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The Environment Agency says that the quality and condition of marine water in Abu Dhabi has been improving in leaps and bounds over the past decade. Photo for illustrative purpose only

Abu Dhabi: The quality and condition of marine water in Abu Dhabi has been improving in leaps and bounds over the past decade, and the implementation of a wastewater reuse strategy will help improve it further by next month.

In light of these efforts, the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) has called upon residents to do their part in keeping the marine environment clean, including using reusable cups and water bottles to reduce the amount of waste released into marine bodies.

Monitoring programme

“Our monitoring programmes covers 45 per cent of marine area in the emirate, with monthly sampling and testing of marine water and sediments from 23 sites. We look into physical, chemical and microbial parameters. There are also 10 marine buoys that observe the marine water remotely, and provide real-time updates every 15 minutes,” Salama Al Saadi, senior specialist for assessment and permitting at the EAD, said during an environmental awareness session.

The monitoring programme has noted indicators of high, and improving water quality in the emirate based on three different indices: microbial, eutrophication and sedimentary.

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“Of these, the microbial index is the most important because it reflects the marine water health and safety for recreation. The value was 98 out of 100, which has increased from about 90 a decade ago. This indicates excellent water quality. The value of the eutropication index, [which measures the excessive richness of nutrient like nitrogen and phosphorous] was an average of 65 in 2021. This quality will improve even more as the discharge of treated sewage effluent into the south Musaffah channel is stopped by next month,” Wael Suleiman, senior specialist for groundwater, soil and marine water policy at the EAD, told Gulf News.

The sewage effluent will instead be treated, and be put to use to irrigate thousands of farms. As the EAD told Gulf News in 2021, a 70km pipeline has been constructed to carry 140,000 cubic metres of water a day from the south of Musaffah to farms in Samih, Ajban and Shahama.

Valued resource

Marine water is an important resource in the UAE, with the local population historically using it for fishing, pearl diving and sea trade before the discovery of oil. Its use has been further expanded for developmental, transportation and tourism purposes, and fish species continue to contribute to food security in the country.


However, population growth and economic development have posed challenges to marine water quality. For instance, the demand for greater amounts of potable water has increased the need for desalination, and the salt removed during the process is discharged as brine into marine bodies.

Suleiman said that 300,000 cubic metres of treated sewage effluent are also discharged into Abu Dhabi’s coastal water every day.

“These discharges lower the marine water microbial index, which indicates the existence of harmful bacteria in marine water. This affects human health, kills fish, heat waves, and even leads to public beach closures,” the expert said.

Individual responsibility

As the EAD works to improve and maintain water quality, residents must also do their bit. The EAD issued the following steps to help conserve marine water:

• Don’t leave anything behind after a visit to the beach. Make sure to throw your waste in designated bins so that it is not washed into the sea.

• Opt for reusable bags, cups and water bottles to reduce the amount of waste entering the environment.

• Participate in beach clean up campaigns and other environmental initiatives.

• If you notice anything strange or unusual on the beach or in the sea, call the Abu Dhabi Government Contact Centre hotline at 800555. Your alerts can help protect other beachgoers.

• Download and use Baadr, a unique smartphone application by the EAD that encourages environmentally sustainable practices and provides incentives.