nature of the Abu
Dhabi climate. The second major
problem is the salinity of the dis-
charge brines which by definition is
higher than that of the marine envi-
ronment. There are also problems
associated with brines floating or
sinking and not dispersing on dis-
charge. Diffusers add to the dis-
charge pipes can help relieve this
problem In addition, the discharged brine also
contains residual bioactive additives which are
added to the seawater feed to desalination
plants in order to reduce biofouling and organ-
ism mediated corrosion. Biofouling results
from the build-up of biofilms, which seriously
affect pipe flow and pumping power require-
ments (Characklis, 1973). Unfortunately, the
fate of the eco-toxic compounds employed is as
constituents of the waste brine stream returned
to sink.
The volumetric flows of waste brine per unit
mass of desalinated water produced depend on
desalination plant operating practice and tech-
nologies use, where volumetric brine flows can
vary between 15 percent and 40 percent of the
feed seawater flow. With higher relative brine
flows, both warming effects and biocide mass
Annex 2. Desalinated Water
136 137
Figure 2.2 Maximum and Minimum Salinity Values for Coastal
Monitoring Sites 2002-2005
Source: EAD data
discharge will be higher than in the case of
lower relative brine flows.
To mange this in Abu Dhabi, water quality lim-
its to intake and discharge are set by the RSB
as part of the license agreement with each
IWPP. As with the air emissions, these stan-
dards have increased in stringency and are in
line with those limits introduced by the FEA in
2006 for the protection of the marine environ-
ment from emissions from industrial sources.
In terms of measured impact of current desali-
nation operations on the environment there has
been only limited research undertaken. Any
type of studies today are limited by access;
researchers are not allowed within 500m of the
operating systems and whilst this is under-
standable in terms of health and safety, any
annex 2 1/28/10 11:34 AM Page 12
use of the energy available to desalinate water
for economic and environmental efficiencies. Off-
peak electricity times should be used to desali-
nate water using RO at hybrid plants where pos-
sible. Over a longer period of time it is important
to consider in the planning of extra capacity, the
impact of moves towards nuclear power.
Investments in the near-future should be as flex-
ible as possible so that any changes in energy
source can be accommodated. The use of off-
peak electricity in future desalination options,
even from outside the Abu Dhabi system, should
be maximised where possible to reduce the bur-
den on current power production systems. Water
is able to be stored, electricity cannot.
Information and Knowledge
4) Integrating Data
There is little real knowledge of the current
impacts of desalination on the marine and
coastal environments in Abu Dhabi. Given the
various stresses on the seas from many aspects
of development it is important that greater
understanding is gained. There is a need to
bring together the monthly data on effluent
emissions that are produced by the IWPPS
and integrate this with the current and future
monitoring so that a more thorough under-
standing of the
Institutional Aspects
5) Brine Disposal
A government/private sector organization
should be established that is responsible for
collecting, treating as necessary and disposing
of the brine resulting from all small scale
desalination operations. It is should be suit-
ably regulated.
impacts on water quality and so habitat and
species is not being measured in these locali-
ties.
Recommendations
The upcoming energy limitations are going to
bring a strain to developing future desalination
capacity in Abu Dhabi. It is important to con-
sider in a more integrated way all the possible
sources of water, and the potential technologies
involved, to generate drinking water for future
growing populations.
Management
1) Valuing Desalinated Water
There is a clear need to increase the amount of
potable desalinated water that is required for
human consumption and use (see Annex 4). It
is therefore important that the complete cost of
potable desalinated water is calculated and
then allocation decisions made to maximise the
benefits from this. The water produced by the
IWPPs is of a high-grade and should be used for
purposes that reflect this.
2) Developing Alternative Sources
There is also a clear need to consider future
desalinated water sources and these possibili-
ties should be linked with the various sectors
they will be used in. For example desalinating
groundwater will yield water that has higher
concentrations of some chemicals such as bro-
mate that cannot be used directly by humans,
but this may be used in other water use sectors
such as irrigation or industry.
3) Energy and Desalination
In the short-term there is a need to maximise the
Annex 2. Desalinated Water
138 139
References
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Statistical Report 1998-2007. ADWEC, Abu Dhabi.
- ADWEC, 2008b. Statement of Future Capacity
Requirements 2008-2030. Report, ADWEC, Abu
Dhabi.
- Al Mareikhi, A.S. (2008) General Manager, Abu Dhabi
Distribution Company, Personal communication.
- Bardi, U., 2008, Fresh water production by means of
solar concentration: the AQUASOLIS project,
Desalination, 220, 588-591.
- Bermudez-Contreras, A., Thomson, Murray., Infield,
D.G. (2008) Renewable energy powered desalination
in Baja California Sur, Mexico Desalination, 220, 431-
440.
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impact predictions. Ambio 20, 161-162.
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tion.
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nation, Desalination, 216, 242-251.
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Global Water Intelligence publication, 2007
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Desalination, 196 (2006) 125.
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E.(2007) Desalination by using alternative energy:
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desalination technologies Desalination, Volume 220,
633-644.
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(1983).
- Stumm, W. et al., Environ. Sci. Technol., 21, 8 (1987).
- Trieb, F., Mller-Steinhagen, H. (2008) ,Concentrating
solar power for seawater desalination in the Middle
East and North Africa, Desalination, Volume 220, 165-
183.
- Waldman, J.M. et al., Science, 218, 677 (1982).
- UAE Government, 2008. Policy of the United Arab
Emirates on the Evaluation and Potential
Development of Peaceful Nuclear Energy.
- World Nuclear Assocation (2008) Nuclear
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http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf71.html
(accessed 2nd November 2008).
- Zawya Projects, (2008). ADWEA - Shuweihat 2 IWPP.
http://www.zawya.com/projects/project.cfm/pid10070
7105430/ADWEA%20-
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November, 2008).
annex 2 1/28/10 11:34 AM Page 14
Annex 3.
Wastewater
141
annex 3 1/28/10 11:36 AM Page 2
The reuse of safe, treated wastewater is an ever
increasing priority in severely water-limited
regions of the world. The wastewater treat-
ment strategy employed in Abu Dhabi is one of
global collection and treatment at central
treatment facilities with Treated Sewage
Effluent (TSE) being returned to the populat-
ed areas for irrigation purposes. This strategy
results in the comprehensive reuse of a valu-
able commodity that plays the major role in
greening the Emirates urban areas.
Treated wastewater production is dependent
on the volume of polluted water discharged to
sewers by domestic, municipal, and industrial
users. In Abu Dhabi, polluted water is a
restricted resource as a large proportion of
potable water is devoted to non-human use,
and it is therefore not available for treatment
and re-use and so is lost to the system (see
Annex 4).
Current Wastewater Treatment
Practices
The principal organization responsible and
licensed for wastewater collection and con-
veyance, treatment and disposal activities for
the entire Emirate is the Abu Dhabi Sewerage
Services Company (ADSSC). Their activities
will be augmented by the developments of the
Al Etihad Biwater Wastewater Company
(PJSC) which received its licence to operate in
June 2008.
Collection
The ADSSC currently owns and maintains
approximately 5,250km of gravity sewers, and
500km of rising mains and their asset data is
shown in the Table 3.1 below. On Abu Dhabi
Island and the mainland the collection network
is split into catchments and flows gravitate to a
series of pumping stations that convey them to
the treatment works.
ADSSC own, operate and maintain approxi-
mately 250 pumping stations. Abu Dhabi Island
and the mainland are served by one large waste-
water treatment works, Mafraq WTW
(Wastewater Treatment Works), which receives
an average daily flow of 391Ml/d, an average
daily peak flow of 603Ml/d, and has a design
capacity of 260Ml/d.
Al Ain is served by Zakher WTW and treats an
average daily flow of 105 Ml/d, a daily peak flow
of 124 Ml/d, and has a design capacity of 84Ml/d
(ADSSC, 2008, personal communication).
In the current sewage collection network, 87%
of the total pipe length are gravity sewers with
the remaining 10% and 3% sewage and treated
effluent rising mains respectively. This network
has been gradually expanded over the last 30
years so is variable in age - the average age of
gravity sewers on Abu Dhabi Island is 17 years.
Half the total length of gravity sewers on Abu
Dhabi Island (530 km) was built before 1990,
with 40% older than 20 years and 25% more than
25 years.
The majority of the pipes, approximately 80%,
are made from glass reinforced plastic (GRP).
There is a large variance in pipe condition due
to changes in technology, material quality,
workmanship and technical standards over the
last 20 or 30 years.
ADSSC estimate that there is little leakage, but
infiltration is a significant issue. Infiltrating
groundwater has high salinity and changes the
chemistry of the sewage, thus affecting the bio-
chemical processing at the treatment works
with potential effects on the final effluent quali-
ty (ADSSC/Hyder, 2008).
A major development to expand the network
will be the construction of a deep sewage tun-
nel, through the Strategic Tunnel
Enhancement Programme (STEP) program,
which will be more than 20m below the surface
in Abu Dhabi and should be completed by
2012/13. This project will enable the collection of
sewage from the entire catchment including the
surrounding island developments and its deliv-
ery to a new pumping station that will pump
flows to the Mafraq and Al Wathba WTWs. This
project will allow the decommissioning of 30
pumping stations from the current network.
One major risk to this infrastructure project is
that its hydraulic design is based on a tradition-
al sewage system receiving all wastewaters.
Should grey water collection and treatment sys-
tems be introduced into the Emirate on a large
scale, the hydraulic design will be compromised,
resulting in significant operational issues for the
sewerage network and treatment works.
The recent licensing of Al Etihad Biwater Waste
Water company (PJSC) will lead to the develop-
ment of two new large WTWs: one for the Abu
Dhabi city and metropolitan area (Al Wathba)
and the other for Al Ain (Al Saad). The capaci-
ty of these two new plants is 345 000 m
3
/day and
92 000 m
3
/day respectively
Treatment and Effluent Quality
The treatment of domestic and municipal
wastewater in centralized treatment works
has been practised in the Emirate of Abu
Annex 3. Wastewater
142 143
Introduction
Table 3.1 Asset Base and Loading of ADSSC
Source: ADSSC, personal communication
Asset Data
Area of sewerage
district
km 255 12,547 11,106 24,577 19,121 67,605
Total length of sewer km 530 1,699 2,079 106 140 4,554
Total length of sewer
> 400mm km 63 315 166 24 14 582
Total length of
pumping main
km 39 242 136 48 33 497
Total no. of pumping
stations nr 36 92 67 22 24 241
Total capacity of
pumping stations l/s 2,052 6,256 8,040 1,683 1,416 19,447
Process Loading Data
Average daily flow
handled by region Ml/d 192 200 114 15 5 524
Annual daily peak
flow handled by region Ml/d 229 375 134 16 6 760
Residential
Population by Region nr 539,142 489,100 353,097 63,794 42,255 1,487,388
Region 1
Abu Dhabi
Island MSF
Region 2
Abu Dhabi
Mainland
Region 3
Al Ain &
Remote Areas
Region 4
Western
Region 1
Region 5
Western
Region 2
Total
annex 3 1/28/10 11:36 AM Page 4
volatile carboxylic acids to the Mafraq odour
problem is minor and of negligible consequence.
Hydrogen sulphide is a major health and safety
hazard, being both anaesthetic and toxic and,
hence, must be avoided in enclosed spaces
which may be potential work areas. The root
cause of hydrogen sulphide generation at
Mafraq is most probably sea or ground water
infiltration into the sewer network. At Zakher,
similar problems might be attributed to the sul-
phate concentration in the potable water sup-
ply.
The resulting range values for effluent quality
parameters (Table 3.3) and their variation over
the year 2007 (Table 3.4) meet WHO standards
for re-use in irrigation.
Both primary and secondary sludge produced at
Mafraq works are subject to mesophilic (ca.
37C) anaerobic digestion (stabilization) in verti-
cal cylindrical digesters of conventional design.
Digested sludge dewatering is achieved with
decanter type centrifuges, followed by air drying
on open beds. Currently the by-product sludge
goes to landfill but ADSSC are developing a
biosolids strategy which will lead to the resource
being either used as pellets in soil enrichment, or
as a fuel. Between 46-85 tons of dry sludge were
produced per day during 2007 (ADSSC, 2008).
The biogas produced from the anaerobic sludge
digestion process that uses methane: carbon
dioxide mixture (ca. 2:1) is flared. This is consid-
ered to be the best option as digester heating is
not required under ambient conditions in Abu
Dhabi and methane release to atmosphere
would have much greater climate-forcing effects
than would carbon dioxide that is its combus-
tion product.
Distribution of Treated Sewage
Effuent
The monthly flows of TSE for 2007 are shown in
Table 3.5.The developments of new plants at Al
Wathba will bring increased availability rising
to 5121 436 m
3
in 2012 with Phase 1, and eventu-
ally rising to 884 800 m
3
/day in 884 800 with
Dhabi since 1973. At present ADSSC own,
operate and maintain 32 sewage treatment
works (ADSSC, 2007). Twenty-three of these
are traditional treatment plants, four package
plants, 3 Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) in Al Ain
and 2 bio-filter plants. Of the 23 traditional
plants, two very large works serve Abu Dhabi
(Mafraq) city and surrounding metropolitan
area and Al Ain (Zakher) with equivalent popu-
lations of 1,320,333 and 377,750 respectively.
The remaining 24 works serve relatively smaller
dispersed communities with equivalent popula-
tions ranging from 27 to 11,750.
The two large works, Mafraq and Zakher, treat
some 95% of the polluted wastewater produced,
including trade and some industrial aqueous
effluent streams that are released into the sewer
network. Both large plants are significantly over-
loaded compared with their design hydraulic
flows. The raw sewage in Abu Dhabi city is char-
acterised as low strength in terms of organic con-
tent while that at Al Zakher is medium strength
(Table 3.2).
Annex 3. Wastewater
Table 3.2 Catchment Flow within UAE Abu Dhabi
Emirate (Mm3/yr)
Source: ADSSC, 2007
pH - 7.4
BOD
*
196 331
COD
*
300 621
TSS
*
163 343
TDS
*
2,338 737
Conductivity 2 4,600 1,419
Alkalinity 223 285
T-Hardness 460 217
Ammonia-N 28 -
Total P 13 10.8 as PO4
Chloride 1,376 248
Parameter Mafraq Al Zakher
*mg/l; 1= Number; 2= Micro Siemens; 3 = Unit.
At present there are few heavy metals and other
toxic substances discharged into the system.
However, with increasing industrialization, as
cited in recent development plans for the
Emirate of Abu Dhabi (Urban Planning Council,
2007), this will undoubtedly result in potential
increases in possible heavy metals contamina-
tion of wastewater. Whilst technologies may be
used to remove these during treatment, the only
genuinely successful means for their elimination
remains at source, i.e., cleaner production and
prevention of their entry into wastewater.
ADSSC and the RSB are currently working on
trade effluent standards to begin to control this.
The Mafraq works is conducted on a contract
basis by WESCO. On our visit to the treatment
works the overall impression gained was of a
highly professional, effective, and efficient oper-
ation. The basic technology employed in both
phases of the present Mafraq works is conven-
tional activated sludge treatment involving pre-
liminary treatment in the form of coarse and fine
screening, conventional primary gravity sedi-
mentation, short (two hour) secondary aeration
for both carbonaceous pollutant elimination
and nitrification (conversion of ammonia to
nitrate), conventional secondary gravity sedi-
mentation, followed by filtration through gravity
sand filters and chlorination before the TSE is
discharged from the works. Incidental denitrifi-
cation (nitrate conversion to either N
2
or N
2
O)
occurs to a degree, estimated at 30%. Extensive
odour control measures in the form of evacuat-
ed covers for the primary treatment stage are
employed at the works.
Hydrogen sulphide emission is a particular
problem due to the action of sulphate reducing
bacteria on sulphate present in the untreated
wastewater under partially anoxic conditions.
This is despite probable overall oxic condition of
the wastewater upon receipt at the works.
Although analytical results were not made avail-
able, it seems probable that the contribution of
145 144
Table 3.3: Characteristics of Influent and Effluent
from Mafraq WWT
Source: ADSSC, 2007
BOD* 196 0.8
COD* 300 5
TSS* 163 2
TDS* 2,338 2,245
Conductivity 2 4,600 4,200
Turbidity 3 - 1.6
TOC - -
Alkalinity 223 48
T-Hardness 460 450
Ammonia-N 28 0.4
Nitrite - 0.1
Nitrate - 8.5
Na - 630
Ca - 23.7
Total P 13 7
Chloride 1,376 1,282
Sulphate - 7.2
Residual Cl
2
20 2.3
Coliforms 1 - 4
E-Coli 1 - 1
Parameter Influent Effluent
*mg/l; 1= Number; 2= Micro Siemens; 3 = Unit.
Table 3.4 Effluent Quality from Mafraq Wastewater
Treatment Works 2007
Source: ADSSC, 2007
TSS
mg/l 2.5 2.8 2.5 2.5 3.1 2.6 1.9 2.1 2.4 3.5 2.7 2.3
BOD
mg/l 0.7 0.6 0.8 0.7 1 0.7 0.8 0.7 0.8 1.3 0.7 0.8
NH
3
mg/l 0.7 0.4 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.9 1.9 0.3 0.3 0.1
JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOVDEC
annex 3 1/28/10 11:36 AM Page 6
The summer is a time when many residents
leave Abu Dhabi and so wastewater production
falls, yet this is when the demand from vegeta-
tion is at its highest. The resulting differences in
supply and demand will need to be addressed in
the future in terms of priority use and should be
considered in a holistic manner with all water
use and supply sources.
Planned Improvements to the
Wastewater Infrastructure
Triggered by the phenomenal growth rate expe-
rienced by Abu Dhabi Emirate in the recent
years, the infrastructure improvement (growth,
enhancement and maintenance) is an ongoing
endeavour of ADSSC. ADSCC inherited an old
and overstretched asset base from its predeces-
sor in June 2005, but has developed, and is in the
processing of implementing, a Capital
Investment Program (CIP) to successfully
'sweat' the existing system, whilst initiating and
delivering optimized investment schemes. Based
on a detailed master plan and derived from
hydraulic assessment vis--vis demand forecast,
some of the key drivers of CIP are as follows:
Continuity of Service & Maintenance of
Security Standards;
Long-term Minimum Redundancy Solutions;
Lowest Whole-life Cost;
Timely Service for Anticipated Loads; and
Minimum Disruption.
In order to utilize the available limited internal
and external resources (manpower and expert-
ise specific), ADSSC has also moved forward
from a 'project' concept to a broader 'program'
approach. This is to be commended and will
ensure a coherent approach to future develop-
ments.
Environmental impacts of
Wastewater Treatment
The collection and treatment of wastewater
is an important component of environmental
and human health management, as it reduces
the possibilities of pathogenic bacterial, viral
and protozoans of the diseases endemic in
the community. It also ensures fresh and
marine water bodies are not polluted.
There are, however, some impacts on the envi-
ronment that are less beneficial and result from
the consumption of energy, from the processing
of the wastewater, and in the disposal of the
sludge. Indirectly, wastewater irrigation can
pose several threats to the environment via
contamination by nutrients, heavy metals, and
be supplemented by a new pumping station on
the mainland delivering 35 000 m
3
/day.
Similarly in Al Ain, the TSE is transferred from
storage reservoirs through ADSSC twin trans-
mission mains (900 and 600 mm diameter) to an
intermediate storage reservoir (capacity of 12
m3). The mains and the storage reservoirs have
reached full capacity. The TSE is then pumped
to Al Ain Municipalitys primary irrigation
mains feeding up to 300 storage reservoirs
(ADSSC/Hyder, 2008).
The subsequent secondary delivery network in
both areas is made up a range of different size
pipes and the predominance of small to medi-
um size pipes has been a major restriction to
the use of TSE to date in both municipalities. It
is important that these systems are upgraded
to ensure the full potential of TSE can be
achieved. The resulting shortfalls in TSE deliv-
ery in some areas for public landscapes are cur-
rently being met through the use of desalinated
water and are estimated to be 44 000 m
3
/day on
Abu Dhabi island and adjacent islands
(ADSSC/Hyder, 2008).
Supply/demand Balance for
Treated Sewage Effluent
TSE in Abu Dhabi Emirate is solely used in
landscape irrigation and is provided free of
charge to the users. The current and future
demand figures for this sector are shown in
Table 3.6. This demand, however, is likely to
increase not only from the landscaping of new
developments (values included in Table 3.6),
but also from the proposed district cooling of
these areas. Any policy moves to use TSE in the
irrigation of agriculture land or forestry will also
add to this demand. The projected demand fig-
ures indicate a substantial shortfall in supply
relative to demand in the future. In addition
there is the complication of the annual cycle of
production being out of phase with demand.
Phase 2 in 2025 (ADSSC/Hyder, 2008). Similarly
in Al Ain the developments of Al Saad produc-
tion will increase TSE availability to 135 137
m
3
/day in 2012, to 206 204 m
3
/day in 2025
(ADSSC/Hyder consulting, 2008).
Most of the produced effluent is currently used
in urban landscaping, so is transferred through
the distribution network to the Abu Dhabi and
Al Ain municipalities. At the moment though
approximately 140 000 m
3
/day from Mafraq
WTW is discharged to the sea because of the
restricted capacity of the irrigation distribution
pipelines in the city (ADSSC/Hyder, 2008).
The distribution of TSE involves infrastructure
that are assets of two different organizations. In
Abu Dhabi, TSE is transferred under gravity
from Mafraq through the ADSSC mains net-
work to storage reservoirs at the Effluent
Distribution Centre. This is then pumped to the
primary irrigation network of the Municipalities
Department, at a maximum capacity of 115 000
m
3
/day (when all construction and refurbish-
ment is completed). This pumping capacity will
Annex 3. Wastewater
146 147
Table 3.5 Mafraq WTW and Zakher WTW Monthly
Flows of Effluent (m
3
/day) for 2007
Source: ADSSC, personal communication 2008
January 339571 90 005
February 348119 91 771
March 335451 91 419
April 346096 98 634
May 365007 102 944
June 380589 99 677
July 372251 99 582
August 370327 100 986
September 371559 103 898
October 358303 104 153
November 384602 105 903
December 371671 109 449
Parameter
Mafraq m
3
/day
(Phase 1 and 2)
Zakher
m
3
/day
Table 3.6 Current and Future Projected Demand for TSE of Llandscape Irrigation
Source: ADSSC/Hyder, 2008
Abu Dhabi island 187 000 250 000
194 000
Abu Dhabi adjacent islands 83 000
Potable water to hospitals,
palaces and mosques 54 000 84 000
Al Ain - city 113 860 118 870 125 920
Al Ain region 35 020 36 780 39 430
Parameter Current demand (m
3
/day) Demand by 2015 (m
3
/day) Demand by 2025 (m
3
/day)
annex 3 1/28/10 11:36 AM Page 8
focuses on the maintenance of public health and
environmental safety, the removal or elimina-
tion during treatment of pathogenic, toxic or
other noxious components from wastewater, is
an incidental, rather than a planned event.
Waste sewage sludge is frequently thought to
have two parts: a flocculated microbial bio-
mass, and the associated non-microbial solids
that comprise the sludge wasted from second-
ary biotreatment. Most treatment works how-
ever also include waste primary sludge and, in a
few cases, waste solids from preliminary treat-
ment. Some toxic chemicals, depending on
their physico-chemical properties, become
sorbed to particulate matter removed during
primary physical treatment, and hence, even if
biodegradable, will not be biodegraded prior to
incorporation into typical waste sewage sludge.
The majority of pathogenic agents present in
raw municipal wastewater are partitioned into
waste secondary sewage sludge and will
become a potentially problematical component.
Hence, their ultimate fate depends on the effi-
cacy of waste sewage sludge treatment and pre-
scribed means of treated sludge utilization
(most commonly as a soil conditioning agent
and fertilizer). In spite of the risks frequently
attributed to treated waste sludge utilization
for soil conditioning and land fertilization, the
widespread use of such practices has resulted in
negligible evidence that epidemics of infectious
human diseases can been traced to the carry-
over of active pathogenic agents in treated
waste sewage sludge. However, the use of
untreated settled raw sewage for irrigating
salad vegetable and soft fruit crops is a regular
and widespread source of human enteric infec-
tion. Without doubt, public perception of the
risk of infection from appropriately treated
waste sewage sludge that is recycled to land
still requires concerted educational effort based
on facts. Appropriate treatment involves both
sludge stabilization and sludge hygienization.
Disinfection involves one of two distinct mecha-
nisms: either biocidal or biostatic. The former
should result in complete pathogen inactiva-
tion, although isolated cases of recovery have
been reported. In the case of the latter mecha-
nism, removal of the active agent or physical
condition preventing proliferation results in sig-
nificant recovery of any pathogens present.
