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Groundwater levels in decline

The declining level of groundwater is set to challenge the UAE's policy of artificially maintaining greenery. "One of the main challenges facing the water resources is saving water in the agriculture sector,” said Majid Al Mansouri, the Secretary-General of the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi (EAD).

Mansouri was reacting to a United Nations report entitled Environmental Global Deserts Outlook 2006. The report highlights the UAE as being one of the most water-imperilled nations in the world.

The report says the country has less than 250 cubic metres of renewable fresh water per person per year. Given the demands put on such limited supplies, they are set to decline in coming years. "Government policies have encouraged and promoted the general ‘greening' of the Emirates' desert landscape. In 2003, a total of six per cent of the total area of the Emirate was considered as ‘green and supported by some means of irrigation',” the official said.

Currently, agriculture accounts for 58 per cent of water consumption. Most of the water used by agriculture is brackish groundwater. The country used an estimated 2,108 million cubic metres of water in 1995 – 76 per cent of which came from ground water sources.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation's Aquastat information programme said that 300 million cubic metres of groundwater was used each year for crops, while landscape irrigation used 108 million cubic metres (all treated wastewater). Experts say that very little of this water finds its way back to underground reservoirs after use, most of the water simply flows into the sea.

"Given declining water levels, and a general deterioration in groundwater quality, the protection and conservation of all groundwater of all quality is of vital importance,” Al Mansouri said. "Maximum water conservation can be achieved by selecting plants that require the minimum amount of supplementary watering in a given area.” The EAD is looking to make agriculture in the emirate more water-efficient through conservative irrigation methods and the cultivation of hardy crops.

Source: Emirates Today





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