H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler's Representative in Al Dhafra Region and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD), announced that the integrated water resources management is fundamental, in light of the tremendous developmental shift in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.
H.H. Sheikh Hamdan explained the importance of water resource for economic, social, and environmental development, increasing the population and ensuring food security. H.H. also stated that the scarcity of water resources is one of the main challenges facing governments in dry areas, including Abu Dhabi, in the absence of natural renewable water sources, such as rivers, freshwater lakes and low levels of rain. As a result, the government of Abu Dhabi resorts to the usage of unconventional water resources, which are a high-cost resource.
Sheikh Hamdan statement came on the occasion of the launch of the Integrated Water Resources Management Plan 2021-2030, which was launched by EAD at a virtual event organised under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The virtual event took place with the participation of Engineer Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, Mariam Hareb Almheiri, Minister of State for Food Security, Awaidha Murshed Ali Al Marar, Head of the Department of Energy, Saeed Al Bahri Al Ameri, Director General of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Agriculture and Food Safety, as well as a large number of experts and specialists within the water field from research centers, universities and local and national authorities.
Sheikh Hamdan said: "It is in our framework as an agency to be concerned with the groundwater management in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. Since its inception, EAD has been passionate about working towards clear strategic and automated plans, in cooperation with strategic partners. We are working on both water supply and demand to chart a way forward to reach an integrated management system for the sustainable development of water resources in Abu Dhabi for a sustainable future, in order to preserve this precious resource for future generations.
Over more than 20 years of serious and purposeful work, EAD, in cooperation with its partners, has conducted comprehensive research and studies for water resources in the emirate and explored the future challenges it faces by preparing advanced numerical models and continuously monitoring the change in the quality and quantity of the underground stock."
Sheikh Hamdan added, "Due to the availability of this experience and knowledge, we at EAD have developed a comprehensive plan for integrated water resources management. The plan defines the directions and priorities of the Abu Dhabi government and all parties operating in the water sector over the next 10 years, and until 2030. We will adopt international best practices in innovation and anticipating the future, reduce the gap between available water resources and their increasing demand and determine government investments in this vital sector."
H.H. expressed the importance for people to spread awareness about preserving water resources, reducing waste, paying attention to water demand management, by reusing treated sewage water, adopting modern agricultural methods, and cultivating local plants that are resistant to climatic factors.
Engineer Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, said: "The United Arab Emirates, which is in the belt of dry and arid regions, is suffering from real challenges in managing scarce water resources. The per capita share is less than 100 cubic meters annually of naturally renewable water, which is an extremely low rate compared to the water poverty limit determined by international organizations, which is estimated at 1000 cubic meters per year. Therefore, the government of the United Arab Emirates has focused through ambitious plans on achieving sustainable development goals to enable access to clean fresh water, whilst ensuring sustainable management which contributes to economic growth. This is in addition to attaining happiness and quality of life for members of society."
He added: "In order to meet the challenges, the UAE has adopted a number of ambitious initiatives and programs aimed at raising the efficiency of water consumption in all sectors. The UAE is taking accelerated steps to achieve global leadership in the sustainability of water security, and handling future water related challenges."
Mariam Hareb Almheiri, Minister of State for Food Security, praised the Integrated Water Resource Management Plan as a pioneering step towards enhancing water security in Abu Dhabi and the UAE. She also commended the plan for its innovative solutions and advanced policies which consider all economic, social, developmental and environmental aspects in managing water resources. She stressed how the water file is of the highest priority for wise leadership, as it is a main driver for economic growth and a guarantor of the prosperity of all sectors in the country.
She added: "Enhancing water security is one of the most important pillars of our preparation for the next 50 years. The UAE is seeking to develop the significant efforts made over the past years to meet the growing demand for water by finding solutions for the challenges of the freshwater shortage in the country. Achieving the highest standards of sustainable water management is vital to achieving efficiency and utilizing every drop of water until it reaches the consumer."