Disinfection can be achieved as a result of the
actions of noxious chemicals, or of physical
effects resulting, for example, from elevated
temperatures. In general, particulate matter
such as waste sewage sludge solids exhibit
adverse effects as far as chemical disinfectant
efficacy is concerned. Thus, treatment at ele-
vated temperature is the preferred means for
pathogen elimination. Process economics dic-
tate that maximum benefit must be derived
from the potential heat of combustion of the
biodegradable components of the waste sewage
sludge and that process heat recovery must
also be employed. The efficacy of waste sewage
sludge disinfection (hygienization) depends
both on the physiological state of pathogens
present in the sludge undergoing treatment and
the spectrum of activity of the process mediat-
ing bacteria involved.
Chemical and Hygienic Quality
The introduction of municipal wastewater treat-
ment has frequently been credited with the con-
trol of epidemics of waterborne diseases. In fact,
the primary event responsible for such control
was the transportation of faecally contaminated
waterborne waste to remote treatment or dis-
posal sites via the sewer network. Traditional
municipal wastewater treatment has erroneous-
ly been assumed to effectively deactivate patho-
genic agents present in sewage but, generally
speaking, few effects of appropriate intensity to
cause deactivation have been identified, apart
from the biovoric activity of certain protozoans.
However, what does occur during conventional
municipal wastewater treatment is the partition-
salts. However, the risks can be noticeably
reduced by appropriately matching effluent
characteristics with land and plant produc-
tion systems (Snow et al. 1999).
Odour and Toxic Gas Control
Municipal wastewater treatment has tradi-
tionally been associated with the production
of unacceptable smells, from various sources,
during the treatment process. The produc-
tion of odours and toxic gases from municipal
wastewater results from a number of causes,
including the sulphate concentration in the
wastewater and sewer residence time.
Generally odour and toxic gas release occurs
at the head-works, during primary sedimenta-
tion and during surface aeration. Higher
ambient temperatures result in greater odour
and toxic gas production and release. The
Mafraq works has a major hydrogen sulphide
problem, which is currently controlled by sed-
imentation tank covers and exhaust gas
chemical scrubbing. Whilst these effects tend
to be localized, they can be unpleasant for
those in the immediate vicinity.
By-product Sludge Disposal
The solid products of wastewater treatment,
the sludge, need to be handled with great care
to avoid any impacts on human or environ-
mental health. The prevalence of pathogens
is considerable, especially food-borne
pathogens that predominate. Most of the
sludge in Abu Dhabi is used for composting,
although a small percentage does goes to
landfill. There will inevitably be impacts on
the soil and groundwater systems associated
with any leaching of the material. The pro-
posed move to develop facilities to process
the sludge into pellets for fertilizer is impor-
tant. Output from all the various plants
should be included to reduce any pollution of
groundwater resources.
Energy Consumption
Wastewater collection, treatment and distribu-
tion involve various activities that require ener-
gy and therefore have a carbon footprint. This
has become the subject of various investiga-
tions in the world with results varying with
treatment processing and distribution systems.
In Abu Dhabi, the consumption of electricity in
the wastewater processing in 2007 amounted to
approximately 95 000 MWh/yr, with Mafraq con-
suming 59 500 MWh/yr and 27 300 MWh/yr
(ADFSSC, personal communication 2009).
Taking the estimated carbon emission of 380 g
equivalent per KWh this gives a carbon foot-
print of 36 100 tonnes/year.
Background and Implications for
Human Health of Wastewater
Reuse
There is understandably a concern with the use
of TSE in any areas that involves contact with
human beings. This section will review the
background and implications for human health
of wastewater reuse.
By-product Sludge Treatment
Municipal wastewater mirrors both the activi-
ties undertaken in, and the general health of the
municipal drainage area responsible for, its pro-
duction. Noxious components include patho-
genic agents ranging from viruses, to a variety
of micro- and macro-organisms derived from
both human and animal faecal matter. These
include pathogenic bacteria, protozoa and
flukes, and eggs of intestinal worms. Should ani-
mal slaughterhouses (abattoirs), meat process-
ing and/or animal waste rendering plants be dis-
charging wastewater to a sewer in any particular
drainage area, the additional, but miniscule, risk
of prior release from specified waste materials
must also be assessed. Although it is frequently
claimed that municipal wastewater treatment
Annex 3. Wastewater
149 148
annex 3 1/28/10 11:36 AM Page 10
digestion; a technology that is no longer con-
sidered satisfactory as far as complete patho-
genic agent elimination is concerned,
although effective overall sludge stabilization,
in terms of mineralization and obnoxious
odour elimination, is frequently achieved. The
environmental conditions pertaining to
mesospheric anaerobic digestion processes
are hostile as far as pathogenic agent survival
is concerned, but complete pathogen deacti-
vation and/or elimination cannot be guaran-
teed, as no single deactivation mechanism
either dominates or has even been optimized.
As far as digestion processes are concerned,
elevated temperatures promote deactivation
of the pathogenic agents present. Hence,
thermophilic anaerobic digestion would seem
an appropriate alternative to mesospheric
anaerobic digestion, provided that appropri-
ate thermophilic process mediating cultures
are available. This is the critical question.
Thermophilic anaerobic digestion processes
are generally incorrectly designated as they
function only in the thermo-tolerant tempera-
ture range (at 55C). In order to achieve gen-
uine thermophilic process operating tempera-
tures (in excess of 60C), it is necessary to
resort to aerobic thermophilic digestion. This
would allow energy economics to be attained
with a combination of auto-thermal heating
and effective process heat recovery for hygi-
enization, but not complete stabilization. The
irreversible damage (deactivation) of patho-
genic bacteria by heat results from site specif-
ic damage of the types summarized by
Heitzer, (1990).
The combination of both effective stabiliza-
tion and effective hygienization in a single
combined waste sewage sludge biotreatment
process do not seem, on the basis of currently
available knowledge, economically feasible.
The solution of the problem will be a combi-
nation of process technologies, by the intro-
duction of a thermophilic aerobic pre- or
post-hygienization step functioning in con-
junction with a conventional mesospheric
anaerobic stabilization step. In consideration
of either pre- or post-hygienization, two fun-
damentally different process approaches have
been considered and evaluated. The first of
these technologies was pasteurization, an
entirely physical process technology. As a
pre-stabilization step, pasteurization proved
to be entirely satisfactory from the technical
viewpoint, but as a post-stabilization step,
failed to achieve complete sludge hygieniza-
tion. Even as a pre-stabilization step, process
economics proved to be questionable. The
employment of thermophilic aerobic sludge
hygienization as a pre-stabilization step to
mesospheric anaerobic digestion produces
entirely satisfactory treated sludge hygieniza-
tion/stabilization, with no carry-over of poten-
tially pathogenic organisms occurring. A
report to this effect was published by Hamer
and Zwiefelhofer (1986) more than 20 years
ago, where specific process operating condi-
tions were emphasized.
Wastewater Reuse Standards
TSE is being used increasingly in many differ-
ent sectors, particularly agriculture in many
countries today. It has been reported that the
fertilizer value of the natural nutrients in
wastewater is worth about US$ 3.0 /m
3
, which
can save the farmer about US$ 130.0 ha/yr in
fertilizer costs if he irrigates the land with
treated wastewater. Thus, for farmers in the
GCC States, the fertilizer value alone of
wastewater can be an attractive incentive.
In order to give insight to the implications of
wastewater reuse in various sectors, the
World Bank and the World Health
Organization sponsored studies by several
independent groups of public health experts
and environmental engineers in many parts of
ing of pathogenic agents into sewage sludge,
rather than into the clarified effluent dis-
charged to tertiary treatment.
In a relatively recent review, Dumontet et al.
(2001) have discussed the pathogenic organ-
isms present in both sewage and sewage
sludge, with particular emphasis on stabiliz-
ing and hygienizing sludge for use in agricul-
ture as a soil conditioning product. What is
most important in this context is that, in all
countries, including those that claim superior
hygienic standards, the prevalence of
pathogens in sewage is considerable and that
it is usually food-borne pathogens that pre-
dominate. In Table 3.7 pathogens that have
been isolated from sewage sludge are listed.
No such table can be fully comprehensive,
and additions will always be necessary, par-
ticularly as far as newly emerging pathogens
are identified. Two such examples worthy of
mention are Legionella pneumophila, an
opportunistic, thermo-tolerant, pathogenic
bacterium that exhibits widespread environ-
mental persistence and Cryptosporidium par-
tum, a protozoan parasite of man and other
animals, both of which have been found in
sewage and in sewage sludge.
The long-term survival of bacteria depends on
their ability to establish protection against
the various debilitating and lethal stresses to
which they are either purposely or incidental-
ly exposed. It is essentially impossible to
demonstrate bacterial cell death unless com-
plete cell lysis, a phenomenon that has been
very largely ignored in the study of bacteria,
occurs. Where bacterial cell death is a process
objective, as in waste sewage sludge treat-
ment, it is essential to ensure repeated cycles
of the death/lysis/cryptic growth sequence.
Conventional waste sewage sludge biotreat-
ment processes involve mesophilic anaerobic
Annex 3. Wastewater
151 150
Table 3.7: Pathogens from Sewage Sludge [Partial list of pathogens that have been isolated
from sewage sludge]
Source: Dumontet et al. 2001
Enteroviruses, including polio virus, coxackievirus A and B, echovirus, adenovirus, parovirus,
reovirus, hepatitis A, B and C viruses, rotavirus, astrovirus, calcicivirus, coronavirus,
Northwalk agent and other small round viruses, and adeno-associated viruses, Polyomaviruses,
including JC and BK
Aeromonas spp., Arcobacter spp., Bacillus anthracis, Brucella spp., Campylobacter coli,
Campylobacter fetus, Campylobacter jejuni, Clostridium botulinum, Clostridium perfringens,
Escherichia coli 0111: NM, 0157:H7 and 0184:H21, Leptospira spp., Lysteria monocytogenes,
Mycobacterium spp., Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella spp., Shigella spp., Staphylococcus
(coagulase positive) strains, Streptococcus (beta-hemolyticus) strains, Vibrio cholerae, Vibrio
parahaemolyticus, Vibrio vulnificans, and Yersinia enterocolitica
Citrobacter spp., Enterobacter spp., E. coli, Klebsiella spp., Proteus spp., Providencia spp., and
Serratia spp.
Candida albicans, Candida guillermondi, Candida krusi, Candida tropicalis, Cryptococcus neo-
formans and Trichosporon spp.
Aspergillus spp., Geotricum candidum, Epidermophyton spp., Phialophora richardsii,
Trycophitum spp.
Cyclospora cayetanensis, Cryptosporidium parvum, Encephalitozoon intestinalis, Entamoeba
histolytica, Giardia lamblia, Sarcocystis spp., Toxoplasma gondii and Vittaforma corneae
Diphyllobothrium latum, Echinococcus granulosis, Hymenolepsis naa, Taenia saginata and
Taenia solium
Ancyclostoma duodenale, Ascaris lumbricoides, Necator americanus, Toxocara canis, Toxocara
catii, Trichiurus trichiura
Viruses
Bacteria
Opportunistic pathogens
Yeasts
Fungi
Protozoa
Cestodes (tape worms)
Nematodes
annex 3 1/28/10 11:36 AM Page 12
For most of the time since their original intro-
duction, municipal activated sludge waste-
water biotreatment processes have been speci-
fied, designed, constructed and operated by
the civil engineering industry, functioning with-
in the confines of locally controlled public sec-
tor agencies. The materials of construction, pri-
marily concrete, the minimization of mechani-
cal devices and process instrumentation and
control, the extended processing times pre-
ferred and the inordinately long process plant
life-times sought, were all symptomatic of tra-
ditional public sector policy, but incompatible
with mainline process engineering strategy, as
exemplified by oil refining and petrochemicals
manufacturing.
In most respects, activated sludge wastewater
biotreatment processes have been seen by the
general public, municipal authorities, and
many industries as a convenient means for han-
dling any waste that could either be suspended
or dissolved in water. In fact, the invention of
the water closet in the first half of the 19th cen-
tury could be seen as a retrograde step in this
context. This is particularlytrue with respect to
the large volume of frequently potable quality
water that is used as the means for the con-
veyance of small volumes of sanitary waste
from individual premises as an apparently, but
not necessarily, least cost option. Such an
approach also discouraged any policy for waste
segregation. Any review of actual and possible
innovations for enhanced wastewater biotreat-
ment must be based on process efficacy and
cost, and must incorporate both advances in
our knowledge of microbiology and in our
knowledge of unit processes and their integra-
tion into economically viable treatment sys-
tems.
As far as wastewater treatment is concerned,
biodegradable pollutants are most effectively,
rapidly and economically removed by the con-
certed actions of mixed populations microbes
functioning under aerobic conditions.
Alternative technologies employing microbes
functioning under anoxic or anaerobic condi-
tions are, in general, less effective for rapid and
near complete removal of biodegradable pollu-
tants. Chemical oxidation processes for
biodegradable pollutant elimination are gener-
ally much more expensive per unit mass of pol-
lutant removed.
In spite of both process size and process impor-
tance, remarkably few biological studies have
been conducted with a view to optimizing acti-
vated sludge biotreatment processes. It is
increasingly evident that the full potential of
the natural microbial resource is neither under-
stood nor adequately exploited. Particular rele-
vant examples of this lack of exploitation are:
A failure to characterize mixed microbial cul-
tures and consortia and their interactions
when degrading mixtures of organic and
inorganic pollutants;
An absence of knowledge about the effects of
low pollutant concentrations and when sev-
eral compounds satisfying the same physio-
logical requirement are present;
A lack of understanding of the principals
concerning biomass yield coefficient variabil-
ity. However, ADSSC is currently in the
process of developing a sludge strategy that
will provide direction on the treatment and
use of sewage sludge, employing the most
appropriate technologies for the conditions
within the Abu Dhabi Emirate;
Inadequate attention to the enhancement
and exploitation of co-metabolism, and link-
ing, were appropriate, nitrification and deni-
trification; and.
Understanding the biodegradation of partic-
ulate and colloidal matter.
the world to re-evaluate the scientific basis for
wastewater irrigation guidelines and standards.
They carried out an extensive scientific evalua-
tion of the epidemiological evidence of health
effects associated with wastewater irrigation
and developed a new and scientifically sound
approach for establishing revised health criteria
for wastewater irrigation.
The Engelberg report summarized these find-
ings and presented a radical departure from pre-
vious policy in the area of wastewater reuse
guidelines and standards. On the one hand, it
introduced a strict new approach and numerical
standard for the removal of helminth eggs from
wastewater effluent for agriculture reuse, based
on firm epidemiological evidence that helminth
diseases caused by worms such as ascaris,
trichuris and hookworm, were the number one
health problem associated with wastewater irri-
gation in the developing countries.
Based on the new epidemiological evidence, and
their analysis, they called for a major liberaliza-
tion of the earlier severe zero risk California
bacterial guidelines which had evolved unwit-
tingly into the worlds most widely accepted
standard, even though its was illogical, irrational
and unfeasible from its inception. The WHO
carefully coordinated its efforts in developing
international wastewater reuse guidelines with
all the other United Nations agencies including
the FAO, UNEP, UNDP and the World Bank.
They also sent out the draft proposals for the
new guidelines for review and comments to over
100 health scientists and engineers and to
Ministries of Health throughout the World.
In November 1987, the WHO convened a
Scientific Group on Health Guidelines for the
Use of Wastewater in Agriculture and
Aquaculture. The group carefully reviewed all
the previous studies, new epidemiological evi-
dence, and comments received from many
experts, and decided to adopt the Engelberg
approach is microbial guidelines for wastewater
irrigation. The new microbial, health guidelines
for unrestricted irrigation of all crops now rec-
ommended by the WHO are 1) no helminth eggs
per litre of effluent and, 2) a mean of 1,000 faecal
coliforms per 100 ml of effluent. These guidelines
have been formally approved and adopted by
many developed and developing countries all
over the world (WHO, 2006).
In 1992 the United States Environmental
Protection Agency together with the United
States Agency for International Development
proposed the following as guidelines for the
effluent for irrigation of crops eaten raw: 1)
BOD, 10 mg/l, 2) Turbidity, 2 NTU, 3) Microbes,
no detectable faecal coli/100 ml, and 4)Chlorine
residual, 1 mg/1 CI
2
(after 30 minutes). From the
increasing amount of data becoming available
from Mafraq WTW, one could conclude that the
quality of treated wastewater is very high in
terms of all parameters, especially Coliforms
and E. coli.
Innovations in Wastewater
Treatment Technology
In many respects wastewater treatment has
become stuck in a technological time-warp. The
activated sludge process, originally developed
by Ardern and Lockett (Stypka, 1998), has suc-
cessfully served the multiple elimination
requirements of wastewater treatment for
decades, but after some 90 years of large-scale
operation throughout the world, activated
sludge wastewater biotreatment process tech-
nology is in need of a radical re-evaluation. In
spite of the fact that wastewater treatment rep-
resents the processes with the largest volumet-
ric throughput of any process, the overall tech-
nology employed has never been subjected to
either process engineering optimization or strict
economic process evaluation as might have
been expected by the first decade of the 21
st
century.
Annex 3. Wastewater
153 152
annex 3 1/28/10 11:36 AM Page 14
and structure still remains a problem.
(Nicolella et al., 2000). The latter offer highly
controlled performance characteristics
because of the possibilities for biofilm
exchange from either side and because of con-
trolled liquid flow velocity that allows biofilm
thickness and structure control. Membrane-
aerated biofilm reactors have, very recently,
been appraised for municipal wastewater
biotreatment (Syron and Casey, 2008). A few
years ago a conceptual wastewater treatment
system employing membrane-based separa-
tion and bio-oxidation technology throughout
was discussed (Hamer and Casey, 2002).
In the case of conventional activated sludge
modelling, the sensible limit is close to being
reached (Gujer, 2006), as moves from macro-
scopic to microscopic biomass processes
occur. Structured biomass models seem
unlikely to offer clues with respect to the
enhanced elimination and/or the fate of
emerging pollutants. This is particularly true
of endocrine disrupting compounds of indus-
trial and consumer product origin and both
natural and synthetic estrogens and
progestogens (ovulation-inhibiting hor-
mones); many of which are potentially subject
to biotransformation to more active com-
pounds during conventional biotreatment
(Aemi et al., 2004). It is to remove emerging
pollutants and their incidental by-products
that biofilm treatment systems should be
evaluated. However, a word of caution is nec-
essary when considering pollutants
untouched by the process; particularly the
proposed ultimate fate or reuse of the treated
wastewater, which may or may not create
risk.
Recommendations
From the analysis undertaken for this report,
the following recommendations are made in
the area of wastewater treatment and use.
Management
1) Increasing the Supply of Treatment
Sewage Effluent
There is a great potential to use TSE for var-
ious water use sectors in Abu Dhabi that
would reduce the pressure on desalinated or
groundwater. However to maximise the sup-
ply of available TSE to users, it is important
that the distribution network transferring
the water to the irrigation points is updated
and expanded. There is also a need to ensure
that this water is used efficiently, thus irriga-
tion systems and their management should
be reviewed to limit any wastage of this
resource.
2) Optimizing Wastewater Residuals Use
There are an increasing number of possibili-
ties for using TSE that need to be considered
in larger picture of the water budget/demand
model for the Emirate. Given the predicted
supply/demand deficit, there is a need to
optimize the allocation of this resource,
especially where it can be used in the place
of desalinated water. The recent passing Law
No (12) of 2008 which allows ADSSC to sell
treated wastewater effluent to any body or
company will ensure economic considera-
tions will now be possible. There is also an
ever increasing research and environmental
standards information base that may be
used to support such deliberations, for
example, WHO 2006. The recent consultation
paper by the RSB on wastewater residuals
reuse is an important start to rationalize and
optimize use (RSB, 2008a). There are also
increasing possibilities of using the sewage
sludge, not only as a source of fertilization,
but also as a fuel that should be further inves-
tigated.
3) Impacts of Increasing Industrialization
The proposed industrial developments in the
emirate are likely to increase the heavy metal
While process operation at elevated tempera-
ture has been proposed, the local thermal cli-
mate tends to dominate. At Mafraq for exam-
ple, the short and effective residence times
employed are most probably a result of ele-
vated temperature operation.
From a process engineering point of view, the
sequence of steps involved in future biotreat-
ment process designs is unlikely to change.
However, the mechanisms employed and indi-
vidual design criteria used can be expected to
change. After preliminary treatment physical
suspended solids concentration are removed
(primary treatment), followed by a linked bio-
oxidation and physical biomass concentra-
tion (secondary treatment), before finally
subjecting the clarified effluent to physico-
chemical tertiary treatment. Traditional tech-
nology still advocates gravity sedimentation
for primary treatment, and shallow tank/sur-
face aeration and gravity sedimentation for
secondary treatment.
Gravity sedimentation is a low rate and rela-
tively incomplete process, particularly when
used to separate suspended solids under con-
ditions where corresponding fluid-solid densi-
ty differences are small. Accordingly, such
processes require extended residence times,
frequently some 10 hours. Biological activity
during such extended sedimentation process-
es results in oxygen depletion and the estab-
lishment of anoxic conditions, which under
the ambient temperature pertaining in Abu
Dhabi encourage sulphate-reducing bacterial
action and resultant hydrogen sulphide pro-
duction with associated major odour and tox-
icity problems. Alternative unit processes
exist. These include dissolved and dispersed
air flotation, centrifugation and membrane
processes such as cross flow micro-filtration.
All of these processes operate with short resi-
dence times and can be easily enclosed.
Secondary treatment accounts for a major
fraction of the process operating costs and
can be regarded to be the most important
operation in activated sludge type waste-
water biotreatment. The aeration systems
employed must not only provide dissolved
oxygen at the rate required, but must also
provide sufficient turbulence to keep the
sewage sludge biomass distributed through-
out the aeration tank. Conventional activated
sludge systems generally employ surface aer-
ators, which dictate relatively shallow aera-
tion tanks. The objective of any aerator
design is high efficiency, in terms of oxygen
transferred per unit power input, and high
conversion in terms of the fraction of the oxy-
gen microbes for growth and oxidation. In
both respects, the performance of surface aer-
ators is relatively poor. However, such objec-
tives can be much better achieved by the
employment of volume aerators (two-phase
nozzle injectors) operating in high tank, tall
column or deep shaft bioreactors of the types
developed in Germany and the UK in the
1980s (Zlokamik, 1983). Furthermore, the very
large volumes of dinitrogen dissolved in the
treated effluent encourage the use of dis-
solved gas flotation to avoid secondary sedi-
mentation (Zlokamik, 1982). It must also be
pointed out that long residence time second-
ary sedimentation is very largely responsible
for residual carbonaceous, frequently humic,
compounds in treated effluent. The reason for
this being that lumped parameter pollutant
measurements such as BOD, COD, DOC, etc.
are not compound specific.
Bioreactor design for municipal wastewater
treatment may also use modern biofilm reac-
tors. Two distinct types offer real potential:
particle-based biofilm reactors, and mem-
brane-aerated biofilm reactors. Of the former,
two types, biofilm airlift suspension reactors
and biofilm fluidized bed reactors, have been
developed and offer compact high rate sys-
tems. However, control of biofilm thickness
Annex 3. Wastewater
155 154
annex 3 1/28/10 11:36 AM Page 16
contamination of wastewater. This will bring
increasing challenges to the wastewater
industry. The recent consultation of the RSB
on trade effluent control is welcomed (RSB,
2008b) and any resulting regulatory standards
which ensure the main treatment is at the
industrial source rather than in the waste-
water processing plants should be supported.
Information and Knowledge
4) Inclusion of Wastewater Data in Abu
Dhabi Water Resource Database System
In the development of this report information
and data were very forthcoming from ADSSC
and this openness is to be commended. It will
be useful for the various inflow and outflow
figures for the wastewater system to be
included in the Abu Dhabi Water Resource
Database System in the future where possible.
Institutional Aspects
5) Representation on Abu Dhabi Water
Council
There is much discussion on the potential
contribution of TSE in future Abu Dhabi
water budgets. At the moment this is limited
as a result of the small amount going into the
emirates sewage system relative to the
desalination output. This volume will be fur-
ther reduced if potable water conservation
policies are effective and/or grey water usage
is developed. It is therefore important that
the possibilities and limitations of TSE are
accurately represented in any strategic dis-
cussion on future water policy and manage-
ment. It is therefore recommended that the
Director of ADSSC is a member of the Abu
Dhabi Water Council.
Annex 3. Wastewater
157 156
References
- ADSSC, Abu Dhabi Sewage Services Co. (2007).
Master plan for sewerage network in Abu Dhabi and
Al Ain. Final, November 2007, UAE.
- ADSSC, 5-Year Planning Statement (2008), June
2008. UAE
- ADSSC, 2008.
- ADSSC/Hyder (2008) Assessment and ownership of
green water infrastructure in Abu Dhabi Emirate.
Volume 1 of 2. September 2008.
- Aemi, H.-R., et al., Combined Biological and
Chemical Assessment of Estrogenic Activities in
Wastewater Treatment Plant Effluents. Anal.
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Annex 3. Wastewater
158
annex 3 1/28/10 11:36 AM Page 20
Annex 4.
