Abu Dhabi: Approximately 550 million litres (550,000 cubic metres) of wastewater is generated in Abu Dhabi every day. Almost all of the wastewater is treated and the bulk of it is used to keep the city green.

Although treated or reclaimed water is seen as an alternative to desalinated potable water and in some parts of the world it is used for drinking and other domestic purposes, there are no plans at the moment to introduce such a policy in the emirate, according to senior officials.

But could making better use of reclaimed water be one of the solutions to the looming water crisis in the region?

"Nearly all of the wastewater generated in the emirate, about 550,000 cubic metres per day, gets treated. It is treated to a very high standard with the intention of the treated effluent or reclaimed water being used for irrigation purposes," said Matthew Griffiths, wastewater manager at the Regulation and Supervision Bureau for water, wastewater and electricity sector.

Once treated, it is transferred in bulk to the municipality through pipelines. The municipality then uses this for irrigation of public parks and so on, he said.

"At present, irrigation of urban areas is the primary use of reclaimed water. As the emirate grows, there is a demand for other applications as reclaimed water is seen as an alternative to desalinated potable water. The aim of the bureau's forthcoming consultation process is to understand how the emirate wants to use this valuable resource and to ensure that the residuals used are at a quality standard that is appropriate to that end-use," Griffiths noted.

Federal Law mandates regulation of three activities related to wastewater- collection, treatment and disposal.

"The collection and treatment of wastewater are essential for protecting public health and the environment," said Griffiths.

The bureau is in charge of licensing entities to carry out these activities. The largest of the four licensees working in this sector is Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company (ADSSC), which operates sewerage networks and wastewater treatment plants throughout the emirate, including Al Ain and the Western Region.

"We are in the process of drafting two regulations for the wastewater sector with the aim of protecting public health and the environment whilst minimising public nuisance from the activities of wastewater treatment and reuse," he said.

These draft regulations are scheduled to be released for public consultation during April and are being formulated in consultation with stakeholders such as Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, Health Authority Abu Dhabi and the Food Control Authority.

"The regulations will cover the control of trade effluent discharged to the public sewerage system and the reuse of wastewater residuals [the treated effluent and biosolids] produced by the treatment plants. The regulations are linked, as by controlling what enters the network, you are able to protect the quality of what is produced by the treatment plant," he explained.

In addition, the regulations aim to promote the value of wastewater residuals and provide a framework for managing risks and promoting the reuse of the products.

However, at present the quality of reclaimed water is not to the same standard as "drinking water standards, though it is achievable, technologically", said Nick Carter, director-general of the Regulation Bureau of Abu Dhabi. Carter confirmed that using treated wastewater for domestic or drinking purposes is not under consideration at present, especially since the treated wastewater is used for public irrigation of gardens and parks by the municipalities.

Use of treated used water that has undergone stringent purification is not a new concept. In Singapore, for example, as part of an initiative that began in 1998, treated used water is bottled and distributed as a new product branded as NeWater. Reclaimed water has been indirectly used as drinking water for over two decades in California, Arizona and North Virginia, where it is used to replenish underground aquifers and surface reservoirs.

Vital: scarce resource

Out of the world's 1,400 million cubic kilometres of water, only 2.5 per cent is fresh water. By 2050, per capita water availability is expected to fall by half.

Over 3.575 million people die each year from water-related disease. More than one in six people worldwide don't have access to adequate fresh water. Source: UN

Have you tried to reduce the amount of water you waste every day? How difficult was it? How can water used at homes be put to good use?

Your comments

I feel this wastewater could also be used at petrol stations to wash the vehicles.
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: March 29, 2009, 11:51

We can do a lot of small things to make a big change with regard to the use of water: 1) When you wash your hands, turn the tap as low as possible to reduce the flow of water. 2) While using the toilets, avoid flushing if used the toilet only to pass urine, where we can use a mug to pour water into the toilet until the water is clear, by this way you will reduce about 50% of the water usage you used to consume for this purpose. Let us think about more way to reduce water usage.
Mohammad Aslam
Posted: March 29, 2009, 11:40