"Modern technology has many solutions to maximize the utilization of our water resources, such as expanding the use of reverse-osmosis techniques in desalination, employing solar energy technologies to prevent dam water from evaporation and producing energy and developing technologies for water harvesting systems. This is in addition to relying on modern agriculture technology, which saves approximately 90 percent of water, compared to traditional irrigation systems. Water quality also plays a major role in enhancing water security in the UAE, a process that starts from protecting fresh water sources from pollution -whether within their natural environment or during the treatment, storage, and distribution stages."
Awaidha Murshed Ali Al Marar, Head of the Department of Energy, also commented: "The Integrated Water Resources Management Plan represents the common vision between the various sectors to adopt the approach of integration and cooperation in managing and developing water resources in a sustainable manner. It considers many important issues such as economic efficiency, social development, and environmental sustainability.
"The integrated management of water resources provides a comprehensive framework to address the challenges to develop, manage and use resources in a sustainable and effective manner. It relies on the principle of "one water" where all water resources are of equal importance."
"The implementation of the plan within the local characteristics of Abu Dhabi is a long-term process that requires coordination, cooperation, mobilization of capital and trained human resources. However, the cornerstone and the main catalyst for achieving these goals remains the creation of an appropriate environment. It involves a comprehensive governance framework to strengthen the institutional framework, improve water management and enforcing the participatory approach to water management between relevant sectors."
"The Department of Energy will develop an integrated technical-economic model for water, followed by issuing a report on future scenarios for the water sector. The department will also be responsible for activating the governance framework for integrated water resources management, which will contribute to establishing principles of integration, effectiveness, sustainability, flexibility, trust and community participation."
Al Marar also stated that these vital projects would enable Abu Dhabi to occupy an advanced position in the Arab world and globally, in terms of managing its water resources with high efficiency. These projects contribute to increasing investor confidence in various sectors in the emirate, indicating that these projects come to fulfill the ambitious vision of the UAE leadership.
Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary-General of EAD, said: "The agency, in cooperation with strategic partners, has developed this comprehensive plan for integrated water resources management to address the problem of challenging the scarcity of naturally renewable water resources, because of their occurrence in the belt of dry areas. The importance of the plan lies in achieving a balance between the demand for water and the availability of these resources, as well as the volume of capital and operational investments required for that."
Al Dhaheri added: "For more than a year, from August 2019 to October 2020, we have worked with all relevant partners, whether in the field of water production or with users, to review all data collected about water resources; whether groundwater, desalination or wastewater. We researched the uses of these resources in agriculture, forestry, the domestic sector, recreational, industrial and commercial purposes. We also reviewed the institutional, legislative and regulatory frameworks for managing water resources in Abu Dhabi."
Al Dhaheri revealed that the data showed how groundwater represented around 60 percent of the total water resources used in the emirate, while desalinated water represented 30 percent, 10 percent was accounted to treated wastewater. 65 percent of water resources is used for irrigation in the agricultural sector, forests, gardens, and parks, and due to the limited regeneration and natural recharge of underground reservoirs, the pumping rates reach 20 times the amounts of natural feeding of the underground reservoirs.
Saeed Al Bahri Al Ameri, Director General of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Agriculture and Food Safety, said: "The existence of an integrated plan supports the current trends of the Abu Dhabi government regarding the need to rationalise water consumption in the agricultural sector. Developing innovative means to achieve efficient use of water resources is a global trend due to water scarcity. The search for other means - either related to water uses or the introduction of crops that do not deplete the water reserve, has become an urgent environmental necessity. It helps overcome desertification whilst contributing towards increasing the production of agricultural crops in a way that preserves the non-renewable resources of the emirate and the state. Together, these pillars provide to and support the food and water security system, as they work to achieve the interest of farm owners."
"The Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority, through embodying the government's directives, is making great efforts to motivate citizens who own farms. Farmers are encouraged to develop their land by adopting and using the latest agricultural technologies and methods that can reduce water consumption, as well as raise the quality and efficiency of production.
"The authority has also issued a collection of legislations and decisions regulating this important sector, such as the use of modern irrigation methods to conserve water and the identification of activities that can be cultivated on farms. These are all efforts that contribute to the process of developing the agricultural sector in Abu Dhabi."