Potable Water Demand
159
annex 4 1/28/10 11:37 AM Page 2
One of the most important challenges for the
Emirate is the need to provide increasing
amounts of potable water supplies and at the
same time to reduce the per capita consumption
of freshwater which has reached very high levels -
596.1 litres per person per day in 2002 (quoted in
ESCWA 2005 and World Bank 2005). Potable
water, taken to be water of a quality suitable for
drinking, is required in various domestic and eco-
nomic sectors in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi Water
and Electricity Authority (ADWEA) are required
under Article 30 of Law Number 2 of 1998 to
ensure that at all times, all reasonable demand
for water and electricity in the Emirate are satis-
fied. The reasonable demand for water is likely
to increase markedly in both the domestic and
commercial sectors as outlined in Plan 2030
(Urban Planning Council, 2007), as well as from
industry (as indicated in the Master Plans for
Khalifa Port Industrial and Zonescorp) in the
next two decades. However, water demand fore-
casts need to not only include the predicted net
consumption of users, but also physical and
administrative losses from the system (generally
referred to as unaccounted-for water) as well as
an added reserve margin to ensure enough
potable water supply capacity is in place to satis-
fy needs.
The role of demand planning is to provide a
framework within which all the various compo-
nents, factors and information, can be effectively
brought together to allow appropriate decisions
to be taken on future water management, supply
capacity needs, and investment. Given these dif-
ferent needs, often average and peak demand
predictions are made for the same period.
Forecasting can be particularly difficult in rapid-
ly urbanizing environments where past patterns
of water usage are less likely to be reflected in
future rates (Bradley, 2004). Future potable
water demand is derived from information from a
number of different social, economic, political
and natural environmental variables (Davis, 2003;
Butler and Memon, 2005; Gato et al, 2007; Billing
and Jones, 2008) including the following:
resident and seasonal population numbers,
density and distribution;
number, market value and types of housing
units;
per capita income;
water and waste water prices and rate struc-
tures;
commercial and industrial activity and mix;
urban water use efficiency from implementa-
tion of Best Management Practices (BMPs);
irrigated acreage in residential, commercial
and public use; and
climate and climate change conditions.
Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Company
(ADWEC) is responsible for this task in Abu
Dhabi Emirate and their current planning hori-
zon is to 2030, as indicated in the Plan 2030
(Urban Planning Council, 2007) development
blueprint for city and surrounding environs. With
the proposed and ongoing rapid changes, this is
obviously a challenge (Al Katheeri, 2008). The
certainty of the demand forecasting is dependent
on the accuracy and precision of the sources of
information used. ADWEC use details from many
official and independent sources to build a pic-
ture of the future economic, social and physical
structure of the Emirate (Miller, 2008).
In deriving values for future demands, many dif-
ferent methodologies have been developed using
various statistical approaches for accounting for
uncertainty and risk. These include both deter-
ministic and probabilistic methods, and recently
both multi-criteria analysis and artificial neural
networks have been used (Billings and Agthe,
1998; Bradley, 2004; Ghiassis et al., 2008). Since
2006, ADWEC have adopted a probabilistic
approach in which uncertainties around various
variables are represented by probability distribu-
tion curves (ADWEC, 2008). This annex will
review the current demand forecasts for Abu
Dhabi.
Current Potable Water
Consumption
The starting basis for considering current potable
quality water demand is the population, and fig-
ures from the 2005 census give a total of 1 292 119
(~20% are Emirati nationals) with the largest
proportion living in Abu Dubai (757 423 people),
and fewer in Al Ain (422 340 people) and the
Western Region (112 365) (United Arab Emirates
Ministry of Economy 2006; Miller 2008). The 2006
peak per capita per day consumption is taken by
ADWEC to be 86 gallons (Miller 2008) giving an
annual total of 31 390 gallons consumed per capi-
ta per year.
Whilst these values are based on a per capita
measurement, it is also useful to consider con-
sumption by housing units as these numbers are
more readily accessible and the patterns show
usage around as well as within the unit. The
results of two surveys are shown in Table 4.1 and
give a breakdown in consumption patterns
across different housing units and residency sta-
tus.
There are some marked differences within the
general population, particularly between differ-
ent types of house units. The low figures of flats
relative to villas and shabiyats are likely to arise
from the watering of gardens rather than the
actual consumption or patterns of use by the
occupants. The differences between Al Ain and
Abu Dhabi are almost certainly explained by dif-
ferences in plot size, and therefore watering of
gardens of the villas. The differences between
expatriates and nationals may be both social and
economic. More people living within a unit and
zero-rated water tariffs for the nationals group
are like to be contributing factors to the larger
consumption rates found. If the total usage both
inside and around the house is summed, the pre-
dicted consumption of the domestic sector is
about a third of the total water produced (see
Figure 4.1).
Whilst understanding trends and patterns in
domestic usage is important, it is also important
to consider the many other sectoral users of
potable water. Figure 4.1 below shows the break-
down in predicted peak consumption for 2007 for
the user groups - these values should be reduced
by 15% to give average values (Miller 2007).
Industry currently accounts for a relatively small
percentage of consumption, and it is activities
associated with irrigation that consume the
majority share. There are efforts to meet some of
this demand with treated sewage effluent, but
currently potable water is used in many areas of
irrigation.
In addition to the water demand within the
Emirate, Abu Dhabi exports water to the
Northern Emirates. This demand has risen from
7.03 MGD for peak water supply in 2006 to 11.95
MGD in 2007 (ADWEC, 2008). The indicative
peak supply of water is expected to increase to
20MGD in 2008/2009 to 30MGD form 2010
onwards. Given the geography and distances
Annex 4. Potable Water Demand
160 161
Introduction
Table 4.1 Water Consumption in 2005/2007 by Housing
Unit Type
Source: RSB 2005 and 2008
Al Ain
Flats No data No data n/a
Villas 1,440 91 n/a
Shabiyat
(administrative regions) 436 n/a n/a
Commercial n/a n/a no data
Abu Dhabi
Flats 75 59 n/a
Villas 372 253 n/a
Shabiyat
(administrative regions) 717 n/a n/a
Commercial n/a 50 50
UAE
nationals
(2005)
Expatriates
(2007)
Commercial
(2007)
All figures are water units (thousand gallons) as annual average
consumption per housing unit n/a = not applicable
annex 4 1/28/10 11:37 AM Page 4
000 residents, 1.8 million tourists and around 180
000 residential units, rising to 3.1 million, 7.9 mil-
lion and 686 000 respectively
The resulting changes in population, landscape
and economic activities of the Emirate will have
many consequences for water provision in the
future. ADWEC have the task of bringing togeth-
er the various forecasts and plans for housing
units, commercial and industrial activities, and
associated estimates of changing population size
and structure to derive forecasts for future water
demand. The mega-project and industrial zone
developers have provided estimates of water
(and electricity) usage for the period to 2030.
In the resulting ADWEC peak water demand sta-
tistics (Miller 2008), three average annual per-
centage rate increases of 3.8, 3.4 and 3.0% are
used which are described as high forecast, base (a
most likely) forecast, and a low forecast. Within
these average values, regional differences with
Abu Dhabi are expected to experience lower
rates of annual growth than Al Ain or the Western
Regions. Using the most likely ADWEC forecast,
shown on Figure 4.2, it is suggested that there will
be an increase in demand from the supply rate of
560 MGD in 2007 to 1215 MGD in 2030 with an
additional 12 MGD and 30MGD respectively,
when exports to the Northern Emirates are
included. For the high annual growth rate of 4%,
predicted demand would rise to 1329 MGD plus
30 more for the exports. The variables that might
account for the differences in growth rate are not
specified explicitly, so it is difficult to examine the
likelihood of the various scenarios (Miller 2008)
In view of the need to manage demand in the
coming years, it is useful to examine the forecasts
for the different sectors to identify where the
greatest potential for savings is. The water peak
based demand forecasts have been broken down
in Miller (2008) for each sector to 2030. The
largest growths are in the domestic and mega
projects where increases in new housing stock
will support a rapid expansion of the population.
Agriculture and industry values are relatively
greater than current values, whilst forestry,
shabyiats and urban landscaping remain relative-
ly unchanged after increases in 2009/2010. There
is no explanation for the assumptions behind
these values, but an educated guess would sug-
gest that the increased availability of Treated
Sewage Effluent might account for some of this
trends.
The Uncertainties in Demand
Forecasting
Given both the long term horizons adopted in the
forecasting, and the rapid changes planned for
Abu Dhabi in the short term, there are likely to be
many uncertainties inherent in the forecast fig-
ures that are difficult to quantify. A number of
these uncertainties may be identified:
1) Given the relative importance of the industrial
and mega-projects on future water demands
involved, these supplies can only currently be met
from the Fujairah 1 plant and the future Fujairah
2 power and water plants. (See Annex 2).
Physical and Administrative losses
In any demand calculation, it is important to
include both physical and administrative losses
in the predictions of future demand figures.
Physical losses are found in various parts of the
water transmission network. In Abu Dhabi, there
are essentially two main areas to consider:
the transmission mains that takes the water
from the power and water production plants
(owned and managed by Transco); and
the distribution network (owned and managed
by Abu Dhabi Distribution Company or AL Ain
Distribution Company)
The figures available for losses from the various
parts of the network vary. The estimated losses
in the trunk mains are calculated to be less than
2% (Dandachi, 2008). The high pressure of the
water carried through these pipelines ensures
that leaks are soon identifiable through marked
water losses. There are metering and data
exchanged code agreements with every connec-
tion to different parts of the network from the
production plants to Transco, and from Transco
to each network interchange with the
Distribution Companies. With this level of meas-
urement, it is possible to estimate, with reason-
able accuracy, the physical losses in the network.
Within the distribution networks the estimates
given are those for physical leakage between esti-
mate physical leakage from the system to be
around 18-22% (ADWEC and RSB personal com-
munication). With the installation of smart auto-
matic metering for both domestic and bulk water
users, then it will be possible in the near future to
gain a more localized and accurate measure of
physical losses. It will also be possible to detect
areas of high losses and undertake maintenance
work to limit this in the system. Furthermore it
will also be practicable to gain a greater accuracy
of values for consumption of various sectors.
Administrative losses are often more difficult to
define. They are unmetered consumption and
result from a wide range of reasons including
water for fire fighting, water taken by tankers
during construction of sewers/subdivisions, water
used by street cleaners etc., or illegal connections
and under-registration of water meters. This is
difficult to estimate in Abu Dhabi because of the
variable use of metering. It is not clear as to the
value used for this aspect in ADWECs demand
forecasting.
The Impacts of Changing Urban
Dynamics on Predicted Water
Demand
The release of the Urban Planning Councils Plan
2030 in September 2007 and the developments at
Khalifa Point Industrial Zone and Zonescorp
highlight the ambitious and exciting plans for
Abu Dhabis future. If comparisons are made
between the urban structure in 2007 and 2030
(shown in Table 4.2) the scale of the changes are
apparent. The impact on the population size and
dynamics is huge with expected changes in pop-
ulation from the baseline figures for 2007 of 930
Annex 4. Potable Water Demand
163 162
Figure 4.1 Predicted Base Potable Water Peak
Demand by Sector for 2008
Source: Miller 2007
Table 4.2 Estimates of Non-household Growth for the Abu Dhabi Metropolitan Area
Source: Urban Planning Council 2007
xOffice Space
(million m
2
)
2007 1.4 0.86 4.0 10 000 3 236 13 2 800
2030 7.5 4.0 15.0 74 500 25 650 40 10 000
Retail space
(million m
2
)
Industry
Space
(million m
2
)
Hotel
RoomsMED
Golf
Courses
Tertiary
Institutions
Hospital
beds
Schools
annex 4 1/28/10 11:37 AM Page 6
(shown in Figure 4.3), the accuracy of the
demand figures provided by the various organiza-
tions will have a large influence on the uncertain-
ties inherent in future forecasts. Whilst these will
reflect a relatively certain set of figures for actual
housing units, the occupancy rates, structure of
the community and other social variables will all
influence how much water is needed and when.
As the experience in Dubai has shown, changes in
international financial markets can have a major
influence on the rate of development as well as
occupancy rates. This is especially where housing
units are bought as investments rather than for
occupancy. These are difficult variables to pre-
dict accurately in any water demand forecasting.
2) Estimating population growth is difficult
because of the interplays of many social, cultural
and economic variables that are hard to predict
and quantify. Malthusian ideas of natural popula-
tion growth are no longer taken applied, but pre-
dicting the migration of new people into a grow-
ing city such as Abu Dhabi is difficult. There will
obviously be movements of people both within
the city to the new residences, as well as from
other Emirates, within the region and interna-
tionally. There will be different economic groups
of people involved, with those involved in con-
struction being prominent in the early phases,
whilst those employed in the new industrial activ-
ities dominating subsequent migrations in. There
will be different water use values associated with
each and whilst changing figures for this have
been used in ADWECs forecasting, this is diffi-
cult to predict.
3) The drive within Plan 2030 to encourage
tourism will bring changes in seasonal migration
patterns and the dynamics are also likely to be
controlled by forces outside of the UAE. Within
this group there will be tourists who stay for short
time, as well as holiday property-owners who
come for more prolonged visits. Obviously they
will have different water demand patterns espe-
cially where the latter pay for their water directly.
4) The changes in the fabric, spaces and density
of Abu Dhabi city are marked. These are known
Annex 4. Potable Water Demand
164 165
Figure 4.2 Predicted Base Potable Water Peak Demand by Sector for 2008
Source: Miller 2007
Figure 4.3 Predicted Base Potable Water Peak Demand by Sector for 2008
Source: Miller 2007
to affect water demand patterns, but have been
little studied in arid environments. These
unknowns are likely to influence the accuracy of
predictions, particularly in the latter parts of the
time horizons.
5) New technologies will also play a part in the
new urban structure which will bring their own
changes. For example district cooling will be used
in some of the mega projects which will replace
conventional air conditioning. This will result in a
reduction of 50% electricity consumption, but an
increase in 200% in water demand. Whilst much
of this is likely to be met by grey water re-use, the
changes on consumption patterns are yet to be
fully defined.
6) New government policies and priorities are
likely to emerge from this changing economic
base, that may impact (decrease or increase)
demand for water, both within sectors and in
total for the Emirate.
7) The export of water to the northern Emirates
has become part of the water demand equation
today in Abu Dhabi. The nature of agreements
may change over time in reaction to changing
drivers and this will again bring uncertainties into
the forecasting.
8) Whilst the major urban changes described in
Plan 2030 will markedly increase the need for
water in Abu Dhabi, it is likely that the natural
environment will bring its own changes to bear.
The predictions in the IPCC Report (2007) sug-
gest a warming of the climate in Abu Dhabi and a
decrease in precipitation, with the most impor-
tant effect on water demand is likely to be on
evapotranspiration rates for the vegetation.
However, alternative predictions that rainfall will
increase because of greater monsoonal influences
might have the opposite effect and reduce irriga-
tion needs. The uncertainties surrounding cli-
mate variation are large and further research is
needed before the impacts for this area may be
accurately accounted for.
annex 4 1/28/10 11:37 AM Page 8
The result of these various uncertainties will
ensure that predicting values to 2030 is difficult;
however, forecasts for the next few years are like-
ly to be more accurate as previous comparisons
between actual and predicted values have shown.
Encouraging Water Conservation
Water consumption in Abu Dhabi is by interna-
tional standards high, however, it is important
that policies to manage demand are developed
over time. It is also useful to consider various
approaches to water conservation that have been
used in other areas and research will be needed
to develop policies that best fit the social, eco-
nomic and natural environments of the emirate.
These approaches available may be categorized
as price and non-price and will be now be
explored in more detail.
Price-based Approaches
Price-based approaches to water conservation
use tariffs to transmit information about water
scarcity to encourage changes in behaviour that
lead to reductions. From an economic perspec-
tive, water resources can be viewed as a form of
natural asset that provides service flows used
by people in the production of goods and serv-
ices such as agricultural output, human health,
recreation, environmental quality etc. Providing
or protecting water resources involve active
employment of capital, labour, energy and
other scarce resources. Using these resources to
provide water supplies means that they are not
available to be used for other purposes. The
economic concept of the value of water is thus
couched in terms of societys willingness to
make trade-offs between competing uses of lim-
ited resources.
An economists task of estimating the benefits
and loss of benefits resulting from resource use
are perhaps easiest when markets are estab-
lished and consumers willingness to pay certain
prices can be examined. Water is considered to
be a natural monopoly, and with traditionally
held views that it is a common pool resource
available to those in a certain area, introducing
economics and pricing is difficult.
With non-market environmental goods such as
water, it is necessary to infer willingness to trade
off money for the use of the resources and any
additional benefits associated with its manage-
ment. The sum of the derived economic benefits
is essentially captured by peoples total willing-
ness to pay including use value, the value of water
in its many uses include drinking, irrigation,
species habitat and non-use value. For example
some people derive value from watching the
water flow in the Falaj systems, as well as using it
to produce flowers in their gardens or cooking
their food.
From the cost side of the equation, the task of
estimating values would seem more straightfor-
ward. Obviously in an area such as Abu Dhabi,
the details of capital expenditure and operating
costs of producing potable water are well known
by the operators of the desalination plants. There
are, however, other costs that should also be
taken into account, such as the opportunity costs
of using energy to produce water when it could be
used in other economic activities.
Introducing pricing which reflects these various
benefits and costs is difficult and various
approaches may be used. It is also reliant on the
installation of metering. Flat-water fees are not
linked to the quantity consumed and a fixed rate
per time period, often a month is levied. This pro-
vides little incentive for conservation. In other
approaches there is a direct link between volume
consumed and prices charged. In most countries
there is a welfare element built into the pricing in
that the first defined volume is free and then any
consumption above that pattern is charged. This
might further be developed with block-price or
seasonal-price structures, such as those recently
introduced to Dubai in which where at various
Annex 4. Potable Water Demand
166 167
ranges of consumption differential pricing is
applied. This results in a large number of users of
water paying substantially higher rates than
more conservative consumers. In figures pub-
lished for the US for 2002 for Share of US residen-
tial water price structures (Raftelis Financial
Consulting 2002) the following percentages were
found:
- Decreasing rice Block Structure 30%
- Uniform Price 36%
- Increasing Price Block Structure 30%
An important consideration is how people and
industries react to any increases in prices. Do
they absorb the increased costs without chang-
ing their habits, or do they respond by reducing
their water consumption and so the price they
pay? Various analyses on the reaction to changes
in pricing have found a range of responses by
water consumers (Olmstead et al 2006, Dalhuisen
et al., 2003). Their reactions are measured using
the notion of elasticity where a relatively elastic
demand is where a small change in water price,
brings a large change in water demand (values
more negative than -1). Inelastic demand is
where a small change in prices brings a small
change in demand (values between 0 and -1). On
average in the US a 10% increase in water prices
leads to a 3-4% decrease in consumption. In any
particular environment it is important to under-
take willingness-to-pay research to understand
the thinking of the consumer base before pricing
is introduced.
Water demand for industry and agriculture
require different modelling with changes in price
being part of general production process. Often
this type of data is deemed to be commercially
sensitive and so not made available for analysis.
In work by Griffin (2006) in the US and Reynaud
in France, the demand elasticity for industry var-
ied widely (between -0.15 and -0.98) and was
much linked to sector. In similar work, recent
analysis of 24 US agriculture water demand stud-
ies between 1963-2004 by Schierling et al. 2006
suggest a mean price elasticity of around -0.48.
These values highlight that water demand is a
relative inelastic to pricing but is variable. There
area also important social, economic and political
considerations in any discussions on water pric-
ing that need to be taken into account. There has
been little published research on the elasticity of
tariffs in Abu Dhabi and the current prices are
given in Table 4.3.
Non-price Based Approaches
The non-price based approaches encourage
water conservation through the adoption of new
technologies or practices, such as low-flow show-
erheads or restrictions on the time/length of irri-
gation of gardens. These might equally be applied
to industry and agriculture as to domestic cus-
tomers and again the aim is encourage the adop-
tion of processes which use reduced amounts of
water. The latter uses changes in technology or
practices which are encouraged through a range
of regulatory and economic policy instruments.
There are, however, no guarantees of success.
Introducing a low-flow showerhead policy might
just mean that users stay longer under the water.
The same can be found with irrigation.
Introducing drip-irrigation does not necessarily
Table 4.3. Current Tariffs for Potable Water in Abu
Dhabi Emirate (UAE Dirham)
Source: RSB 2009
UAE Nationals-Domestic 0 AED
Non-UAE Nationals-Domestic 10 AED
Industrial/ Commercial 10 AED
Government and Schools 10 AED
Farms 10 AED
Tanker Distribution (remote areas) 5 AED
Tanker Distribution (other areas) 10 AED
Residence without meters 50 AED
xUser group
xTariff in UAE Dirham
per thousand imperial
gallon
annex 4 1/28/10 11:37 AM Page 10
mean this will always be used and operators can
unplug the hoses and return to flood irrigation
when they want to.
It is useful to look at empirical evidence from poli-
cies introduced in other areas and the evidence is
mixed on the aggregate effects of these programs
(Olmstead and Stavins, 2007). For example, in
the summer of 1996, water consumption restric-
tions in Corpus Christi Texas, which included
prohibiting landscape irrigation and car-washing,
did not yield statistically significant water sav-
ings in the residential sector. However, a longer-
term program in Pasadena California did result in
aggregate water savings (Kiefer, 1993), while
mandatory water use restrictions in Santa
Barbara California induced a demand reduction
of 29% (Renwick, and Green, 2000).
Water utilities typically implement a variety of
non-price conservation programs simultaneously,
making it difficult to determine the effects of indi-
vidual policies. One analysis of the effect of con-
servation programs on aggregate water district
consumption in California found small but signifi-
cant reductions in total use following landscape
education programs and watering restrictions,
but no effect from education programs away from
landscaping, low-flow fixture distribution, or the
presentation of drought and conservation infor-
mation on customer bills (Corral, 1997).
With non-price approaches which involve restric-
tions on use, there is a need for enforcement and
this can often be difficult if human resources are
not available for monitoring. There is a need for
awareness raising in the various sectors targeted
in tandem with the introduction of any measures
to bring any chance of success.
Recommendations
From the work undertaken in this report various
recommendations can be made in the area of
potable water demand. In many ways reducing
demand is the most important policy solution to
balancing Abu Dhabis future water needs, espe-
cially in the short term.
Management
1) Matching Water Quality and Water Demand
There are a range of different qualities of water
available to meet the various sectors demands. It
is important to develop allocation policies that
maximise benefits available from the total water
supplies. This should be supported by modelling
of the different water supplies and users. There is
an economic and environmental cost to all water
resources and it is important that this is consid-
ered in such analysis.
2) Demand Management
There is a potential to make important reduc-
tions in the demand for water through the intro-
duction of conservation measures in various user
sectors. These should be researched to deter-
mine the reactions within the group to any pro-
gram. The introduction of conservation practices
is particularly important for the bulk water user
groups. The use of supportive policy measures to
reduce their demand could ensure large savings
in future capacity development.
Information and Knowledge
3) Developing Different Scenarios for Water
Futures
Forecasting water demand scenarios is a major
and complex exercise especially where the future
urban and economic landscapes are going to
bear little resemblance to past and existing con-
ditions. It would be useful for different futures to
be considered and the predictions based on
these made available. The recent global crisis
has highlighted the need to consider various dif-
ferent futures to the business-as-usual one and it
would be useful to look at the consequences for
water consumption. This would give broader
insight in the policy making process.
Annex 4. Potable Water Demand
168 169
References
- Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Company, 2008.
Statistical Report 1998-2007. ADWEC, Abu Dhabi
- Al Katheeri, E.S., (2008). Towards the establishment
of water management in Abu Dhabi Emirate, Water
Resources Development, 22, 205-215.
- Billings, R.B. and Agthe, D.E. (1998). State-space
versus multi regression for forecasting urban water
demand, Journal of Water Resources Planning and
Management, 124, 113-117.
- Billings R. B., and Jones C.V. (2008) Forecasting
Urban Water Demand, Second Edition, American
Water Works Association, New York.
- Bradley, R.M. (2004). Forecasting domestic water
use in rapidly urbanizing areas in Asia. Journal of
Environmental Engineering ASCE, 130, 465-471.
- Butler, D. and Memon F. (eds) (2005). Water
Demand Management, IWA Publishing, London.
- Davis, W.Y. (2003) Water Demand Forecast
Methodology for California Water Planning Areas -
Work Plan and Model Review. Report of California
BayDeltaAuthority,
http://www.waterplan.water.ca.gov/docs/technical/W
ater_Demand_Forecast_Methodology.pdf (accessed
17th October 2008).
- Gato, S. Jayasuriva, N. and Roberts, P. Temperature
and rainfall thresholds for base use urban water
demand modeling. Journal of Hydrology, 337, 364-
376.
- Ghiassi, M., Zimbra, D.K. and Saidane, H. 2008.
Urban water demand forecasting with a dynamic
artificial neural network model. Journal of Water
Resources Planning and Management ASCE, 134,
138-146.
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007.
IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) Working
Group I Report "The Physical Science Basis.
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
- Kiefer, J.C. and D. Ziegielewski, 1991, Analysis of res-
idential landscape irrigation in Southern California.
A report prepared for the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California by Planning and
Management Consultants Ltd, Carbondale Il.
- Miller, K Electricity & Water Demand Forecasts
2008 2030, MEED Conference. March, 2008.
- Olmstead, S.M. and Stavins, R.N. 2007. Managing
Water Demand: price vs non-price conservation pro-
grams. Paper No 37 Pioneer Institute Public Policy
Research.
- Raftelis Financial Consulting 2002. Water and
Wastewater Rate Survey, Charlotte North Caroline
USA, Raftelis Financial Consulting.
- Regulation and Supervision Bureau, 2009. Customer
TariffsandCharges.
www.rsb.gov.ae/english/PrimaryMenu/index.aspx?T
ype=O&SubCatMenu_ID=26&CatMenu_ID=169&
PriMenu_ID=108 (accessed 15th January 2009)
- Renwick, M.E. and green, R.D. 2000. Do residential
water demand side management policies measure
up? An analysis of eight Californian water agencies.
Journal of Environmental Economics and
Management, 40, 37-55.
- Reynaud, A. 2003. An econometric estimation of
industrial water demand in France. Environmental
and Resource Economics, 25, 213-232.
- Scheierling, S.M. and Loomis, J.B., Young, R.A. 2006.
Irrigation water demand: a meta-analysis of price
elasticities, Water Resources Research, 42.
- Schultz, M.T. Cavanagh, S. M., Gu B. and Eaton
D.J. 1997. The consequences of water consumption
practice restrictions during the Corpus Cristi
Drought of 1996. Draft Report, LBJ School of Public
Affairs, University of Texas Austin
- United Arab Emirates Ministry of Economy, (2006)
Preliminary results of population, housing and
establishments census, 2005 United Arab Emirates.
http://www.tedad.ae/english/results.pdf (accessed
18th October 2008)
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2030, Urban Structure Framework Plan. Urban
Planning Council Abu Dhabi.
annex 4 1/28/10 11:37 AM Page 12
Annex 5.
Industrial Water Use
171
annex 5 1/28/10 11:33 AM Page 2
In an overall sense, industry in Abu Dhabi uses
three distinct categories of water:
process water, with quality criteria approach-
ing or equal to potable water standards, which
plays a direct role in processing as a feedstock
or solvent and can become incorporated into
products;
wash water, with quality criteria from potable
quality to more inferior qualities depending
on the specific industry under consideration,
its product type and specification; and
cooling water, almost invariably seawater in
Abu Dhabi, that plays no product contact
role in processing, and, in open cooling sys-
tems, is used on a single pass basis.
All industrial water streams can, and frequently
are, polluted with chemicals and heat upon
exiting a process plant, prior to ultimate dis-
charge to sink, effectively in the case of Abu
Dhabi, into the Gulf. Waste process water is
generally polluted with a range of chemicals and
is frequently also above ambient temperature.
As a result, treatment prior to discharge into
the environment is required or, if discharged to
sewer, pollutant composition, concentration
and temperature restrictions frequently apply.
Wash water is inevitably contaminated with
inert fine particulate and/or soluble matter.
The former is relatively easily removed by
either mechanical or physical processes prior
to either environmental or sewer discharge,
but the latter generally requires either biolog-
ical or chemical treatment prior to environ-
mental discharge. Seawater is widely used in
once-through cooling systems, as opposed to
essentially closed cooling systems with cool-
ing towers, and is inevitably dosed with both
corrosion inhibitors and potent biocides for
effective intra-process plant damage and bio-
fouling control. It is then discharged, usually
without treatment, directly into the marine
environment, with resultant chemical and
heat pollution of frequently delicate coastal
marine eco-systems. Such local heating effects
can result in receiving water temperature ele-
vation by as much as 10 C degrees above ambi-
ent. The probable safe limit is 1 or, possibly, 2
C degrees above ambient, because heat pollu-
tion exhibits complex selective pressures on
aquatic and marine eco-systems. Even so, it is
probably intentionally added biocides, select-
ed to deactivate specific strains of marine
organisms, which cause the most damage to
such eco-systems and their function upon
cooling water discharge. Although closed cool-
ing tower systems overcome such problems,
they not only employ fresh water, but also
require significant quantities of fresh make-up
water due to water evaporation during their
operation. In addition, the effective function-
ing of such systems depends, to a significant
extent, on ambient climatic conditions.
In addition to primary process operation, it is
also becoming increasingly necessary to opti-
mize all categories of water utilization in
industries that exhibit significant water
demand. Cases exist where such optimization
can reduce process and wash water consump-
tion to only some 30 percent of the original
water volumes used.
Industries based on the processing of bulk raw
materials are frequently located in close prox-
imity to navigable waters, particularly harbors.
The historical reason for this is generally ease of
access to bulk feedstock or product transporta-
tion. In addition, such a location has provided a
sink of sufficient magnitude to allow unrestrict-
ed discharge of untreated aqueous effluent such
that the effects of such discharge were signifi-
cantly reduced by dilution, and somewhat opti-
mistically, the hope that treatment would result
through the agency of natural self purification
mechanisms.
For many years, the bulk product process
industries in both Europe and North America
failed to take appropriate action with respect to
both chemical and heat pollution of natural
receiving waters. It has only been during the
last forty years, that such industries have
accepted their responsibility to the environ-
ment, usually because of the enactment and
enforcement of increasingly stringent laws gov-
erning environmental pollution.
Pollution control costs industry money and
makes industry, in its own view, less competi-
tive in world markets. Because of this, it has
only been systems for charging industry, on the
basis of the pollutant load discharged, together
with licensing designed to eliminate particular-
ly damaging discharges, that has forced
changes in industrial attitude. The polluter
pays principle is generally the most effective in
achieving compliance with discharge standards
on the part of bulk processing industries, par-
ticularly those industries with government
share holdings.
Current Status of Industrial
Water Use
The industrial base of Abu Dhabi is the oil and
associated petrochemical industries, but in
recent years with the expansion of agriculture
and food-processing, the base has become more
developed. The water use in these various
industries will now be reviewed. The main limi-
tation to this review is the scarce detailed data
available to give insight into the various uses.
Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (ADNOC)
and ADNOC Group of Companies
ADNOC, established in 1971, is a major top-ten
international oil company involved in a com-
plete range of upstream and downstream activ-
ities, ranging from exploration and production,
refining, marketing, storage, exportation and
associated service activities. It is fully govern-
ment owned, but the ADNOC Group, as a whole,
comprises some seventeen associated subsidiary
companies, that are either wholly or jointly
owned ventures. ADNOC activities represent 80
percent of Abu Dhabis GDP and a summary of
the ADNOC Group company water consumption
(Brook et al., 2004) suggests that the group is
essentially self sufficient, within its sphere of
influence, in providing its electricity and water
requirements.
The constituent companies of the ADNOC
Group can be divided into those engaged in oil
and gas exploration, those involved in the refin-
ing and processing of oil and gas, and those
involved in the production of bulk chemical
products from either oil or gas feedstocks. The
first group comprises the Abu Dhabi Company
for Onshore Oil Operations (ADCO), which
operates onshore concession areas and in shal-
low coastal waters, the Abu Dhabi Marine
Operating Company (ADMA-OPCO), which
operates ADMAs offshore concessions, and the
Zakum Development Company (ZADCO),
based on Zirku Island, which operates major
offshore fields.
The second group comprises Abu Dhabi Gas
Industries Limited (GASCO), which handles
onshore LPG production and its export, the
Abu Dhabi Gas Liquefaction Limited
(ADGAS), which liquefies and exports associat-
ed offshore gas and natural gas from the
Uweinat gas cap, and the Abu Dhabi Oil
Refining Company (TAKREER), which oper-
ates Abu Dhabis two major refineries at Ruwais
and Umm Al Nar. TAKREER refines both
crude oil and condensates and also produces
granulated sulphur as a by-product of desul-
phurization. The final group of companies com-
prises Ruwais Fertilizer Industries (FERTIL), a
joint venture between ADNOC and Total-CFP,
which produces ammonia and urea from on-
shore lean gas (methane), and the Abu Dhabi
Annex 5. Industrial Water Use
172 173
Introduction
annex 5 1/28/10 11:33 AM Page 4
Sheep 6,342 m
3
per tonne
Goats 8,500 m
3
per tonne
Beef cattle 12,149 m
3
per tonne
Dairy cows 1,904 m
3
per tonne
Hen layers 4,606 m
3
per tonne
Broilers 1,968 m
3
per tonne
Polymers Company (Borouge), a joint venture
between ADNOC and Borealis, which employs
an ethane cracker and two polyethylene plants
capable of swing production of either linear low
density polyethylene or high density polyethyl-
ene.
Data concerning water consumption by the
ADNOC Group of Companies for 2002 have
been reported (Brook et al., 2004). This data
indicates that the major quantity used is seawa-
ter at 1.225 billion m
3
per annum and that the
only other probable significant intake of water
is brackish ground water at 3.2 million m3 per
annum, although some desalinated water may
be derived from the public supply network.
From this, it can be suggested that up to 3.5
million m3 of industrial grade desalinated water
and up to 29.1 million m
3
of potable grade
desalinated water are probably produced inter-
nally and that the utilization of such results in
an availability of 1.2 million m3 TSE for irrigat-
ing camp and facility greenery.
For industrial grade desalinated water, the
main users are Borouge, with a consumption of
0.9 million m
3
per annum, GASCO and ADMA-
OPCO, each with consumptions of 0.8 million
m
3
per annum, and the ADNOC Ruwais
Housing Complex, with a consumption of 0.6
million m
3
per annum.
Potable quality desalinated water is extensively
used by the ADNOC Group industries, with
consumption figures of 22.4 million m
3
per
annum by Total - Abu Al Bukhoosh (Total-
ABK), of 4.4 million m3 per annum by ADCO,
0.9 million m3 per annum by FERTIL, of 0.8 mil-
lion m
3
per annum by GASCO and 0.5 million
m
3
per annum by Borouge.
In the offshore and onshore operations of
ADNOC, all water produced (342,000 m_/d) are
re-injected into deep reservoirs, including water
re-injected for reservoir pressure maintenance
(ADNOC 2008). In addition all harmful process
effluents (19,640 m_/d) are re-injected into deep
disposal wells.
Some 7.04 million m_/d of clean process and
cooling water are discharged daily to sea with
major outlets at Das Island, Ruwais and Sas Al
Nakl. All outlets are analyzed frequently for
unlikely harmful components (ADNOC, 2008).
ADNOC controls these discharges and is its
own de facto regulator.
Livestock Industry
The livestock industry in Abu Dhabi is much
more extensive that in other parts of the UAE
with livestock holdings occupying some 226,000
hectares; a figure that represents 98 percent of
the total area of livestock holdings in the UAE
in 2007. Some 449 hectares are occupied by
poultry, the rest by animals comprising sheep,
goats, cattle and camels.
Obviously, the poultry and cattle are kept
under more intense conditions, including broil-
er and layer houses for poultry and feedlot and
slatted dairy facilities for cattle. Sheep, goats
and camels are predominantly free-range graz-
ing animals, but both stocking densities and
their slaughter, if centralized, will impact on the
environment.
All four animal species are kept for both meat
and milk production; however, a large percent-
age of the total herd are either young or breed-
ing animals. Detailed figures for the numbers of
animals in Abu Dhabi in (Anon., 2007) are:
In the case of poultry, some 3,544 tonnes of
meat per annum are produced and egg produc-
tion is 7,073 tonnes per annum.
The source of water for livestock production is
unspecified in Statistical Abstracts, but it is
probable that irrigation water from ground is
widely used for grazing animals, because of the
intimate relationship between grazing and crop
production. For intensive production in feed-
lots and poultry houses, desalinated water from
the distribution network is, most probably, also
used, while in dairies, some well water is desali-
nated, by reverse osmosis, on site.
When assessing livestock production it is nec-
essary to consider both their environmental
impact and their virtual water content, which
will be considerably higher than for compara-
ble production in temperate regions. Very
clearly, grazing livestock can have serious
adverse effects on range-land vegetation, par-
ticularly if over-grazing is allowed to occur.
However, their excrement will be distributed
and point sources of potential groundwater
pollution will be largely avoided, unless stock-
ing intensity is allowed to increase beyond
environmentally acceptable levels. In the case
of cattle, both feedlots and slatted dairy hous-
es produce concentrated liquid animal slurries.
If this is not appropriately treated, it will upon
disposal to land potentially contaminate the
already deteriorating groundwater resource.
This is particularly true, as far as nitrate and
potentially pathogenic microorganisms are
concerned, under soil conditions pertaining in
Abu Dhabi. Treatment of such animal slurries,
with similar bioprocess technologies to those
used for municipal wastewater treatment, is
necessary. Such treatment will also allow both
water and plant nutrient recovery when treat-
ed effluent is used for fodder crop irrigation.
The virtual water content of different animals
for most countries was calculated by Chapagain
Annex 5. Industrial Water Use
174 175
Sheep 117,133 140,150 815,655
Goats 94,489 131,380 785,440
Cattle 1,594 5,699 28,432
Camels 8,730 31,616 276,602
xNumber for
slaughter
xNumber
for milk
xTotal num-
ber
and Hoekstra (2003) and some representative
virtual water contents were listed. These
include :
Using these values, for the period 1995-1999, vir-
tual water incorporated into livestock and live-
stock products imported into the UAE repre-
sented 11 Gm
3
per annum; a not inconsiderable
water volume.
Beverage Industry
The bottled beverage industry in Abu Dhabi
is extensive, with a wide range of products
that are both locally manufactured and
imported. Products include: milk and milk
drinks, mineral waters, fruit juices and propri-
etary soft drinks. Packaging ranges from card-
board cartons, plastic bottles, aluminum cans
to single-use glass bottles. Reusable glass
bottles seem to be absent from the market, an
important feature with respect to the large
quantities of water needed for bottle washing.
The beverage industry packages both locally
produced natural products such as milk and
fruit juices, but also reconstitutes imported
concentrates including dried milk, fruit juice
syrups and powders, and proprietary soft
drink concentrates, particularly colas.
Mineral waters tend to be produced at source,
usually in the other Emirates and in Oman.
The drinks packaging industry no longer
involves container washing, because plastic
bottles are delivered sealed from manufacture
and both cardboard cartons and aluminum are
delivered as clean product rolls, with the con-
annex 5 1/28/10 11:33 AM Page 6
important. Undoubtedly, the most signifi-
cant driving force in environmental aware-
ness, particularly as far as noxious pollu-
tants are concerned, is the development of
vastly more sensitive analytical techniques
that allow increasingly low concentrations of
such pollutants to be determined in environ-
mental samples. Whether or not the concen-
trations measured are above or below the no-
effect concentration, or whether the no-
effect concentration is even known, are
issues that are frequently omitted from dis-
cussion.
Water Pollution Hazards and their
Evaluation
Both individuals and whole populations are
exposed to hazards from natural events,
transmittable infectious diseases, accidents
and pollutants that are frequently legally
introduced into the environment by human
action. Of these, only pollutants can be legis-
lated against. The others can sometimes be
ameliorated by the introduction of opera-
tional codes of practice. Pollutants are fre-
quently regarded as hazards because of their
potential rather than their actual impact.
Furthermore, the impact of pollutant release
often involves damage to natural environ-
ments and amenities rather than any direct
damage to human heath. Even so, the release
of pollutants is increasingly seen by the gen-
eral public as an activity that poses unac-
ceptable risk. One problem is that quantita-
tive risk assessment is neither precise nor
accurate; the other that the publics percep-
tion of risk involves frequently weighted
evaluations of both the likelihood of the
occurrence of an adverse event, and the
nature of the consequences of that event.
Objective methods of risk assessment fre-
quently use human mortality as their basis,
whereas perceived risk additionally involves
the wider consequences of an adverse event,
namely, morbidity, harm to wild life and loss
of amenity.
Pollution
All instances of pollution by industry involve
the responsible authorities, the general pub-
lic and the offending company, although the
perception of what actually constitutes pol-
lution is different as far as each of the three
parties is concerned. Pollution is used to
describe both the act of polluting and the
consequences of that act. Pollution can be
defined as the introduction by man into the
environment of substances or energy that
are liable to cause hazards to human health,
harm to living resources and ecological sys-
tems, damage to structures and amenities,
or that interfere with the legitimate uses of
the environment.
In recent years clean manufacturing technol-
ogy, with the ultimate objective of both zero
discharges and emissions, has been widely
discussed by industry. The zero
emissions/zero discharge concept is based on
a single questionable claim that one bulk
chemical product can be manufactured to be
a zero emissions/ zero discharge process
route and, therefore, extrapolation suggests
that all other products can be produced sim-
ilarly;, a view that is nave in the extreme.
The types of production technologies used
by industry for different products vary dra-
matically. For example, bulk chemicals are
generally produced using purpose built,
product specific, continuous flow process
plants, while most fine chemical products
are made in general purpose equipment
operated in a batch mode. For many years,
bulk chemicals production has been mostly
fully optimized, but fine chemicals are still
frequently produced under markedly subop-
timal conditions resulting in the frequent
tainer being fabricated during the filling
process. In order to maintain the product
quality of reconstituted beverages, the
process water used is usually purified in-
house by the bottling companies, from either
potable water from the network or fresh well
water to reverse osmosis, or alternative
membrane purification standards. Separate
figures for water utilization by the beverage
industry in Abu Dhabi are unavailable, but
the bottling/packaging techniques employed
suggest a high level of water economy.
Other Manufacturing Industries
Historically, manufacturing industry has
used either potable quality mains water or
fresh well water to satisfy its needs for
process water. However, throughout the
world, distributed water quality is declining
and quality variability, because of frequent
source changes, is increasing. As product
quality control becomes paramount, many
companies in a broad spectrum of industries
are finding it increasingly necessary to pro-
duce their own high purity process water,
usually with membrane type purification
technologies. As increasingly sophisticated
product manufacturing is introduced into
the industry sector in Abu Dhabi, this inter-
national trend will become increasingly evi-
dent.
Service Industries
The service industry sector within Abu
Dhabi is small, but growing in relative GDP
terms. With the recently announced econom-
ic diversification plans to 2030, which include
development in the financial, media, tourism
healthcare services and various education
and research areas (Urban Planning Council,
2007; Abu Dhabi Government, 2009), then
the water needs of this sector will grow.
Service industry businesses are diverse but
tend to require water at a potable standard.
At the moment water is supplied large users
under bulk tariff agreement. However, there
is little available data to quantify the con-
sumption patterns in this industry. The
ongoing initiative to install water meters
(including bulk water meters) in Abu Dhabi
and Al Ain will ensure that in the future more
accurate figures will be available to charac-
terize this sector
Environmental Impact of
Industrial Water Use
Prior to 1970, worldwide industry showed
scant regard for the natural environment
and the managements and share holders of
all types of companies considered capital
and operating expenditure on pollution con-
trol and environmental protection as essen-
tially money down the drain. As a result,
waste management policies were based on
disposal, rather than on treatment. In many
respects, such attitudes were fostered by
failures on the part of virtually all govern-
ments to understand, enact and enforce
effective and appropriate pollution control
legislation. Nowadays when and where ade-
quate pollution control legislation is effec-
tively enforced, the majority of companies
accept their responsibilities and seek to
operate within the law. In some cases, this
compliance might be attributed to the
enshrining in legislation the principle of pol-
luter-pays.
The historical rationale for undertaking
treatment of all forms of waste emissions has
been the maintenance of public health, gen-
erally based on easily discernable, rather
than more subtle effects. More recently,
numerous subtle health effects resulting
from pollution have become evident and, in
addition, aesthetic and environmental quali-
ty arguments have become much more
Annex 5. Industrial Water Use
177 176
annex 5 1/28/10 11:33 AM Page 8
future government policy concerning indus-
trial development is directed towards added
value, i.e., the conversion of bulk products
and feedstocks; often with high energy input
into significantly higher value products for
local, regional, and international markets.
Such industrial development can be expect-
ed to require a much larger expatriate labour
force, with different skills than those which
are currently available. However, given the
general lack of indigenous scientific and
technological innovation in both universities
and research institutes in the UAE, most
manufactured products for the short and
medium term future must be expected to be
based on either licensed technology or estab-
lished generic products on which patent pro-
tection has expired. The current status of
process and product research and develop-
ment efforts in the UAE is unlikely to form a
basis for the successful expansion of an inno-
vative manufacturing sector for at least the
short-term.
Many countries have sought industrial devel-
opment, but until high levels of both techni-
cal problem-solving and inventiveness are
established within the indigenous popula-
tion, for example, as found in Singapore, the
establishment of sophisticated product man-
ufacturing ventures will depend on the avail-
ability of imported technology. The recently
announced Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030
is a major initiative to address these prob-
lems (Abu Dhabi Government 2009).
In the Economic Vision (Abu Dhabi
Government 2009), it is stated that the
recent economic development policies coun-
tries of Ireland, Norway and New Zealand
were examined. These are useful case studies
with relevant parallels with Abu Dhabis
vision. For example, the Republic of Ireland
(Eire) has very effectively sought to develop
into high technology product manufacturing
country over the past few decades. It has
concentrated on attracting global leaders in
the pharmaceutical, biological, micro-elec-
tronics and other sophisticated industries by
offering a large pool of well qualified and
motivated indigenous staff, a range of fiscal
benefits and cultural affinity. Success was
considerable, but others, particularly in Asia,
were able to mimic and supplement such
attractions. Singapore is a particular exam-
ple that was able to supplement its attrac-
tiveness to industry with the availability of
internationally reputable university research
facilities, staff and performance.
In the face of competition, Ireland has, since
2002, been forced to re-think its previous rel-
ative neglect of scientific and technological
research at University level, and is currently
developing programmes that can be expect-
ed to provide the innovation needed to main-
tain its already sophisticated manufacturing
industry in future decades. Specialist high-
tech product manufacture tends to be under
the control of a relatively small number of
international, research oriented companies.
These have expanded both by discovery and
acquisition; the key to establishing and
retaining the manufacturing facilities of such
companies is provision of the appropriate
intellectual and cultural environment in
which they can prosper, in addition to the
more obvious attractiveness criteria offered
by Abu Dhabi. The success of the Masdar
post-graduate educational initiative, estab-
lished with MIT, clearly represents a test-
case with respect to Abu Dhabi.
Plans for Industrial Expansion
In recent decades, major new investment in
process plants for chemicals and petrochem-
icals production and for base metals smelt-
ing have migrated eastwards from Europe to
the Middle East. Most of the new sites for
production of enhanced quantities of waste
and off-specification product.
Ecotoxicology
The fundamental objective of human toxicol-
ogy is to achieve acceptable results in test
procedures that are prescribed by authori-
ties responsible for human health and safety.
Unfortunately, ecotoxicology is based on
extension of the philosophy governing
human toxicology, i.e., the employment of
unimaginative, frequently inapplicable, test
protocols that fail to provide the necessary
knowledge for the formulation of concepts.
Such concepts might be used to develop
realistic predictive bases upon which the
essential development of ecotoxicology
depends. Human toxicology is a single
species/restricted environment problem,
whereas ecotoxicology is a multi-communi-
ty/multi-population/multi-species/diverse
environment problem which is much too
extensive to rely upon an exclusively deter-
mined database.
The intermediate and ultimate environmen-
tal fates of organic chemical pollutants
released into the natural environment are
frequently evaluated on the basis of the glob-
al carbon cycle, although in the case of pollu-
tants containing nitrogen, sulphur or other
elements, it is essential to ensure that evalu-
ation involves examination of other elemen-
tal cycles, as appropriate, in conjunction
with the carbon cycle. Elemental cycles can
be separated into their biochemical, geo-
chemical and anthropochemical sub-cycles.
However, whereas the biochemical and the
geochemical sub-cycles have often been eval-
uated in considerable detail, the anthro-
pochemical sub-cycle has been subject to
considerable neglect. The anthropochemical
sub-cycle involves the use of fossil resources,
that have passed through the biochemical
and geochemical sub-cycles as either fuels
for energy or production feedstocks for
chemicals manufacture. It should be pointed
out that those that advocate the much more
extensive use of renewable raw materials as
either fuels or feedstocks are eliminating the
geochemical sub-cycle, rather than the
anthropochemical sub-cycle, which is their
declared objective in reducing pollution.
Managing Pollution and
Ecotoxicology of Industrial Water
Use
Industrial activities will often produce bi-
products that are harmful to humans or the
environment. In the case of water, this
impact may come from the abstraction from
or discharges into the groundwater, sewage
network or marine environments. It is impor-
tant that clear, adequate standards and con-
trols are developed to ensure that industries
both in the design phase and during opera-
tions put in place adequate measures to min-
imize these impacts. In Abu Dhabi the cur-
rent frameworks and the defined roles and
responsibilities of the two main regulatory
organizations (EAD and RSB) are not clear.
Industrial discharges currently require a per-
mit from EAD that specifies amounts and
concentrations, yet there is little monitoring
and enforcement of this. The recent consul-
tation paper issued by the RSB (2008) is an
important start to bringing a coherent and
effective standards and controls for this sec-
tor.
Industrial Development Policy
From an industrial point of view, Abu Dhabi
is currently a very large producer and
exporter of both refined and unrefined fluid
fuels and of bulk petrochemical products.
However, in view of its particularly strong
position with respect to energy resources,
Annex 5. Industrial Water Use
179 178
annex 5 1/28/10 11:33 AM Page 10
but it is also a major feedstock for the petro-
chemicals industry and the preferred fuel for
the Independent Water and Power
Production (IWPP) companies. Currently,
supplies from the Emirates natural gas dis-
tribution network are less than peak
demand, so that when load shedding occurs,
a hierarchy, with respect to customers,
exists, and will undoubtedly result in inter-
industry sector competition.
Industrial Cities and Industrial
Zones
As far as can be ascertained from planning
information, the majority of smaller indus-
tries and some very large industries will be
located in either Industrial Cities (Mussafah/
ICAD1, Mussafah South/ICAD2-5, Al Ain
Industrial City and Ruwais Industrial City),
Industrial Zones (Khalifa Port and Industrial
Zone, including Taweelah, and Maffraq), or
in Industrial Parks (ADBIC Polymer Park in
the Mussafah Industrial Zone). The terms
City, Zone and Park seem to be used inter-
changeably. A policy of establishing
Industrial Clusters and the overall manage-
ment and operation of these various indus-
trial sites is vested in Zonescorp. The largest
Industrial City factory so far announced is
Arkans 3.1 million tonnes per annum cement
plant in Al Ain. At least one of the Industrial
Zones, Mussafah/ICAD1, will have its own
dedicated industrial wastewater treatment
plant with a design capacity of 80,000 m3 per
day. However, neither the technology to be
employed nor the final discharge standards
have yet been specified. It must be assumed
that other Industrial Zones will also under-
take the responsibility of their own waste-
water treatment.
One of the most environmentally interesting
new products that will be manufactured in
Abu Dhabi is artificial grass yarn, by a
ADBIC/Low and Bonar PLC. joint venture.
This will result in local production of artifi-
cial turf for sports fields and, possibly,
amenity areas. If a policy involving the wide-
spread use of such a product in Abu Dhabi
was established, considerable savings in
treated wastewater for irrigation might
accrue to the municipalities, but the
cost/benefit relationship will need careful
scrutiny. A second important environmental
product venture is the Masdar PV GmbH
thin-film photo-voltaic sheet that is pro-
posed for manufacture at KPIZ.
Whereas some relatively clean green indus-
tries are going to be attracted to Abu Dhabi,
other industries that are being established
will require control by stringent environmen-
tal legislation and its effective enforcement.
In general, industry respects environmental
law, provided its requirements and its
enforcement are seen to be equitable, but
also effective in providing appropriate and
necessary environmental quality improve-
ments.
Industry and Virtual Water Import
and Export
Just as is the case of agricultural and live-
stock products, the question of virtual water,
in water limited regions, is an important con-
sideration for all types and scales of indus-
try. Where products require very large quan-
tities of water for their production or manu-
facture, product importation is frequently a
superior alternative to local manufacture in
water deficient regions. From an industrial
product point of view, one of the best known
examples concerning virtual water quoted in
the literature is the case of the 2 g 32-
megabyte computer chip that has a virtual
water content of 32 kg (Williams et al., 2002).
Such an example clearly emphasises the
value of examining the virtual water con-
such bulk processing industries in the
Middle East are green fields sites where
industry did not previously exist. Economic,
social and environmental advantages and
disadvantages accrue from such major shifts
in location. Clearly, close proximity to raw
materials and feedstocks and, currently,
energy availability at below international
prices are clear economic advantages.
However, major disadvantages include a con-
tinuing need to import expatriate labour for
plant operation and maintenance, resulting in
a major increase in population, and the probable
environmental impact on the region as a whole,
as well as on delicate marine eco-systems, where
conflict with proposed massive touristic and res-
idential schemes might well become critical
issues. Certainly, some of the proposed industri-
alization is in direct conflict with the proposed
Masdar concept for future development.
Petrochemicals Industry
The main petrochemicals production site is at
Ruwais in the Western Region, where both
FERTIL (urea and ammonia fertilizer produc-
tion) and Borouge (ethane cracking and poly-
olefin production) are located. FERTIL exports
over 600,000 tonnes per annum of urea and
ammonia fertilizer produced from natural gas
and has an installed production capacity, based
on a 330 day operating year of 840,000 tonnes
per annum. No plans to expand production
have been announced. Borouge operates a
600,000 tonnes per annum ethane cracker and
two 225,000 tonnes per annum polyethylene
plants, offering swing production of either lin-
ear low density polyethylene or high density
polyethylene, as dictated by the market.
However, Borouge has announced a multi-stage
product production expansion plan. It is
intended that Borouge 2 will have an ethane
cracker with a capacity of 1.5 million tonnes per
annum, an olefins conversion unit with a capac-
ity of 752,000 tonnes per annum, two polypropy-
lene plants with a combined capacity of 800,000
tonnes per annum and an enhanced polyethyl-
ene plant with a capacity of 540,000 tonnes per
annum, representing a 340 percent increase in
total production and, most probably, a similar
percentage increase as far as both cooling and
process water utilization are concerned.
Base Metals Smelting
The second bulk processing industry destined
for massive expansion in Abu Dhabi is metals
smelting, with emphasis on aluminium and
steel, in spite of the fact that metal ores will be
imported. Two aluminium smelters, the first at
Taweelah, adjacent to KPIZ, and the second at
Ruwais, are proposed. The first is a 1.4 million
tonnes per annum plant for the Emirates
Aluminium Co. (EMAL), a joint venture
between Mubadela and the Dubai Aluminium
Co., while the second is a plant with a capacity
of 550,000 tonnes per annum, a joint venture
between ADBIC and COMALCO, a Rio Tinto
group company. What remains unclear is
whether utilities, particularly electricity and
water will be drawn from the public supply net-
work, or whether a self-generation policy will
prevail. In view of an electrical inter-connector,
the latter looks to be the most probable.
Turning to steel production, a number of possi-
ble ventures have been mooted, but the status
of most remains unclear. However, Emirates
Steel Industries (ESI), which has been trans-
ferred from GHC to ADBIC, and which current-
ly produces 700,000 tonnes per annum of rebar
is increasing capacity to 1.4 million tonnes per
annum, with a clear increased impact on utili-
ties requirements.
Such investment in heavy industry is very clear-
ly based on the availability of lower cost energy
in Abu Dhabi. However, natural gas (methane,
ethane, propane and n-butane) is not only the
preferred primary energy source for industry,
Annex 5. Industrial Water Use
181 180
annex 5 1/28/10 11:33 AM Page 12
sources, in order to gain an overall measure
of the water usage patterns and future needs
of industries. This makes strategic planning
difficult. Clearly an industrial water demand
model should be developed.
2) Information System for Abstraction and
Discharges Consents
There is also a need to develop an informa-
tion system that brings together all current
approved abstraction and discharges licenses
to ensure there is an accurate, comprehen-
sive and clear view of activities. This will
allow prediction of any possible cumulative
impacts of industrialization on the marine
aquatic and other environmental compart-
ments. The Catchment Abstraction
Management System of England and Wales
brings together all licensed activities
(abstractions and discharges) for each river
and gives a comprehensive information
source for future decision making. In Abu
Dhabi this may be developed for the different
water abstraction and discharge sources.
This would give the environmental regulator
important information on which to base
future standards and controls.
Management
3) Demand Management
There are many possibilities for introducing
technology or practices into industries that
reduce water consumption. This is to be
encouraged in Abu Dhabi to ensure adequate
water is available for future economic devel-
opments. Clear incentives should be used to
encourage innovation.
Institutional Aspects
4) Establishment of Environmental
Regulator
There is a need for a more comprehensive
and transparent regulatory framework to
manage and plan abstractions and dis-
charges of water from the industrial sector.
This authority should work closely with
industry in developing standards and prac-
tices that are suitable for the emirate.
tents of all industrial products prior to intro-
ducing their manufacture at any specific
location. Hopefully such considerations have
been included the industrialization policy for
Abu Dhabi. It should also be mentioned that,
in addition to the actual virtual water con-
tent of any specific product, virtual water
content is also subject to minimization, as
discussed below.
Industrial Water Use
Minimization
Many industries that have developed their
manufacturing technology over several
decades find their origins in a period of histo-
ry when, water utilization by industry,
regardless of the volume used, was consid-
ered trivial as far as both cost and environ-
mental impact were concerned. However,
since 1970, the true costs of water, particular-
ly those concerned with its return to the envi-
ronment in near pristine condition, have
become increasingly evident, as environmen-
tal impact has become increasingly impor-
tant. Prior to 1970, the view that the solution
to pollution is dilution held considerable
sway in industrial and political circles, but
with deteriorating natural fresh and marine
water quality standards, this so-called solu-
tion is no longer considered either sensible or
realistic.
Water is fast becoming a valuable commodi-
ty, particularly when the water concerned is
desalinated water, but also even when it is
saline cooling water used on a once-through
basis if trace pollutant elimination is a requi-
site prior to discharge into the common sink
and source. Resultantly total water use min-
imization in manufacturing process has
become a research priority. Initially, research
involved the optimization of water use in con-
tinuous flow processes of the type used in the
petrochemicals industry (Wang and Smith,
1994), but subsequently, the approach has
been extended to batch processing (Alinato
et al., 1999) and factory operation (Brauns et
al., 2008). When considering licensed process-
es and alternative process routes for product
manufacture in Abu Dhabi, it would seem
appropriate if pinch-techniques, of the types
mentioned above, were employed as a key cri-
terion in appropriate process selection.
Examples exist where water requirements
can be reduced to 30 percent of original
design requirements, particularly in the bot-
tled beverage industry.
Recommendations
The work undertaken for this report has
highlighted a number of areas where
improvements may be made in the planning
and management of industrial water use. The
lack of available data was found to be partic-
ularly problematic.
Information and Knowledge
1) An integrated Industrial Water Demand,
Model
There is a clear need to develop an integrat-
ed and comprehensive water demand model
for the industrial sector showing the different
sources/quality of water used and amounts.
The various new industrial developments
have supplied demand forecasts for potable
water to ADWEC and this when integrated
with existing users gives estimated overall
figures for this source. In Miller (2008)
ADWEC forecast a near doubling of industri-
al fresh water demand from some 7 percent of
peak demand in 2007 to 13.5 percent of peak
demand in 2030, clearly indicating the
increasing importance of industrial water
demand in the future of Abu Dhabi. However,
similar data for groundwater or seawater
withdrawals, does not exist. Likewise there is
a lack of integrated data for these possible
Annex 5. Industrial Water Use
183 182
annex 5 1/28/10 11:33 AM Page 14
184
References
- Abu Dhabi Government, 2009. The Abu Dhabi
EconomicVision2030.
http://www.abudhabi.ae/egovPoolPortal_WAR/app-
manager/ADeGP/Citizen?_nfpb=true&_portlet.asyn
c=false&_pageLabel=P5800395121229515835296&la
ng=en (Accessed 14th January 2009)
- ADNOC, 2008. Health, Safety and Environment
Report, 2007. ADNOC, Abu Dhabi.
- Anon., UAE Statistical Abstract for Agriculture
(2007).
- Brook, M. et al., Western Region Rept. Environ. Res.
Wildlife Dev. Agency, Abu Dhabi (2004).
- Chapagain, A.K. and Hoekstra, A.Y., In: Virtual
Water Trade, IHE Delft Rept. No. 12, pp 49-76 (2003).
- Williams, E.D. et al., Environ. Sci. Technol., 36(24),
5504-5510 (2002).
- Wang, Y.P. and Smith, R., Chemical Engineering
Science, 49(7), 981-1006 (1994).
- Almato, M. et al., Comput. Chem. Engineering, 23,
1427-1437 (1999).
- Brauns, E. et al., Clean Technol. Environ. Policy,
10, 189-201 (2008).
- Miller, K., MEED Abu Dhabi Conference, Abu
Dhabi, Nov. 2007.
- Miller, K., MEED Middle East Power & Water
Conf., Abu Dhabi, March 2008.
- Regulation and Supervision Bureau, (2008b).
Developing a framework for trade effluent control:
consultation.
http://www.rsb.gov.ae/uploads/TradeEffluentCons
ultationFINALJun08.pdf (accessed July 8th 2008)
- Urban Planning Council, 2007. Plan Abu Dhabi
2030 Urban Structure Framework Plan, Abu
Dhabi.
Annex 5. Industrial Water Use
annex 5 1/28/10 11:33 AM Page 16
Annex 6.
Irrigation
185
annex 6 1/28/10 11:35 AM Page 2
Irrigation is the largest water consumer in the
Emirate of Abu Dhabi with three distinct irriga-
tion sectors existing:
1. Agriculture,
2. Forestry
3. Public amenity greenery.
Currently, the irrigation water demands of agri-
culture and forestry are primarily fulfilled by
local groundwater abstraction, while the
demand for public amenity greenery is met by
treated or reclaimed municipal wastewater.
Smaller contributions to all three sectors are
made by small-scale or large-scale desalinization,
and fresh water sources. In the future, it is envis-
aged that both the sources of supply and relative
priorities with respect to irrigation water alloca-
tion will change as a result of continuous increas-
es in non-agricultural demand (i.e. increased
provisions for municipal water driven by popula-
tion growth, mega-project real-estate develop-
ment, and industrialization).
The both extensive and intensive developments
in irrigation stem from policy initiatives to
green the desert and to increase food self suffi-
ciency. As will be discussed subsequently, food
security is an emotive political issue, but one
that is essentially unattainable under conditions
of water scarcity. Adequate supplies of food,
water and fuel are all basic human requirements,
even basic human rights, but self sufficiency rep-
resents only one means of satisfying such
requirements particularly in affluent societies.
For example, while Japan is adequately supplied
with water, it is deficient with respect to food
production because of limited agricultural land
availability; and deficient with respect to pro-
ducing its own fuel requirements because of a
lack of resources. Much of the original emphasis
on food security stems from fears of blockades
during conflict, but rational evaluation of such
situations suggests that amelioration depends
on storage. In the case of food, stable demand
can be provided by judicious storage for months
or even years. In the case of fuel, stored reserves
can meet demand for months, while strategic
fuel reserves are measured in terms of years. In
the case of water, both good and bad examples
of effective storage exist, but where surface
storage is impracticable or impossible, such as
in the Gulf region, strategic reserves are meas-
ured not in weeks or months, but in terms of
mere days. As far as essential human require-
ments are concerned, it is a strategic water sup-
ply that is critical as far as the population of
Abu Dhabi is concerned. Neither food storage
nor indigenous food production can override
water supply failure.
The use of water in the agriculture sector in the
Emirate was not based on land and water suit-
ability, and agro-climatic considerations rather,
historically, it was essentially decree governed.
The fundamental objectives of irrigated agricul-
ture were:
1. Food production, providing increased self
sufficiency;
2. Equality and poverty alleviation;
3. Improve environmental sustainability and
eco-system regeneration; and
4. To foster environmental stewardship and
protect natural resources.
In the case of irrigated forestry, the fundamen-
tal objectives were to:
1. Protect roads from sand incursions, particu-
larly in areas with high dunes;
2. Provide protected areas for wildlife; and
3. Resolve/demarcate the international bound-
aries of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with
its neighbours.
Similarly the fundamental objectives of public
amenity greenery projects were the following:
1. Provision of high quality amenity areas; and
2. Greening of the desert environment.
A key question raised in the context of sustain-
ability is to what extent a green environment is
appropriate for a hot arid region or whether
the development of a partially planted desert
environment might have been much more
appropriate. Clearly, past irrigation develop-
ment priorities do not necessarily reflect future
water resource availability and its prioritized
use among the sectors.
The Agricultural Heritage of
Abu Dhabi
The culture and heritage of Abu Dhabi relies
on the connection between land and water.
The emirate has a long tradition of agriculture
in its oases where crops have been grown for
5000 years. Undergroundwater was channelled
to palm groves and small fields and the tech-
nique is still used today. Local farming tradi-
tions can be preserved by incorporating mod-
ern technologies well-suited to the lifestyle of
the people, climate and availability of water.
The aflaj (irrigation channels - plural of falaj)
are important as part of the Emirates histori-
cal heritage as well as being a major source of
water. The main crops grown in this system are
dates, citrus fruits, grasses, and a few annual
vegetable crops. Since 1971, small scale tradi-
tional farming has been complemented by
investment that has seen thousands of
hectares brought into cultivation using
groundwater. This agriculture expansion and
consequent pumping of groundwater, has
resulted in the drying up of many aflaj.
Between 1994 and 2003 around 1,000 aflaj were
renovated in various parts of the Emirate.
Current Status of Irrigated
Activities
Agriculture
Abu Dhabi is situated at the south-eastern part
of the Arabian Peninsula. The climate is one of
mild warm and sunny winters and very hot and
dry summers with coastal areas being more
humid than the interior. The average rainfall is
less than 100 mm/yr. Due to the adverse climat-
ic conditions (nutrient-poor soil, extreme aridi-
ty, and high summer temperatures), agriculture
represents a relatively small portion (an esti-
mated 3 percent) of Abu Dhabis gross domes-
tic product (GDP). Employment in the agricul-
tural sector was approximately 7 percent of the
employed population in 2005.
Farms are being developed in dense clusters
with typically two wells of limited distance
apart. Such farm development has forced
groundwater resources to become more
stressed in terms of decreasing aquifer water
levels and groundwater quality. In 2006-2007 the
total cultivated agricultural land under the citi-
zens
1
farms in Abu Dhabi was 70,375 ha
(Figure 1). The growth rate is more in the Al Ain
area than in the western part of the Emirate.
The concentrations of farms are shown in
Figure 2. Records show that there was an
increasing trend in the area brought under cul-
tivation until 2004-2005; in the period from 1995-
1996 to 2004-2005 this in fact increased by about
100 percent (ASB, 2006-2007). In 2006-2007,
there was a decrease of about 5 percent from
2004-2005. Similarly, the maximum number of
farms under cultivation in 2004-2006 was 23,704,
which subsequently decreased by about 2 per-
Annex 6. Irrigation
186 187
Introduction
1 Emiratis wishing to become involved in agriculture production were granted 2 to 3 ha lands for farming. Each farm usually
has two drilled wells at opposite locations of the plot. A substantial amount of subsidies were granted to farmers for irrigation
development, wells and agricultural inputs.
annex 6 1/28/10 11:35 AM Page 4
Due to recent increases in groundwater salinity
(see Annex 1), many farm producers have
installed small-scale reverse osmosis (RO) salt-
water treatment plants for growing crops (i.e.
vegetables, grasses, and date palm) or to pro-
vide drinking water to animals (Figure 3) (see
Annex 2). In the Al Ain municipality area, sev-
enty four RO plants are in operation
(Department of Municipalities and Agriculture,
Al Ain, personal communications). The capaci-
ty widely varies from 15 to 450 m
3
per day
depending on the area under crop production
or based on the number of farm animals. The
main concern with these developments relates
to the safe disposal of brine and current prac-
tices include:
1. Surface disposal (to excavated and non-exca-
vated pits where both evaporation and
groundwater recharge occurs, and/or to the
mountain terrain, or the steep edge of sand
dunes where primarily groundwater recharge
occurs);
2. Blending or mixing with groundwater for
date palm irrigation; and
3. Use in the cooling pads of green houses.
These findings are based on a recent prelimi-
nary field survey conducted by the
International Center for Biosaline Agriculture
(ICBA) in the Al Ain and western regions. ICBA
has just started working with the Ministry of
Environment and Water (MOEW) on develop-
ing guidelines for the safe and sustainable use of
this technology in agriculture. The MOEW has
already drafted a law for licensing the RO units
for use in agriculture.
Forestry
The forestry area has expanded rapidly in the
Emirate increasing from 58,000 to 305,243 ha
(i.e. about 5.26 times over 17 years or 26 percent
growth per annum) between 1989 and 2006. A
wide variety of plant species are being grown. In
cent in 2006-2007. The total number of working
irrigation wells are 40,494 in 2006-2007, about 8
percent less than 2005-2006 (ASB, 2006-2007).
Such changes in cropped areas or number of
farms or wells can be attributed perhaps to
changes in government policy towards subsi-
dized agriculture, declining groundwater level
and quality, increasing pumping costs, and/or
other miscellaneous reasons.
While groundwater remains the primary water
source for irrigation purposes, its recharge rate
is very low (less than 4 percent of total annual
consumption). In the last three decades, rapid
economic development coupled with popula-
tion growth and large agricultural sector
expansion have forced the government to rely
on non-conventional water resources such as
desalination and treated wastewater as sec-
ondary sources for irrigation water supply.
From an economic perspective, desalinated
water is not a suitable option as its cost is exor-
bitant in global economical terms. Treated
wastewater has the most potential as marginal
water suitable for growing forages, landscap-
ing, fruit orchards and non-vegetative crops.
Necessary wastewater use guidelines in agricul-
ture are required for effective utilization of
treated wastewater resource.
Agriculture uses virtually all of the groundwa-
ter abstracted and significant quantities of
desalinated water
2
. The sector, as a whole,
consumes about 1949 Mcm/yr (i.e. 58 percent
of all demand) of water that is provided to
about 25,000 private farms covering about
75,500 ha of area
3
. The three major groups of
crop are vegetables, fodder (mainly Rhodes
grass) and date palm. There is also limited cul-
tivation of cereal and fruits. Most farms are
sustained by subsidies offered by the govern-
ment. Since 2005, selection of crops to be
grown is based on the recommendations given
to the producers by the agricultural extension
services of the municipalities
4
. This helps in
marketing and reducing surplus of produce.
The protected areas for growing vegetables
have been increasing steadily over the years
from 140 ha to 398 ha between 2002-2003 and
2006-2007. A significant increase was recorded
(i.e. 1.53 times) in 2006-2007 against 2005-2006.
The number of green houses increased from
4,958 in 2005-2006 to 8,174 in 2006-2007. This
cultivation technique helps in improving water
use productivity and in cropping intensity.
Annex 6. Irrigation
189 188
2 Estimated by Brook, 2006. Department of Municipalities and Agriculture, Emirates of Abu Dhabi has reported about 450
Mcm/year water use in agriculture in 2008. Out of which 419 Mm3 extracted from wells and remaining 31 Mm3 from the large-
scale desalination plants. Similarly Mooreland et al., 2007 reported that 456 Mcm/year of groundwater is being pumped for irri-
gation. They anticipated that this could be an underestimated value.
3 In 2006-2007, the area has been reduced to 70,375 ha (ASB, 2006-2007).
4 It is expected that Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority will take responsibility of agriculture in near future.
Figure 1. Agricultural Farm Area in Abu Dhabi
Emirate
Source: Annual Statistical Book 2006/2007,
Agriculture Sector, Emirate of Abu Dhabi
Figure 2. Agricultural Farm Locations in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi
Dawoud, 2008
annex 6 1/28/10 11:35 AM Page 6
increasing over time. Trees are usually irrigated
by drip and bubbler irrigation methods. Though
modern irrigation systems have been used,
optimal growth has never been achieved due to
limited irrigation applications that meet a) full
evapotranspiration (ET) demands, and b)
leaching requirements.
There are also problems resulting from the
salinity of the groundwater. In the eastern
region, the average irrigation water salinity for
250 studied wells was found to be about 7,200
ppm; the value ranged from 5,200 to 10,900 ppm
(EAD, TERC 2005). For the entire eastern
forestry area, water salinity varied from 4,200 to
28,600 ppm. Whereas groundwater in the
Western Region was found to be more saline;
salinity values usually range from 10,000 ppm to
40,000 ppm, and exceeds 50,000 ppm in the Al
Wathbah area (Moreland et al., 2007). To
reduce water salinity, either fresh or desalinat-
ed water is blended with high saline water to
improve water quality. Furthermore, water
demand for established forests is greater than
water availability; consequently only 50 percent
of demand can be satisfied. Thus, more strin-
gent irrigation application via the subsurface
drip irrigation method is underway in the
forestry sector.
Considering water quality and quantity, soils
and climate, selection of appropriate plant be of
prime concern for sustainability in this sector.
Amenity
Amenity irrigation has been increasing in Abu
Dhabi with the growth of urban development
and highways/roads. While these plantings
have an ecosystem value, it is also important to
consider their water quality and quantity impli-
cations. At present, the amenity areas consume
about 7 percent of total water consumption in all
sectors. Treated wastewater contributes about
54 percent of the total water used, with the
Foreign farm labourers are predominantly
responsible for operation and maintenance of
irrigation systems and they are mostly unskilled
and not trained in modern irrigation methods.
This has resulted in inefficiencies despite the
use of these modern methods. Water demand
and the need for irrigation vary greatly depend-
remaining demand being met from desalination
and groundwater. In the Al Ain area alone, about
400 wells are in use for amenity irrigation. Public
parks and amenity areas cover about 1,000 ha,
whereas other amenity areas including golf clubs
and sports facilities cover more than 6,600 ha.
The total water use is estimated at 245 Mcm/yr
(including Palaces) in 2006 (Brook, 2006).
In 2008, it is estimated that 537,535 m
3
/day was
used in landscaping projects in the Abu Dhabi
Municipality area alone. Out of which 46 and 34
percent comes from desalinated and treated
wastewater respectively. The remaining i.e. 20
percent comes from groundwater (Department
of Municipalities and Agriculture, Abu Dhabi).
On Abu Dhabi Island, the total water use in land-
scaping was about 162,600 m
3
/day with treated
wastewater contributing 66 percent and desali-
nation about 34 percent. Whereas in Al Ain the
total water used was 130,000 m
3
/day, with 100,000
and 30,000 m
3
/day from treated wastewater and
wells respectively (Department of Municipalities
and Agriculture, Al Ain, personal communica-
tions). The cost of landscaping projects in the Al
Ain municipality alone is estimated to be AED
100 million per year.
Irrigated Area and Methods
From the recent soil survey undertaken for the
Abu Dhabi (see Table 6.1) it appears that all
land has limitations to growing crops/forage,
with only 8 percent moderately suitable for agri-
culture.
The irrigated area by methods in farms of Abu
Dhabi is presented in Table 6.2. Irrigation meth-
ods include modern (drip, bubbler and sprin-
kler) and traditional (basin flooding). Of the
modern methods employed, drip irrigation con-
stitutes 88 percent, followed by bubblers (6 per-
cent) and sprinklers (1.5 percent). Drip irriga-
tion systems are used for growing vegetables
both in open fields and in greenhouses; whereas
the Eastern region, native species such as ghaf
and arak are most commonly grown, while in
the western forestry area, salam, damas, sidr
and ghawiaf dominate the stands. In 2006 the
water demand for forestry was about 607.3
Mcm/yr which is about 18 percent of the total
water demand. In the Western Region of the
Emirate, the estimated water use was 484.45
Mcm/yr whereas in the eastern region 122.85
Mcm/yr of water was used (Dawoud, 2008).
Recent research reports that average water use
has decreased from 2300 m
3
/ha/yr to 2160
m3/ha/yr between 1996 and 2006 in the eastern
region with a more marked reduction in the
western region from 3818 m
3
/ha/yr to 1,990
m3/ha/yr (Moreland et al., 2007). This may be
due to a reduction in well yields as well as a
decrease in water application quantities.
The forestry sector is heavily dependent on
groundwater, and as such competes with agri-
culture for resources. Recently, desalinated
water has been used in addition in some west-
ern projects, and this relative contribution is
bubbler systems or open hose systems are pre-
dominantly used in fruit orchards. Fodder crops
are grown using sprinkler irrigation systems or
watered through small channels.
Rhodes grass is widely cultivated in the Emirate
and covering some 20,000 ha in 2008.
(Department of Municipalities and Agriculture,
Al Ain, personal communications). The water
requirements for cultivating such fodder are
extremely high; about 15,000 m3/ha/year. Other
irrigated crops include corn, wheat, barley,
tobacco, date palm, lime, grape fruit, mango,
guava, fig, etc. The total area under date palm
cultivation is about 172,080 ha, and 13.83 million
date palm trees are in production in 2005
(MOEW, 2005) . About 95 percent of date palm
cultivated areas were utilizing modern irriga-
tion methods. The total date production was
about 595,000 tons.
Annex 6. Irrigation
190 191
Source: ICBA photographer, 11 November 2008
Figure 3. A small-scale reverse osmosis (RO) plant in
Liwa area is being used for growing vegetables in the
green houses and fields using desalinated product
water.
Table 6.1 Irrigation Suitability Area
Source: Soil survey for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi
(ICBA, 2008). *Value represents the percent of the
total area.
Highly suitable with no significant
limitations 0 (0 percent*)
Moderately suitable land with
moderate limitations 432,165 (8 percent)
Marginally suitable land with
severe limitations 1,054,937 (20 percent)
Currently unsuitable land with severe
limitations that cannot be corrected
with existing knowledge and
technology at acceptable costs 1,877,314 (36 percent)
Permanently unsuitable land that
cannot be corrected 1,904,280 (36 percent)
Classification Area in ha
annex 6 1/28/10 11:35 AM Page 8
ing on plant species and its physiological status,
time of growing season, and agro-meteorology,
so appropriate training on irrigation scheduling
is essential for effective utilization of scare water
resources.
Water Quality
The major limitations to the development of irri-
gated agriculture in Abu Dhabi are a shortage of
groundwater availability and increasing salinity
levels. Recently, EAD reported that about 10
percent of wells in the Emirate have become dry
and 70 percent are saline (Dawoud, 2008).
Although modern irrigation methods are intro-
ducing water use efficiencies, both groundwater
quantity and quality have become stressed with
many existing wells on farms now unable to pro-
vide the desired irrigation water quantity and
quality. Thus, in many cases, farms have been
abandoned or desalinated water is being sup-
plied to sustain crop production.
Irrigated farms have been developed in close
proximity to one another causing well interfer-
ence and rapid dropping of groundwater levels.
The lowering of water levels has ranged from 60
to 95 m during the last 10 years in the Al Ain area
(Brook, 2006). In fact, groundwater levels have
dropped more in the eastern agricultural region
than in the western agricultural region. In the
Liwa area, water levels have declined in the
range of 3 to 10 m over the past 10 years. It has
also been reported that the drop was found to
be greater in unconfined aquifers than in con-
fined aquifers.
High rates of groundwater withdrawal in addi-
tion to very low water recharge and sea water
intrusion have significantly increased ground-
water salinity. About 65 percent of wells had
water salinity greater than 4,000 ppm out of
23,899 wells that were tested in the Al Ain area
in 2000-2001. In the Al Samah area of Abu
Dhabi, the well water salinity was 3,000 ppm
(MacDonald, 2004). Whereas in 2006-2007, well
water salinity exceeded 15,000 ppm in 80 per-
cent of 5,808 wells tested in the Abu Dhabi
Municipality area. The water salinity values
ranged from 3,500 to 23,100 ppm. (ASB, 2006-
2007). Many of the wells in the Liwa area show a
high concentration of nitrates ( 50 mg/L) espe-
cially in farming areas. This is perhaps due to
excessive use of nitrogen fertilizer and irrigation
water.
Cropping Pattern Related to
Irrigation System
Agriculture and forestry in Abu Dhabi is domi-
nated by three cropping systems: (i) the tradi-
tional agricultural system for growing vegeta-
bles, fruits and fodders that is subsidized by the
government; (ii) date palm production; and (iii)
forestry. Local food production currently satis-
fies about one-fourth of the Emirates total food
requirements and is even self-sufficient in some
winter vegetables.
Vegetables are grown in protected houses and
in open fields. Various types of vegetables are
grown, including, tomato, cucumber, bean,
squash, eggplant, okra, etc. Fruits are grown in
all agricultural regions and include citrus,
mango, figs and other tropical and sub-tropical
fruits. Dates are grown throughout the Emirate,
but better quality dates are produced inland
away from the coast.
It is obvious that soil and water parameters,
especially water availability and quality, should
influence decision making on the selection of pri-
ority crops of vegetables and forages. Crop
mixes, that are suitable for arid land farming,
requiring less water demand, and appropriate for
marginal water quality, should be assigned high-
er preference.
Livestock Production
The livestock industry (especially with regards
to camel and sheep/goat rearing) has been
increasing in the Emirates due to substantial
increases in forage production. The approximate
yearly production of Rhodes grass is 470,000 tons
(dry weight), whereas the imported alfalfa from
USA, Spain and Italy is about 448,000 tons (dry
weight) (Department of Municipalities and
Agriculture, official communications). The total
numbers of camels, sheep/goat, and cow were
353,337, 2,127,604 and 19,458 in 2006-2007 respec-
tively in the Emirate. Such high concentrations
of livestock not only require substantial forage
and rangeland, but also contribute towards
groundwater pollution. The number of animals is
increasing over time (i.e. 15, 13 and 23 percent
increase for camel, sheep/goat, and cows respec-
tively in 2006-2207 in comparison with 2005-
2007).
Positive Impacts of Agriculture
Development
When considering irrigation it is important to
consider holistically the impacts of develop-
ments. A number of positive impacts on the rural
economy have resulted from the agricultural
expansion including:
1. Since the mid 1980s, the Abu Dhabi gov-
ernment has initiated a change in agricul-
ture policy to replace traditional farming
with modern farms. Over time the area
under cultivation has been increased, but
Annex 6. Irrigation
192 193
Table 6.2 Irrigated Area by Method in Farms
Source: Annual Statistical Book-2006-2007,
Agriculture Sector, Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Drip 62,136
Sprinklers 1,060
Bubblers 4,110
Flooding 2,231
Others 838
Total 70,375
Irrigation method Irrigated area (ha)
in addition crop yields per unit area have
also been improved. This was possible due
to the introduction of new varieties of
crops such as dates and vegetables;
together with complementary agricultural
inputs i.e. agrochemicals, cultivation tech-
niques and farm management. This has
helped the government in achieving its
goals for poverty reduction and raising the
standard of living of rural Emiratis.
2. Various international agencies such as the
International Center for Agricultural Research
in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), ICBA, Food and
Agricultural Organization (FAO) amongst
others, and private organizations have been
active in testing new irrigation and production
technologies suitable for the Emirates soil, cli-
mate and water conditions.
3. From a farmers point of view, agricultural
developments in Abu Dhabi have been suc-
cessful and provided a stable income. In a larg-
er economic evaluation it is important to
include the heavy subsidies given by the gov-
ernment to the sector. These subsidies, how-
ever, have been reduced in recent years,
although they still exist in practice. Such
development has also stimulated private sec-
tor industry supplying products such as
pumps, irrigation, seeds, and fertilizers.
4. There is a direct positive linkage between
crop/forage production and livestock farming
over the years. This adds a new dimension to
the internal crop-livestock integration in
Emirate farming systems.
Subsidies in Agriculture
There has been a consistent and substantial
increase in the area of land used for both agri-
culture and forestry over the past 30 years at
least partially stimulated by the following gov-
ernment incentives:
annex 6 1/28/10 11:35 AM Page 10
increased total number of livestock. For dates,
producers can get AED 1-2 per kilogram if they
sell in the open market, thus Al Foah took the
responsibility to ensure higher price for the pro-
ducers. It is reported that Al Foah receives a
substantial amount of subsidies from the gov-
ernment. In addition, municipalities are spend-
ing about AED 578 million per year for date palm
plant protection measures.
Future Developments in Irrigated
Agriculture
Protected Systems
The arid climate and environmental conditions
of Abu Dhabi necessitate and encourage the
introduction of protected agriculture, particu-
larly for vegetable crops. The main crops culti-
vated under protected agriculture are tomato,
cucumber, pepper, sweet melon, and beans.
Yields from greenhouse crops are generally 100
to 200 percent more than comparable field-pro-
duced crops. In addition, water use efficiency
can be improved by recycling unused water back
to the plants via the fertigation system. Many
small-scale reverse-osmosis (RO) plants are
being used to desalinate the saline groundwater.
The treated water is then used for irrigating
crops grown in the greenhouses.
For effective utilization of protected agriculture,
the areas of possible interventions include
incentives for expanding protected areas espe-
cially multi span, high quality plastic films, salt-
tolerant and drought resistance crop cultivars.
In addition, further studies should be conducted
on climate control and optimization of plant
environment, integrated pest management, soil-
less culture, and fertigation.
Natural Ecosystem and Biodiversity
The natural ecosystem and biodiversity in Abu
Dhabi face the following challenges:
Agricultural lands were granted free to Abu
Dhabi citizens;
Mechanical land leveling was free of charge;
Agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers,
and insecticides were provided at half cost;
Water wells were drilled for free;
Free technical services such as installation of
water pumps;
Established a no-interest agricultural credit
line in 1978 to grant farmers loans for water
pumps, fence wires, fishing boat engines,
green houses, and drip irrigation systems;
and
Secured demand in produce market as the
government buys the farmers products at
favorable prices.
In recent years, a decreasing trend has been
observed in the allocation of subsidies. There
had been an approximately 22 percent decrease
in subsidies given to agricultural inputs in 2006-
2007 compared against 2005-2006. This trend is
part of government policies leading to the phas-
ing out of subsidies for agriculture inputs,
whereby farmers usually only paid 50 percent of
the actual input cost. The total input subsidy in
2006-2007 was about AED 16.13 million with a
major reduction covering machines / pumps /
sprayer costs. There was a major shift towards
organic fertilizers, and a complete stop to chem-
ical fertilizers and their applicators. Drip irriga-
tion methods received 1.8 times more in subsi-
dies when compared against the same time-
frame. It is also reported that subsidies in the
livestock sector have been decreasing recently.
In Al Ain, the total subsidy on camels and
sheep/goat livestock production in 2006-2007
was AED 94.8011 million which is in fact about
1.17 percent lower than 2002-2003 in spite of the
1. Habitat loss and fragmentation;
2. Non-native species introduction and inva-
sion;
3. Soil loss by erosion;
4. Management of plant genetic resources; and
5. Adverse climate change.
The preservation of natural ecosystems is possi-
ble by conserving and rehabilitating natural
plants i.e. flowers, halophytes, etc. suitable for
the local conditions. In addition, an integrated
development program for growing salt-tolerant
plants in sabkha areas can preserve natural sus-
tainability. For wildlife, a program for establish-
ment of in-situ wildlife conservation is needed.
Ecosystem remediation by applying water pur-
posefully through natural oases and landscapes
is possible. Estimating the water demand for
this remediation process (or it can simply be
considered as environmental water demand)
could help in determining total water demand
in Abu Dhabi. Such demand will vary consider-
ably with the level of expansion of landscape
and conservation of oases.
Irrigation Methods and Irrigation
Water Management
Irrigation technology and management can
assist in reducing water demand in agriculture
and ultimately protect the environment. From
field visits to the Liwa farm areas, it appears
that significant improvements can be made
towards improving water use efficiency by 1)
using appropriate irrigation methods and site-
specific irrigation and drainage system designs;
and 2) applying on-farm water management
practices. Delivering water to crops/forages is a
critical challenge. Much of the water used in the
conventional surface irrigation methods simply
evaporates from the soil without helping the
crop water use at all, and excessively wetted soil
may encourage weed growth. Thus, it is obvious
that micro-irrigation or micro-spray irrigation
Annex 6. Irrigation
194 195
methods are unique for water scarcity condi-
tions.
Micro-irrigation methods referred to as drip,
trickle and bubbler, have similar design and
management criteria. Soil is usually kept at
high moisture levels and water does not come
into contact with plant leaves and foliage. This
enables the use of high saline water without
burning the leaves especially when using the
drip irrigation method. In addition, the drip
method reduces leaching requirements. These
methods apply water at a low flow rate and in
the active root-zone. This also helps in using
reclaimed wastewater. Other advantages
include more efficient water use, easy to man-
age, not influenced by wind, easy to automate,
labour non-intensive, and suitable for chemical
application with irrigation water. The main dis-
advantages are higher installation costs and the
requirement of a water filtration system to
clean the water. While these methods do not
reduce the net crop water consumption, they
can improve the uniform distribution of water
and reduce evaporation and non-beneficial ET,
thus allowing more efficient use of water.
Modern irrigation methods provide better
water application efficiencies, but require high
levels of design, operation and maintenance,
and precise irrigation scheduling to make them
successful. Current technology can be used to
determine real-time irrigation water demand by
monitoring water regimes in the soil and crop
physiology. In fact, full automation of the irriga-
tion water application is possible resulting in a
reduction of labour requirements and an
increase in water savings by avoiding daytime
irrigation. In fact, no single technology can
solve the existing scarce irrigation water situa-
tions, but advanced irrigation scheduling,
increased irrigation efficiency, deficit or limited
irrigation during less stress-sensitive crop
stages, soil moisture management and treated
wastewater are all realistic mitigating solutions.
annex 6 1/28/10 11:35 AM Page 12
Crop selection is always important agricultural
management decision, and in Abu Dhabi choos-
ing suitable cropping patterns, such as vegeta-
bles, salt-tolerant and drought resistance
crops/forages for the prevalent agro-climatic
and economic conditions can help in reducing
irrigation water demands. Information on crop
water requirements provided in Table 6.3 could
assist in crop planning, especially for selecting
low water demanding crops. Tables 6.4-6.5 pres-
ent some selected crops, orchards, trees and
shrubs that can be grown in brackish or saline
irrigation water. Most of the water contained in
the unconfined aquifer is brackish, and saline.
Thus, the selection of appropriate crops/trees
could utilize brackish/saline water resources
effectively, although the biomass production or
yield would be reduced with higher
Annex 6. Irrigation
196 197
Table 6.3 Crop Water Requirements of Some Selected Crops, Fruit Trees and Forages Growing in
Abu Dhabi Emirate
Source: Economic Perspectives. Working paper No. 6. The UAE National Water Strategy Study, the World Bank;
*Department of Municipalities and Agriculture, Abu Dhabi Emirate reported a higher value i.e. 25,000 to 30,000
m
3
/ha. Such value could be overestimated. **Water Requirements for Sunflower (Report No. EB-25). North
Dakota Agricultural Experimental Station, USA.
Table 12: The Challenges of Inland Brine Disposal
Alfalfa 15,700 Lettuce 2,300
Rhodes* 15,000 Squash 2,300
Date palm 14,800 Pepper 2,000
Lemon/Citrus 10,200 Cucumber (field) 1,900
Tomato (field) 6,500 Parsley 1,900
Okra 6,380 Yellow Melon 1,860
Water melon 5,500 J. mallow (field) 1,800
Sunflower** 4,830 Turnip 1,700
Tomato (green house) 4,050 Bean 1,600
Sweet melon 3,100 Cabbage 1,600
Onion 2,500 Spinach 1,600
Potato 2,500 Cauliflower 1,400
Egg plants 2,400 Cucumber (greenhouse) 1,140
Cowpea 2,400 J. Mallow (greenhouse) 1,080
Carrot 2,300 Beans (greenhouse) 960
Crop
CWater requirements
(m
3
/ha)op
CWater requirements
(m
3
/ha)op
Crop
Table 6.4 The Maximum Water Salinity-tolerance Limit for Some Selected Crops
Source: Water Resources of the UAE. Working Paper No. 1. The UAE National Water Strategy Study. The World
Bank.
*Additional source: Water Quality for Agriculture, Irrigation and Drainage Paper No. 29, The FAO. (Note: The
crops are grouped considering the maximum water salinity tolerance limit. Crop yields will decline as water
becomes more saline; therefore, use of poorer quality water will reduce agricultural production and income. The
crops are also sensitive to specific chemicals in groundwater especially boron, magnesium, bicarbonate, etc.;
and if these elements are significantly present even in low conductivity waters it would reduce biomass produc-
tion and tolerance. In addition, there are crop varietal differences on the salinity tolerance level). *Total
Dissolved Solids.
Table 12: The Challenges of Inland Brine Disposal
Conductivity (dS/m) <2.34 2.34-<7.5 7.5-<18.75 18.75
TDS** (ppm) <1500 1,500-<6,000 6,000-<15,000 15,000
Water classification Fresh Moderately brackish Brackish Saline
Bean* Alfalfa Bermuda grass
Barley (forage) * Sudan grass
Beets
Cabbage*
Carrot
Cowpea
Cucumber
Grapes
Lettuce
Onion
Pepper
Potato
Radish
Rhodes grass
S. Melons
Spinach*
Squash*
Tomato
Plant tolerance Low Moderate High Very High
brackish/saline water. With treated wastewater,
it is important that careful irrigation applica-
tion methods are used to protect the environ-
ment, soil health and to minimize heath hazards.
With saline water, adequate precaution is need-
ed to protect irrigation infrastructures from cor-
rosion and to reduce secondary salinization.
Biotechnology
Genetic engineering has the potential to help
increase productivity especially on marginal
lands by developing crop/plant cultivars that are
suitable for salinity, desertification and drought.
While it may not be possible to overcome the
effects of salinity or drought completely through
genetic manipulation, there are reasons to
believe that modest increases in plant water use
efficiency are indeed possible. Conventional
breeding for drought and salt tolerance has
been attempted for some time, and has met
with limited success due to the complexity of
the desired traits. This suggests that conven-
tional breeding practices are not enough, and
that in order to succeed, a breeding program
should include the engineering of transgenic
salt-tolerant crops. In recent years, the rapid
progress in understanding the mechanisms
that may participate in plant stress responses
and salinity tolerance, as well as molecular
cloning of genes involved in various metabolic
pathways that respond to salt stress offer new
approaches to improving tolerance. Genes
associated with salt-stress have been cloned
and engineered in crops such as tomato, corn,
tobacco, peanut, wheat and rice. Small and
annex 6 1/28/10 11:35 AM Page 14
large scale trials have been performed at differ-
ent locations, under varying environmental
conditions and stresses to evaluate the tech-
nology. Collaboration with international
research centers is needed for such research
and development to progress rapidly in the
UAE.
Annex 6. Irrigation
198 199
Table 6.5 The Maximum Water Salinity-tolerance Limit for Some Selected Orchards, Tress and Shrubs
Source: Water Resources of the UAE. Working Paper No. 1. The UAE National Water Strategy Study. The World
Bank. (Note: The trees are grouped considering the maximum water salinity tolerance limit. Tree yields will
decline as water becomes more saline; therefore, use of poorer quality water will reduce agricultural production
and income. The trees are also sensitive to specific chemicals in groundwater especially boron, magnesium,
bicarbonate, chloride, sodium, etc.; and if these elements are significantly present even in low conductivity
waters it would reduce biomass production and tolerance. In addition, there are tree varietal differences on the
salinity tolerance level). Common names of the trees are given in the brackets.
Table 12: The Challenges of Inland Brine Disposal
Conductivity (dS/m)
TDS (ppm)
Water classification
<2.34
<1500
Fresh
Acacia raddiana
2.34-<7.5
1,500-<6,000
Moderately brackish
Acacia cyanophylla
(Blue leaf wattle)
Pithecellobium dulce
(Monkey pod)
18.75
15,000
Saline
Artiplex spp. (Saltbush)
Casuarina equisetifolia (Horse
tail tree)
Phoenix dactylifera (Date palm)
Diplachne fusca (Leptochloa)
Paspalum vaginatum (saltwater
couch)
Prosopis juliflora (Mesquite)
Salvadora persica (Tooth brush
tree)
Tamamix nilotica
Taramix aphylla (Tamorisk)
7.5-<18.75
6,000-<15,000
Brackish
Acacia nilotica (Arabian gum tree)
Acacia tortilis (Umbrella thorn)
Albizzia lebbeck (Indian siris)
Azadirachta indica (Neem)
Caligonum comosum (Fire bush)
Citrus aurantifolia (Citrus)
Eucalyptus camaldulensis (Red
gum Trees)
Ficus carica (Fig)
Leptadenia pyrotechnica
Leucaena leucocephala (Leucaena)
Nerium oleander (Oleander)
Prosopis cineraria (Ghaf)
Punica granatum (Pomegranate)
Zizyphus spina-christi (Christs
thorn)
Plant tolerance Low Moderate High Very High
Socio-economic Considerations
A socio-economic study to evaluate farmers
livelihood changes due to technological incen-
tives, and institutional and policy interven-
tions in farming is an important part in the
decision-making in any country on any pro-
grams for expansion or reduction. In Abu
Dhabi this is not different and possible scenar-
ios or alternatives should be considered in
such an exercise. Cost analyses of crop produc-
tion should be based on cost per unit of water
consumed in addition to other factors. In addi-
tion, subsidies for farming inputs and market-
ing need to be taken into consideration.
Food Self Sufficiency and Virtual
Water Importation
During January-June 2008, a global food crisis
had become increasingly evident in many of
the poorest countries of the world. This crisis
has prompted discussion of regional and
national food self-sufficiency, that is,75 a pro-
tectionist reaction to various global or region-
al supply and demand positions, that either do
or seem to threaten the price and availability
of staple agricultural commodities, particular-
ly cereals and oil seeds. Historically, such
crises were usually provoked by military
action, but the present crisis is based, to a
large extent, on the political and commercial
policies of major producing countries and
regions.
Food self sufficiency, in any particular popula-
tion, depends on both the quantitative and
qualitative aspects of diet. In meat eating
communities, the question of self sufficiency is
entirely different than in the case of vegetarian
communities. While both are dependent on
climatic conditions, soil fertility and, most
important of all, water (frequently irrigation)
availability, it is the relative volume of the
water needed to produce a unit mass of prod-
uct that is key. In the case of cereals, the
water requirement for optimum growth ranges
between 1 and 2 m3 per kg, but, in the case of
beef, the water requirement per kg is 16 m3.
However, in the Middle East, optimal condi-
tions for cereal production rarely exist and, in
the specific case of Abu Dhabi, probably will
never exist.
Real food self sufficiency implies low popula-
tion densities served by extensive, rather than
intensive, agriculture; a situation that has not
existed in many regions of the world for well
over a century. High population densities and
food self sufficiency are concepts that are
almost always in direct contrast. In the case of
Abu Dhabi, the introduction of a program
aimed at food self sufficiency at sensible cost,
would, almost certainly, be unsustainable with
respect to irrigated water supply and demand.
Food Self Sufficiency
This implies a situation where total food
requirements can be satisfied from indigenous
agriculture, livestock industry and fisheries,
without requirement for foodstuff, feedstuff
and fodder importation. Very clearly, in the
way in which the international agricultural
commodity trade has developed throughout
the past 2000 years, food self sufficiency is, in
the strictest sense, a myth as far as the vast
majority of countries are concerned.
Obviously, most countries, including the UAE,
are able to satisfy local demand for certain
agricultural products on a seasonal basis, and
possibly on a more extended basis provided
investment in high technology agricultural
production systems occurs. However, suffi-
cient production of commodity crops, particu-
larly cereals, would not, even with the use of
massive volumes of either desalinated water
directly or mixed with brackish groundwater,
be commercially sustainable for anything more
than short term emergency situations. While
fisheries might well prove sustainable in the
UAE as a whole, livestock production, with its
extremely high demand for water for both fod-
der crop (Rhodes, alfalfa, etc.) production and
the oil seed and cereal components of com-
pounded feed, certainly would not be possible.
The livestock industry is discussed in more
detail in Annex 5. In cases of blockade or
embargo, few countries or regions have been
annex 6 1/28/10 11:35 AM Page 16
able to sustain livestock production at accept-
able levels of productivity. Even at the current
population level and demographic distribu-
tion, food self sufficiency in Abu Dhabi is pre-
cluded because of inadequate water resources.
It is water availability, rather than food self
sufficiency per se, that will prove to be the first
limiting factor. In simple terms, a major,
essentially insoluble, gap exists with respect to
the water supply and demand equation.
Virtual Water
The concept of virtual water was first intro-
duced in the early 1990s (Allan, 1993), but it took
a decade before this important concept for
potentially achieving regional and even global
water security gained appropriate recognition.
Producing either products or services generally
requires water and the water used in both agri-
cultural and industrial product production is
described as the virtual water contained in each
particular product or commodity. Hence, if any
particular country exports a water intensive
product or commodity to another country, it is
effectively exporting water in a virtual form,
thereby supporting the importing country with
respect to its water needs. Virtual water is the
water embodied in a product, not in a real sense,
but in a virtual sense. It is, in fact, the water
needed for the production of the product under
consideration rather than its actual water con-
tent. Although it has been proposed in the past
(Hamer et al., 1989), the trade of real water,
other than by international, trans-frontier rivers,
between water-rich and water-poor countries, is
generally impossible on grounds of both dis-
tance and cost. However, trade in water inten-
sive products, i.e., the virtual water trade, is
entirely feasible and realistic and, for water
scarce countries or regions, it could be attrac-
tive as a means of achieving a greater level of
water security by importing water intensive
products and commodities rather than produc-
ing them domestically (Hoekstra, 2003).
Annex 6. Irrigation
200 201
The economic argument behind virtual water
trade is that, according to international trade
theory, countries should export products in
which they posses a relative or comparative
advantage in production, while they should
import products in which they posses a compar-
ative disadvantage. The net import of virtual
water in a water scarce country can relieve pres-
sure on that countrys own water resources. In
this context, virtual water represents an addi-
tional alternative source of water. Assessing the
virtual water content of a product, particularly
an agricultural product, is a difficult task,
because of the many factors contributing to the
volume of water used in production and very lit-
tle consistency exists with respect to such
assessments. Problems stem from the place,
year and season of production, the point of
measurement, the production method and the
associated efficiency of water use, particularly
wastage, and methods for attributing water
inputs into intermediate products and services
as they apply to the virtual water content of the
final product.
A further complication involves the use of differ-
ent sources of water in agricultural commodity
production. Water has been divided into two
major categories: green water and blue water
(Yang et al., 2006). Green water is the water
source for rain-fed agriculture, and is generally
considered to represent the water stored in
unsaturated soils. Blue water is the primary
water source for irrigated agriculture and refers
to water from rivers, lakes, reservoirs and
aquifers. While green water is renewable, blue
water can be either renewable, in all four source
categories, or, in the case of groundwater
aquifers, also non-renewable, as is the predomi-
nant case as far as the groundwater resources of
Abu Dhabi are concerned. Both green and
renewable blue water contribute to the interna-
tional virtual water trade. Studies concerning
virtual water export make major efforts to differ-
entiate between green and blue water, but as far
as virtual water import is concerned, such differ-
entiation is of negligible importance. However,
this does not diminish the fact that drinking
water, at a typical per capita consumption of ca.
1 m3 per year, is small water compared with
typical per capita water consumption for food
production of ca. 1000 m3 per year, which is big
water (Allan, 1999). This clearly demonstrates
the relative ease of satisfying strict drinking
water demand, rather than domestic demand,
compared with the relative difficulty of satisfy-
ing sufficient water for crop irrigation and food
production.
While the UAE embraces the concept of free
trade, it would seem that it must also embrace
the advantageous aspects of the international
virtual water trade, as a most effective means of
reducing the overall demand for excessive vol-
umes of irrigation water from what is very rapid-
ly, particularly in Abu Dhabi, becoming a
restricted resource, both with respect to quanti-
ty and quality. For example, about 300 Mm3 of
water per year can be saved by importing for-
ages instead of growing Rhodes grass in Abu
Dhabi.
Recommendations
The following recommendations are made fol-
lowing the research undertaken.
Institutional Aspects
1) Abu Dhabi Water Council
It is important that the agriculture, irrigation
and forestry sectors are represented on the pro-
posed Abu Dhabi Water Council. Any changes in
use within these areas have significant impact
on the overall water strategy for the Emirate.
Management
2) Future Irrigation Strategy
The present land area brought under farming,
forestry, and landscaping is about more than 85
percent of the moderately-suitable land avail-
able in the Emirate (Table 1). This limits the
expansion of crop/forestry areas without severe
crop production suitability limitations. The 2007
Sustainability Report of EAD outlined key per-
formance indicators for reducing water con-
sumption in the agriculture and forestry sectors.
The agriculture water consumption needs to be
reduced to 18,000 m
3
/ha in 2012 from the present
value i.e. 23,500 m
3
/ha. In other words, a saving
of about 400 Mcm/year has to be made from
present levels of use. Similarly forest water con-
sumption should be at 2,500 m
3
/ha in 2012 from
3,500 m
3
/ha in 2007; this implies that a 300
Mcm/year savings has been planned. In addi-
tion, the lower limit of water salinity should be
reduced by 37.5 percent in 2012 from its 2007 val-
ues. To achieve these targets, irrigation strate-
gies should be addressed by 1) adding more
cropped area utilizing modern irrigation meth-
ods and technologies; 2) increasing the irriga-
tion water supply; and 3) irrigation water
demand management. Such irrigation strategies
also need to be linked with crop selection, incen-
tive policy and applied research. However, some
of the relevant irrigation strategies are dis-
cussed below.
3) Automation of Irrigation System (reducing
labour-dependent irrigation)
Automation with modern irrigation system will
reduce labour dependent irrigation practices in
the Emirates and will also assist in improving
water use efficiency. New demographic policies
of the UAE enforce use of modern building con-
struction techniques rather than labour-
dependent ones; a similar policy may come with
regards to irrigated agriculture.
4) Irrigation Water Supply Management
With regards to supply management, two possi-
ble technologies are relevant for the Emirate: 1)
groundwater recharge by constructing recharge
dams; and 2) the use of treated wastewater in
annex 6 1/28/10 11:35 AM Page 18
irrigation. In this context, wastewater guidelines
need to be formulated.
5) Irrigation Water Demand Management
Precise estimations of crop and forest water
demand should receive the first priority in the
Emirates. ET rates can be estimated using
remote sensing techniques. These techniques
overcome problems of spatial variability espe-
cially when used with a geographical informa-
tion system.
Water saving is possible by decreasing both non-
beneficial ET and irrigation water demands. To
facilitate minimization of non-beneficial ET,
possible measures include increasing irrigation
application efficiency and the reduction of sur-
face evaporation and water use by non-econom-
ic vegetation. In the case of irrigation water
demand reduction, possible interventions
include 1) using scientific irrigation scheduling
and control based monitoring of soil water mois-
ture, the plants, and/or the agro-meteorology; 2)
introducing crops that require low water
requirements; 3) selecting crop/plant species
able to take full advantage of available water
resources (e.g. use of saline water) and that are
salt-tolerant and drought resistant; and 4)
choosing appropriate irrigation method(s).
Controlled deficit irrigation strategy (CDI) may
be considered a part of demand management. It
considers less irrigation water application dur-
ing phonological periods in which controlled
deficit irrigation does not significantly affect the
production and quality of the crop involved.
During the other growth periods, full irrigation
is to be applied. This strategy has been found to
be successful, resulting in a water savings of
about 20-30 percent, for fruit trees (Domingo et
al., 1996). Applying this strategy is very challeng-
ing as the farmers should consider not only the
irrigation water quantity available, but also the
level of stress that the crop is experiencing, and
how that stress can affect yields. The main limi-
Annex 6. Irrigation
202 203
tation of this strategy is the need to appropri-
ately establish data on the phonological periods
when the impact of water deficit does not signif-
icantly affect production or quality under local
conditions. (There does exist literature that pro-
vides some basic data).
6) Agricultural Subsidy for Water
Conservation and Environmental
Protection
Agricultural subsidies have been, and will con-
tinue to be, applied in agriculture throughout
the world including in the Emirate. The main
challenge, however, is to determine what
kinds of incentives (subsidies) are needed to
meet national water strategies. It is obvious
that present subsidies need to be redirected
toward water conservation and environmental
protection. Recent data shows that the
Emirate government has already moved
towards that direction, for example, the finan-
cial assistance from chemical fertilizers has
been shifted to organic fertilizers along with
increased support for the drip irrigation
method. A systematic analysis, instead of an
isolated plan, of technical assistance, interest-
free or low-interest loans, or direct cost shar-
ing is needed to determine where such incen-
tives are appropriate to meet national water
strategies. Water pricing policies, particularly
for reclaimed wastewater, could be an incen-
tive for using water saving techniques.
7) Avoiding Irrigation Induced Groundwater
Pollution
Effective water utilization is a must under
conditions of water scarcity. This is possible
by avoiding over-irrigation and integrating
irrigation scheduling with other cultivation
techniques such as soil tillage and fertigation.
8) Energy Use Reduction
One strategy of better irrigation scheduling is
to minimize the use of energy. This can be
achieved by imposing penalties during the
periods of peak energy demand. This requires
both proper irrigation scheduling and the
selection of crops/forages with acceptably
lower water demands.
9) Public Awareness
Public awareness via community educational
and motivational programs can assist farm
communities to properly utilize scarce irriga-
tion water in economic and sustainable agri-
cultural production systems. Such programs
will provide educational, informational and
training opportunities to the farmers. The
relevant topics include cost-effective water
saving technologies, farm economics, envi-
ronmental impact of using chemicals and
overuse of irrigation water, water use efficien-
cies, etc. This also encourages farmers in
developing partnerships with extension serv-
ices, farm advisors, irrigation specialists, and
other government and private agencies.
Information and Knowledge
10) Irrigation Management Information
System (IMIS)
The development of IMIS in the Abu Dhabi
Emirate can assist irrigators or irrigation
planners/managers to efficiently manage irri-
gation systems. Efficient use of irrigation
water benefits farmers and the environment
by saving water, energy, and money. A well-
developed database is the first step in docu-
menting the necessary data/information that
helps in making right decisions when plan-
ning and managing irrigation water
resources. The input data/information to the
database includes agro-meteorological, farm
profiles, crop/plant physiology, irrigation
methods and water application, water quali-
ty, etc. Model outputs include irrigation man-
agement related technical and management
decisions. The IMIS should have a network
for data dissemination targeted towards a
broader audience.
11) Computer-based Analytical Tools
An optimization model can assist in decision
support systems by providing accurate deci-
sions for allocation of water amongst the possi-
ble agricultural production activities. The objec-
tive function could be based on the economics of
the agricultural production system, whereas the
constraints could be linked with resource avail-
ability and socio-cultural limitations. It is also
possible to optimize cropping patterns using
such an analytical tool. Post-optimal sensitivity
analysis can help in evaluating uncertainty and
risks associated with resource availability and
possible changes in agricultural policy.
International research centers such as ICBA can
assist the Abu Dhabi government in formulating
such models.
12) Human Resources Development
The development of human resources in the irri-
gation sector in the Emirate is essential. Such
skill improvements should include increasing
the number and expertise of professionals, and
improving institutional capacity for effective uti-
lization of scarce water resources. These alone,
however, will not produce the anticipated water
conservation results without the transference of
available knowledge to farmers.
13) Research and Development
Continuing research and development in vari-
ous facets of water use and conservation cannot
be ignored. In fact, research should focus on
improved water use and management and envi-
ronmental protection. The strengthening of
national agricultural research institutes and
joint collaboration with international research
centers (i.e. ICBA, ICARDA, amongst others)
are essential in this context. The success of
research is not only dependent on finding tech-
nical solutions, but also the dissemination and
adoption of these solutions i.e. best manage-
ment practices, appropriate strategies, fact-
sheets, by farmers. This is only possible where
strong research and extension linkages exist.
annex 6 1/28/10 11:35 AM Page 20
Annex 6. Irrigation
204
References
- Allan, J.A. 1999, Arid lands Newsletter, No. 45, 1-8.
- Allan, J.A., 1993, In: Priorities for water resources
allocation and management, ODA, London, pp. 13-
26.
- ASB, 2006-2007, Annual Statistics Book. Emirate of
Abu Dhabi. Dept. of Municipalities and Agriculture
- Brook, M., 2006, Water Resources of Abu Dhabi
Emirate, UAE: Environmental Agency Abu Dhabi,
Water Resources Department.
- Dawoud, M., 2008. Water resources and its limita-
tions in UAE. Paper presented in the symposium on
irrigation demand management, organized by the
Ministry of Environment and Water (MOEW), 27
November 2008.
- Domingo R, Ruiz-Snchez MC, Snchez-Blanco NJ,
Torrecillas A., 1996, Water relations, growth and
yield of Fino lemon trees under regulated deficit
irrigation. Irrigation Science 16(3): 115123.
- EAD, TERC, 2005, Well inventory and water supply
in forest development in the eastern region of Abu
Dhabi. Final report. Technical University of
Munich. Project No. 03-33-0001.
- Hamer, G. et al., 1989, Desalination, 72, 31-65.
- Hoekstra, A.Y., 2003, In: Virtual Water Trade, IHE
Delft Rept. No. 12, pp. 13-23.
- MacDonald, M, 2004, Preliminary assessment of the
water situation in the eastern and central regions of
Abu Dhabi Emirate. Final report.
- MOEW, 2005, Agricultural Statistics, Ministry of
Environment and Water, UAE.
- Moreland, Joe A., David W. Clark, and Jeffrey L.
Imes, 2007, Ground Water Abu Dhabis Hidden
Treasures. National Drilling Company-US
Geological Survey Groundwater Research
Program, AlAin, UAE.
- Yang, H. et al., 2006, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 10,
443-454.
annex 6 1/28/10 11:35 AM Page 22
Annex 7.
Governance and
Regulatory Frameworks
205
annex 7 1/28/10 11:36 AM Page 2
The importance of sound governance for effi-
cient, economic and sustainable environmental
and water management has been emphasized
throughout the world. This can be broken down
into various parts such as coherent and practica-
ble institutional structures, clear roles and
responsibilities, accountability, sound financial
management, informed and transparent deci-
sion-making, and checks-and-balance struc-
tures. With good water governance in place,
water policy objectives may be defined and real-
ized in an informed and transparent way.
Current Governance Institutions
and Responsibilities
In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), water gov-
ernance is shared between federal and emirate
level organizations. This is similar to many feder-
ations such as Australia, the USA, and Brazil
where organizations at different levels of respon-
sibility act as the competent authority for vari-
ous aspects of public administration. Whilst for
most aspects of environmental and water gover-
nance, emirate level organizations hold this role,
the federal level has authority for strategic over-
sight and planning.
Environmental Management
Various institutions have evolved and
changed since the establishment of the
Federation in 1971. Today the Ministry of
Environment and Water is the main authority
whose strategic objectives include developing
and implementing policies, plans and projects
to protect the environment. The Ministrys
remit is wide. It includes achieving food secu-
rity whilst minimizing the exhaustion of
groundwater, developing alternative water
sources related to use-group, reducing soil
and water pollution, enhancing terrestrial and
marine biodiversity, monitoring the environ-
ment, and setting standards for environmen-
tal assessments.
The second main authority, the independent
Federal Environment Agency/Authority
(FEA), was established in 1993. Its current
remit as defined by Federal Law No (2) of 2004
is that it is charged with implementing various
strategies and activities to achieve these
objectives. Many programs are currently in
place such as developing national environmen-
tal strategies, monitoring, and awareness-rais-
ing. Other responsibilities lie in the evaluation
of submitted environmental impact assess-
ments for major projects.
Of course other governmental organizations
are also involved in aspects of environmental
management such as the National Centre for
Meteorology and Seismology under the aegis
of the Ministry of Presidential Affairs. To help
coordinate efforts, the FEA has established a
number of cross-ministry and cross-emirates
technical committees. Various national initia-
tives have resulted such as the National
Environmental Awareness and Information
Strategy, and the National Action Plan to
Combat Desertification. One such cross-orga-
nizational structure is the National Committee
for the Environmental Strategy and
Sustainable Development, which was estab-
lished by the Council of Ministers Decree No.
(17) 2002, to implement the National
Environmental Strategy and National
Environmental Action Plan in the UAE.
In reviewing these various initiatives, it
becomes obvious that many of the activities to
date have focused on protecting biodiversity
and the marine environment. Whilst this is
understandable, especially given that water
has only recently become part of the
Ministrys remit, there is a clear need for an
emirate-wide coherent strategic policy for pro-
tecting groundwater from over-exploitation
and pollution. There is also a need for a more
developed plan for managing the marine envi-
ronment, particularly the Arabian Gulf, given
the rapidly expanding desalination capacity of
many of the countries along its shores, propos-
als for the development of nuclear power pro-
duction, and return of waste and process
water to the sea.
At the emirate level, the Abu Dhabi government
has initiated many recent important moves in
environmental management. The competent
authority is the Environment Agency Abu
Dhabi (EAD) and its position within the overall
emirate governance system is shown in Figure
1. It is directly answerable to the Executive
Council and its authority and responsibilities
are laid out in Abu Dhabi Law No. (4) 1996, sub-
sequent amendments and Abu Dhabi Law No.
(16) 2005. EADs remit, as defined in these
laws, covers many aspects of land and marine
management with a major focus on research
and monitoring. EAD is also responsible for
regulating and reviewing activities that might
impact the environment and it is the compe-
tent authority for implementing environmental
impact assessment procedures and for permit-
ting various activities laid out by the Federal
Government.
EADs activities today are increasingly
directed at control of the environment, with
an increasing focus on licensing, compliance,
and enforcement of established standards.
This is reflected in its recent strategic policy
document (EAD, 2008) which highlights not
only its priority areas leading up to 2012, but
also its view that it is expected to assume a
more regulatory role during that period.
There has also been increased involvement of
EAD in environmental policy development
under its responsibilities to plan and inform
the Executive Council. However, these types
of activities are not clearly defined in Law No.
(4) 1996, so there is a somewhat grey area in
responsibilities between EAD and other regu-
latory organizations.
Whilst the formal governance institutions at
both the federal and emirate level are the main
organizations directly involved in environmen-
tal management, informal civil society groups
contribute to the debates and discussions
through their individual depth of knowledge
and expertise, and representation of different
interest. These parties reflect both
cultural/community affiliations and environ-
mental issues (for example, the Emirates
Environment Group), as well as particular
areas of expertise (various private sector
organizations). There are no formal structures
for the timely inclusion of these groups in the
decision-making process, but traditional ven-
ues and means of discussion facilitate consid-
eration of their ideas and knowledge.
Annex 7. Governance and Regulatory Frameworks
206 207
Introduction
Figure 7.1 Simplified Governance Structure of Abu
Dhabi Emirate
Source: Abu Dhabi Government 2008
annex 7 1/28/10 11:36 AM Page 4
Despatch Company TRANSCO);
Distribution of water (Abu Dhabi
Distribution Company - ADDC and Al Ain
Distribution Company - AADC); and
Sewerage Services (Abu Dhabi Sewerage
Services Company - ADSSC).
These organizations have various ownership
structures involving different combinations of
the Abu Dhabi government and the private
sector. All the activities and authority of these
different organizations under ADWEA are
defined and controlled by licences issued by
the RSB.
The eight IWPPs and two GD companies
involve international and local companies and
a mixture of private/public partnerships
arrangements, with Abu Dhabi government
always owning the majority stake largely
through their TAQA investment arm. This is a
predominantly privatized approach to water
production and is secured through competi-
tive tendering with licenses and economic and
water quality regulations, issued by the RSB,
controlling their activities.
The recent addition to this organizational
structure has been the Abu Dhabi Sewerage
Service Company (ADSSC) established under
Law No (17) of 2005, which is responsible for
the managing the collection, treatment, dis-
posal and recycling of sewerage water and its
associated infrastructure. Following this, Law
no (18) of 2007 allowed other sewerage services
companies licensed by the RSB, to connect to
Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company assets
to support an expansion of activities in this
area. An example of this is the recent granting
of licenses for wastewater treatment to Al
Etihad Biwater Waste Water Company,
Archirodon Construction (Overseas) Co. S.A.,
and Aldar Laing ORourke Construction L.L.C.
An important part of the water supply system
to both consumers and commercial enterpris-
es is mineral/bottled water. There are over 25
companies involved in this business in Abu
Dhabi Emirate and their activities are con-
trolled at the Federal level by the Emirates
Standards and Metrology Authority (estab-
lished under Federal Law (28) 2001). Again
there is a mixture of governmental and private
sector organizations involved.
Water Resources Management
There are overlapping areas between the roles
and responsibilities of organizations involved
with general environmental management and
specifically water resources. The Federal
Ministry for Environment and Water and the
Federal Environment Authority have responsi-
bilities for introducing trans-Emirate policy,
laws and regulations for the management and
control of natural water resource such as the
new draft law concerning water resources
which is currently before the UAE Cabinet.
Their remit involves a combination of holistic
strategic initiatives as well as practical proj-
ects such as the building of recharge dams. It
is only recently that water has been added to
the responsibilities of this Ministry, so it is no
surprise that to date there has been little in
terms of strategies for water resources protec-
tion and pollution control.
The principal level of responsibility for water
resources management in the UAE is at the
emirate level. In Abu Dhabi, EAD is the com-
petent authority for managing the principal
natural resource groundwater. These responsi-
bilities are supported by Executive Decisions
no 14 (session 8/2005) and No. 4 (Session
17/2005) which commissioned EAD to under-
take an assessment of groundwater resources.
However, one of the most important develop-
ments in water resources management was the
passing in 2006 of Law No 6, which authorizes
EAD to regulate the licensing and drilling of
water wells and to monitor usage.
In a broader context, EAD is responsible for
the expansion of water security initiatives
which in arid area such as Abu Dhabi is most
important. Recent exploratory work on aquifer
storage and recovery has highlighted potential
opportunities to support this remit.
The main informal groups involved with water
resources management are based on different
user groups both individuals and community,
who have an active interest in the use and allo-
cation of groundwater. The contribution of
environmental non-government-organisa-
tions (NGOs) on the water issue has been
somewhat limited to date.
Water Service Delivery
Water services in Abu Dhabi are developed
and managed at the emirate level the main
governance institutions are within this juris-
diction. However, at the federal level, the
Electricity and Water Sector of the Ministry of
Energy is currently developing UAE wide stan-
dards, laws and regulations for the provision of
this sector that are likely to come into force in
the next two years.
In Abu Dhabi a major re-structuring of the
water sector came in the late 1980s with further
developments in 2005. These changes signaled a
move away from government as major service
providers and managers, into a more regulatory
role. The private sector took on a greatly
increased role in generating and supplying
water. This obviously brought a new group of
people and organizations involved into the
water services governance of Abu Dhabi.
The main overarching authority is the Abu
Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority
(ADWEA). Various organizations under its
jurisdiction are responsible for different
aspects of water provision:
Production (Independent Water and Power
Producer - IWPPs and Generation and
Desalination- GDs);
Procurement and planning (Abu Dhabi
Water and Electricity Company- ADWEC);
Transmission (Abu Dhabi Transmission and
Annex 7. Governance and Regulatory Frameworks
209 208
Figure 7.2 Abu Dhabi governmental organizations in water services governance
Source: adapted from ADWEC 2007
annex 7 1/28/10 11:36 AM Page 6
and organizations. This will allow strategic
thinking across the whole of the water sector
rather than the compartmentalized system
that currently exists.
2) Formal Establishment of an
Environmental Regulator
Given the development plans across many
sectors proposed over the next 20 years, and
their associated needs for water and other
natural resources, there is an imperative for
an independent environmental regulator with-
in Abu Dhabi Emirate to establish standards
and practices based on local environment con-
ditions. Whilst EAD currently undertakes
some of these duties, there is a need to estab-
lish these roles and responsibilities more for-
mally and transparently. It is also important
to clearly define areas of responsibility vis--
vis the RSB and other authorities and min-
istries to ensure consistent standards and
avoid overlapping regulation.
The establishment of clear, transparent regu-
lations by one organization to control abstrac-
tions from and discharges to the environment
(whether air, water, soils, wildlife, or seas)
would allow the various ministries and com-
mercial organizations undertaking activities
in the Emirate to have a clear idea of the stan-
dards and to meet these using their own for-
mulations of technology or management prac-
tices. Many of the companies already operat-
ing in Abu Dhabi have experience of working
within such environmental standards in other
countries, and their best practices could be
brought into operation here too.
3) Clarification of Roles and Responsibilities
at Federal and Emirate levels
The UAE is made of seven quite distinct emi-
rates which have their own drivers and policy
priorities. There is a certain degree of overlap
and some notable gaps in responsibilities and
roles that it would be useful to clarify. This
does not have to be a problem if there are suit-
able agreements to ensure the areas of overlap
and gaps are addressed. There are a number
of models of governance that may be explored
for environmental and water management
across a federation. An example is in Australia
where environmental protection authorities in
individual States and Territories set air quali-
ty emissions standards rather than the
Federal government.
Information and knowledge
4) Good Governance Needs Good
Information
The role of knowledge and information in gov-
erning and governance is increasingly being
emphasized. In Abu Dhabi it became apparent
that environmental and water data bases are
maintained in different organizations and there
is little easy access to this information, even by
those working in these fields. This is inefficient
as there is an urgent need to ensure decision-
making is supported and informed by current
and accurate information.
There are a number of possibilities to resolve
this problem and the Abu Dhabi Water
Resources Database System (AWRIS) is a
positive step forward, but it currently lacks
data particularly on the water services. In
some countries, given the proprietorial atti-
tude of some organizations to data they have
collected, independent bodies have been
established for inputting, storing and giving
access to information. In Dubai, for example,
under Law No. (6) of 2001 a Geographical
Information Systems Center was established
for the Municipality, and various authorities are
charged with providing the centre with digital
and descriptive data. In return this may be
accessed through an intranet by decision-mak-
ers, so that the most current information may
be used in their work. Decision-makers need
The main informal groups involved with water
services management are the different user
groups and their opinions are included in
deliberations at the various levels through tra-
ditional channels.
Emirate Level Cross-cutting
Committees for Aspects of Water
Management
Water touches many different areas of deci-
sion-making, so it is no surprise that cross-
organizational committees have been estab-
lished within the Abu Dhabi government to
support integrated thinking. These help to
ensure that the potential impacts of new poli-
cies and management decisions on the water
resources may be examined in depth. Various
committees, involving members from various
departments and authorities, have already
been established in this regard and include
the following:
Strategic Water Resources Committee;
Increasing re-use and biosalinity Committee;
Water in Agriculture Committee; and
Use of Desalinated Water Committee.
Whilst these moves are important for the
effectiveness of these cross-organizational
committees, their effectiveness is difficult to
assess to date.
Recommendations
Within the Emirate, the current system of
water governance has reasonably clear lines of
demarcation largely resulting from the use of
seawater for potable water supply (controlled
by ADWEA/RSB), and groundwater (con-
trolled by EAD) for the large-user sectors of
agriculture, forestry and landscaping. Abu
Dhabi has a well-developed structure for
water services delivery management and, with
the establishment of ADSSC, a more holistic
view of all sources and uses is now possible.
The water services sector has many of the nec-
essary checks and balances in place to sup-
port the governments strategic economic,
societal and environmental objectives,
although there are different degrees of trans-
parency in their operations.
The situation is less clear in the more general
areas of environmental and natural water
resources management. There are overlaps
and gaps between the activities of the various
federal and emirate level environmental
organizations such as in establishing regula-
tions, controlling natural resource use, col-
lecting and managing data etc. Whilst there is
in theory an established hierarchy of jurisdic-
tion and power, in practice EAD are perceived
by many to be the lead organization in devel-
oping new initiatives in responsible environ-
mental management standard-setting and
regulation.
The Abu Dhabi institutions have collectively
established a reputation for environmental
and water leadership in the Arab world.
However, from the analysis undertaken of the
governance system and its comparison to
international best practices in Europe,
Singapore and Australia and the USA, the fol-
lowing suggestions are made for considera-
tion.
Institutional Aspects
1) The Establishment of an Abu Dhabi Water
Council
Water affects and impacts many areas of
authority and it is important that future
strategic planning involves input and knowl-
edge from these various groups. It is recom-
mended that an Abu Dhabi Water Council be
established that is chaired by a member of the
Executive Council. Membership should be the
heads of the various departments, authorities
Annex 7. Governance and Regulatory Frameworks
211 210
annex 7 1/28/10 11:36 AM Page 8
dards emanating from international agree-
ments, and various Federal and Emirate
authorities and are summarized in Table 7.1.
Arguably the most influential law is Federal
Law No (24) of 1999, Protection and
Development of the Environment, which covers
various areas including:
the requirements for Environmental
Assessments of developments;
various aspects of environmental protection;
environmental monitoring;
emergency and disaster planning;
protection of the marine environment from
oil industries, transport;
polluted water discharges;
protection of drinking water quality from
storage tanks;
control of air emissions such as from vehicles,
the burning of soil and liquid wastes, as well
as from the oil extractive industries;
handling dangerous substances; and
natural reserves.
Following the passing of this law, numerous
regulations have been established through
decrees that cover specific areas of the envi-
ronment or give more details of the various
articles. For example, various water quality
levels are suggested for discharges into the
sea which include inorganic and organic
chemicals as well as trace metals and physical
properties.
The implementation and enforcement of
these various articles falls to three organiza-
tions, the Federal Environment Agency, EAD
and the RSB. EAD has the main responsibili-
ties in terms of setting environmental stan-
dards, licensing and enforcing compliance in
the natural environment in Abu Dhabi. A
series of different controls have been intro-
duced by the agency for protecting and man-
aging various aspects of the environment
which are shown in Table 7.2.
access to good information and a central data-
base to support this for water/environment is
imperative.
The Legal and Regulatory
Frameworks for Water and
Environmental Management
Laws, standards, regulations and their enforce-
ment are an important part of any governance
system ensuring the protection of human and
environmental health as well as economic effi-
ciency. They give direction, transparency and
clarity, in many areas such as in responsibilities,
roles, and standards for a particular environ-
ment or sector.
Organizations involved in the water and envi-
ronmental governance in Abu Dhabi are bound
by a number of laws, regulations and stan-
Annex 7. Governance and Regulatory Frameworks
213 212
Table 7.1 The main agreements and laws affecting the environment and water in Abu Dhabi
Source: EAD 2008a
Table 12: The Challenges of Inland Brine Disposal
1989 Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer (1985) and Montreal Protocol on
Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1987)
1990 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
(1973)
1990 Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their
disposal, (1989).
1995 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992).
1998 United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (1994)
1999 Convention on Biological Diversity (
2002 Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPS) ( 2001)
2002 Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in
International Trade (PIC Convention) (1998)
2005 Montreal Amendments (London 1990, Copenhagen 1992, Montreal 1997, Beijing 1999).
2005 Kyoto Protocol (1997)
2007 Ramsar Convention
1979 Kuwait Regional Convention for cooperation on the protection of the marine environment from
pollution (1978)
1990 Protocol concerning Marine Pollution resulting from Exploration and Exploitation of the
Continental Shelf (1989)
2003 Convention on Conservation of Wildlife and its Natural Habitats in the GCC countries
2005 Protocol on the Control of Marine Transboundary Movements and Disposal of Hazardous
Wastes and Other Wastes, 1998
1999 Law No. (24) the Protection and Development of the Environment
1999 Ministerial Declaration No (24) System for Assessment of Environmental Impacts
2001 Executive Order No. (37) concerning regulation of environmental impact assessment of projects
an various other items
2001 Executive Order No .(302) details the regulatory procedures for implementing 1999 Law No
(24)
2005 Law No (16) 2005 concerning the Re-organization of the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi.
(replaced Law No. (4) of 1996
2005 Law No (21) Administration of Waste Materials
Article (30) of Law No (2) of 1998
Article (20) of Law No (19) of 2007.
Administrative Order No (4) of 2005 issued by Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority
International agreements
Regional Agreements
Federal Level
Abu Dhabi Emirate
Legal Jurisdiction Date of ratification and legal instruments in place
Table 7.2: EAD Environmental Protection and Management Controls
Source: ICBA
Table 12: The Challenges of Inland Brine Disposal
Environmental
Impacts
Air
Water
Land
Biodiversity
Marine
Regulatory
instruments
Regulator
EIA
EAD EAD RSB
International
Banks FEA
RSB
EAD/
Fujairah
Municipality
International
Banks FEA
FEA FEA
EAD
EAD
FEA
FEA
EAD
EIA EIA
Technical,
economic,
environmen-
tal and
health stan-
dards
EIA
Technical,
economic,
environmen-
tal and
health stan-
dards
EIA EIA
Permits
Licensing of
wells Fishing
permits
EIA of pro-
cessing plants
EIA
Permits for
certain
activities,
facilities and
substances
Sector Urban
services
Rural
services
Rural
services
Transport
Water
production &
distribution
Minerals
and mining
Agriculture
and fishing
Industry
annex 7 1/28/10 11:36 AM Page 10
there is an integration of water and waste-
water management within one organization.
Subsequent to these various laws, the RSB has
developed an increasingly comprehensive set
of economic, technical and water quality regu-
lations and license agreements with various
organizations involved in the water and waste
water sectors. These can be viewed easily on
the RSB website (www.rsb.gov.ae) and the
transparency of this organization is to be com-
mended.
The regulation of mineral waters, which are an
important part of the domestic and commer-
cial water supply system, is under both Federal
and Emirate level authority and must meet
standards established under Abu Dhabi
Administrative Order No (4) of 2005. This was
issued by the Abu Dhabi Food Control
Authority in response to the debate of incon-
sistency of water quality of bottled waters. It
regulates the quality, treatment, transporta-
tion and storage of three types of mineral
water - bottled drinking waters, non-bottled
drinking water and natural mineral bottled
water.
The legal and regulatory framework within this
sector is further developed through other lev-
els of organizations. The FEA has set various
regulatory controls following Law No. (24) 1999
of the Protection and Development of the
Environment and subsequent directives, which
have set guideline limits on gaseous emissions
and discharges into the marine environment as
shown in Table 2.1. They are also responsible
for the environmental impact assessments of
planned projects such as new desalination
plants.
An important group of organizations that
influence water services delivery and environ-
mental management standards are the inter-
national banks who fund these projects
meet Article 30. This article is of course open
to interpretation. Deciding on what is a rea-
sonable demand for water, especially desali-
nated water, is difficult and this should be
more formally defined in the future, given the
economic and environmental costs involved in
the production of this precious resource.
Given the natural scarcity of water in this
region, there is also an important need to man-
age closely demand relative to supply rather
than the other way around. In the Draft
Consultation on the Water Supply Regulations
2008 under item 3 (RSB, 2008), it is suggested
that the Distribution Companies have a duty
under law to promote the conservation and
efficient use of water, and to prevent its waste
and over-consumption. It also includes a sec-
tion which states that it will be the duty of the
responsible person to ensure immediate steps
are taken to repair leaks in water fittings.
These are important regulatory steps to sup-
port government initiatives to reduce water
demand.
Wastewater was formally added to the legal
framework by Law No (17) of 2005 which estab-
lished and gave responsibility for the control
and development of all the Emirates sewerage
services to ADSSC. Wastewater management
was further developed under Law No. (18) of
2007 which allows other sewerage services
companies licensed by the Bureau to connect
to Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company
assets. Law No (19) 2007 adds waste water to
the more general laws on the regulation of the
water sector and includes responsibilities
associated with the collection, treatment, pro-
cessing and subsequent disposal of sewerage
and wastewater from the premises. The recent
passing of Law No (12) of 2008 now allows
ADSSC to sell treated wastewater effluent to
any body or company. These developments are
in line with best practices in other countries
such as the UK, USA and Singapore where
Water Resources
The legal framework for the water sector in
Abu Dhabi is comprised of a number of differ-
ent levels of conventions, protocols, laws and
regulations which directly and indirectly affect
policy development and management. These
play a vital role in managing the scarce water
resources and protecting the environment.
The most important Federal legislation is Law
No. (24) 1999, the Protection and Development
of the Environment. Sections 2 and 3 are most
important for water as they concern the dis-
charges into seas from the land including
desalination, and the protection of surface and
underground water. Various Executive Orders
have subsequently been added to the legisla-
tive body. EAD is the competent authority for
the implementation of this law.
The laws that most directly affect the manage-
ment and policy development of natural water
have been passed at the emirate level and
cover many aspects of resource development.
In Abu Dhabi, the passing in March 2006 of
Law No 6, which regulates the licensing and
drilling of water wells, was an important step
forward towards the sustainable management
of the groundwater resources. All owners who
wish to dig a new well, or expand, or add a larg-
er pump, will now require a license which will
give permission and set a maximum abstrac-
tion rate and permitting activity in recent
years is given in Table 7.3.
This, in tandem with the recent work in inven-
torying, assessment and monitoring wells in
the Emirate (Abu Dhabi Executive Decisions
No (14) session 8/2005 and No (4) session
17/2005), will begin help to control the use of
groundwater. Even organizations such as
other government departments require these
licenses. However, a more coherent legislative
framework is needed to protect and manage
groundwater which would include pollution
protection as well as abstraction controls.
There is also a need for enforcement of the
licenses granted and an expansion of metering
to ensure an accurate picture of the abstrac-
tion of groundwater possible.
Water Services Management
The most important laws and regulations for
water services are at the Emirate level in Abu
Dhabi. The legal framework, organizational
structure and roles and responsibilities were
established in Law No. (2) 1998 concerning the
Regulation of the Water and Electricity Sector
and has subsequently been amended by Law
No. (19) of 2007. The legal starting point for
water provision is Article (30) of the 1998 Law
(and the 2007 law) which states that It shall
be the duty of the Abu Dhabi Water and
Electricity Company to ensure that there is
provided sufficient production capacity to
ensure that, at all times, all reasonable
demand for water and electricity in the
Emirate is satisfied. Under Article (32) of the
same Act, ADWEC are charged with the duty
of ensuring the long term security of the sup-
ply of water in the Emirate through contract-
ing new or additional production capacity
through desalination and additional storage to
Annex 7. Governance and Regulatory Frameworks
214 215
Table 7.3 Permissible activities by Environment
Agency Abu Dhabi 2006/7
Source: EAD 2008a
2006 Type of Permit 2007 Total
Deepening an existing well 10 268 278
Replacing an old well 0 15 15
Maintaining an existing well 11 5 16
Drilling new well 1890 3600 5490
Total 1911 3888 5799
annex 7 1/28/10 11:36 AM Page 12
There is also a need to establish a water law
that considers all sources of water within the
same framework and that establishes some
legal or regulatory obligation by the various
authorities and supply companies to encour-
age environmental protection, water demand
management and efficient practices. A matrix
of areas covered by various water laws from
other countries is given in Table 7.4 below. At
the moment the split between natural and pro-
duced water management does not support
the development of coherent water policies
and laws. In the UK, for example, under the
Water Act 2003, relevant authorities ranging
from ministries to water companies have a
duty to encourage water conservation.
2) Demarcation of Responsibilities
Whether or not the recommendation of this
report for the establishment of an independent
environmental regulator at the Abu Dhabi
Emirate Level is taken on board, in the future
there is likely to be an increase in potential
overlaps in responsibilities between the RSB
and EAD. Such overlaps occur in the manage-
ment of waste water re-use and subsequent
effluent disposal, definition of standards for
effluent discharges, groundwater use in desali-
nation, water demand management, and the
challenges of climate change and managing
carbon emissions of water and waste water
treatment. It is important to develop a broader
environmental regulatory framework with asso-
ciated institutional responsibilities between the
two organizations. Cooperation will be critical in
defining standards and enforcement mecha-
nisms for the coming years.
Information and Knowledge
3) Legal Requirement to Share Information
This study has found a very guarded, bureau-
cratic approach to data and information.
Whilst in areas of commercial confidentiality
this is to be expected, however, in other areas
the difficulties involved in obtaining data often
means knowledge within the water and envi-
ronmental communities of Abu Dhabi is not
used. This leads to planning and management
that will be sub-optimal.
Management
4) Adequate Enforcement
The regulatory system in the UAE and Abu
Dhabi is developing and the work undertaken
so far is to be commended. However, it is
important that EAD and the RSB have suffi-
cient human capacity to ensure environmental
laws and regulations are complied with. In the
area of water resources management, for
example, the new well licensing system in the
Abu Dhabi has brought groundwater use
under greater control. However, these meas-
ures need to be backed up by effective moni-
toring and enforcement of the terms of the
licenses, to ensure the policy goals are met.
This obviously requires trained human
resources and the use of suitable measuring
technology and analysis facilities. Major
improvements have been made in these areas
in many areas of the world in the last decade
and these experiences could be learnt from.
Many countries ensure designated officers
have the right to access water bodies to meas-
ure and check compliance and obstruction or
the refusal to provide information or falsifica-
tion of devices brings penalties that act as
deterrents. Whilst Abu Dhabi has many such
punitive measures in place, it needs the
resources to check for compliance.
5) Nature and Setting of Environmental
Standards
Most of the various environmental standards
being used in Abu Dhabi today are based on
those already defined by organizations such as
the World Health Organization or Australian
government and whilst these might be fit for
purpose in those countries, there is inadequate
through loans. Many of these international
banks have signed various international con-
ventions and protocols, such as the Kyoto
Protocol, and so ensure that developments
funded by them meet various environmental
standards. These include the desalination and
power plants in Abu Dhabi.
Regulatory Enforcement
The establishment of standards and the licens-
ing and permitting of activities is only one part
of the regulatory system. Ensuring compliance
and enforcement is key to protecting the envi-
ronment. The most monitored and inspected
area in Abu Dhabi is in water services through
work of both the RSB and the large degree of
self-regulation by the licensed power and
water generating and sewerage companies.
There are laboratories in Abu Dhabi that meet
international criteria for accuracy and excel-
lence that are used for the analysis of samples.
This is important and should continue to be
actively supported. In the water service sector
there is a focus on developing best practices
for the future as much as direct punishment
for incursions.
In the bottled water industry the Abu Dhabi
Agriculture and Food Safety Authority
enforces standards at the Emirate level
through directives and inspections of manu-
facturing plants and of food establishments.
In terms of the enforcement of environmental
regulations, there are few human resources to
support these activities. Thus whilst impor-
tant steps have been made to develop stan-
dards and controls of potentially harmful
activities, there is no way of judging their effec-
tiveness.
Recommendations
The progressive development of legal and reg-
ulatory frameworks (and their associated gov-
ernance structures) for the environment and
water sectors of Abu Dhabi has lead to a sys-
tem that has many protective checks and bal-
ances in place. The main focus of many of the
activities has been the regulation of the water
service sector to ensure the reliable supply of
adequate and wholesome water, and protec-
tion of the marine environment from dis-
charges.
Law-makers and regulators in any country are
being confronted with many new water and
environmental challenges today and Abu
Dhabi is no exception. Various gaps have
been identified in this analysis that should be
considered addressing to give a firm platform
for future developments.
Institutional
1) Gaps in Legal and Regulatory Frameworks
The legal and regulatory measures in place for
protecting the natural water resources and envi-
ronmental management may be described as
being strong in terms of managing biodiversity,
but more limited in other areas. Whilst the
Federal Law of 1999 covers many important
aspects, its terms are necessarily general and
there are a number of gaps in the subsequent
enable legislation/regulation. There is a need for
substantive measures for protecting groundwa-
ter depletion, and pollution control of air and
water.
In many countries a coherent body of legislation
has been developed for environmental manage-
ment. For example in Singapore in 1999 all legis-
lation on pollution control (air, water, noise and
hazardous substances), was brought together in
the comprehensive Environmental Pollution
Control Act (recently renamed Environmental
Protection and Management Act). This estab-
lished a comprehensive and transparent system
for managing pollution in the country which
could be replicated in Abu Dhabi.
Annex 7. Governance and Regulatory Frameworks
217 216
annex 7 1/28/10 11:36 AM Page 14
knowledge as to whether they are appropriate
for the environmental conditions of Abu Dhabi.
For example, the high air pressure systems over
the region for much of the year and the warm
temperatures often mean that chemical air pol-
lution is more severe than in other areas.
Similarly little research has been undertaken on
the specific conditions of the Arabian Gulf and
the impacts of changing inputs from Abu Dhabi
and various industrial complexes along its
shores. There is obviously a need of concerted
research efforts to support setting of standards
to ensure the environment is indeed protected
6) Regulation of Land Use in Sensitive Areas
An area that has been little explored to date in
Abu Dhabi is in the zoning of environmental
regulations and laws, particularly in areas of
sensitivity. Whilst integration and coherence is
important in these areas, best practices from
other countries would suggest that there is also
a need to manage the environment and water
resources of the Emirate in a less universal
manner and to apply different degrees of regu-
lation and control within. This would involve
the identification of key areas which might be
determined by ecological, cultural or other
measures, and introduce more stringent man-
agement policies in these, whilst accepting that
economic development in others will impact the
environment. There would be greater control of
activities in the protected areas and in particu-
lar greater enforcement of laws. For example,
there is a need for greater protection of impor-
tant groundwater recharge areas, especially
where irrigation waters makes up the bulk of
the waters returning to the aquifers (see Annex
1 for further detail).
7) The Need for Strategic Environmental
Assessments
An area not currently addressed in existing laws
and regulations is strategic environmental
assessment. There are in place a number of
measures for the environmental impact assess-
ment of individual projects, but with the growing
rate of development there is a need for greater
in-depth analysis of strategies/policies/plans.
The cumulative impact of a series of projects
which make up a plan can have many detrimen-
tal effects on the environment that would not be
detected in individual appraisals. These strate-
gic environmental assessments should be under-
taken under the aegis of the relevant govern-
ment body to ensure any of the problems already
identified around the world i.e. by project devel-
opers doing their own analysis and reporting are
avoided.
It is important that the new economic develop-
ments such as those proposed under Plan 2030
are more comprehensively assessed for the pos-
itive and negative environmental impacts. Any
new legislation and subsequent definitions of
standards will allow large plans to be thorough-
ly assessed, managed and where possible miti-
gated during the developments rather than as
remedial procedures. There are many examples
to be found of environmental problems result-
ing in rapidly expanding areas where due dili-
gence of impacts was undertaken.
Annex 7. Governance and Regulatory Frameworks
219 218
Figure 7.4 Water Resource Management Law Matrix
Table 12: The Challenges of Inland Brine Disposal
Feature covered
Surface water
Ground water
Water supply
Water agency
National
State
Water rights
Ownership/status
Abstraction and use
Permits/licences
Registration
Transfers
Demand management
Prioritisation/equitable
user-allocation
Pricing
Catchment /basin areas
Waste disposal
Pollution
Conservation
Water treatment and re-use
Emergency measures
Monitoring, assessment,
information
Offences, dispute resolution
International/cross border

Sector South Africa California U.K


New South Wales
(Australia)
Governing legislation
National Water
Act (36 of 1998
California Water
Code
Water Management
Act 2000
The Water Act 2003
x x
x
x
x 1
x 4 3
2
x
x x x
x
x
x
x x
x
1 Governed by Water Services Act 1997
2 Water supply authorities are regulated by other acts subject to the control and direction of the Minister for
Water
3 Local governments have responsibility in water resources management through the catchment management
agencies
4 Note considerable intersect between state and national in field of environmental protection and state
responsibility under EPA. Note also California State assertiveness with issue of new Water Quality Control
Act under Division 7 of Water Code, effective January 1, 2009
annex 7 1/28/10 11:36 AM Page 16
Our appreciation goes to the International Centre for
Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) for assisting the
Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi in developing this
Water Master Plan.
This plan is a result of the contribution and support of
our stakeholders [ Ministry of Water and Environment,
Abu Dhabi Municipality, ADSSC, ADWEA, ADFCA and
Urban Planning Council] and hence a sincere thank you
goes to these organizations.
annex 7 1/28/10 11:36 AM Page 18