Abu Dhabi: After three years’ research, the first-ever Abu Dhabi groundwater atlas was launched Wednesday by the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) to track and analyse the status, levels and uses of groundwater reserves in the emirate.

The atlas links the changes in groundwater levels to areas of agricultural activity and helps to promote efficient water resource management in the emirate.

There are 118,183 water wells in the emirate of which 73,184 are located in Al Ain, 38,507 in Al Dhafrah and 6,492 in Abu Dhabi regions.

Whereas untapped wells amount to 56,000 [49 per cent] of the total and 6,100 are buried wells.

The atlas summarises the quantity, quality, natural, chemical and biological properties, location, depth and type of groundwater resources in the emirate in the form of annotated maps, charts, tables and graphs.

The agency launched it at sidelines of the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibiton Centre.

Dr Shaikha Salem Al Daheri, Acting Secretary General of the Environment Agency, said, “Groundwater has always been considered a precious resource in our nation, and an inherent and essential asset to our survival and progress.

“This atlas will help in compiling, interpreting and analysing all relevant groundwater sources in the emirate. It will serve as a valuable reference tool for policy makers, water managers, scientists and researchers who are working towards preserving our groundwater stores.”

It took three years to the agency’s employees to compile the groundwater wells atlas.

Now each groundwater well in Abu Dhabi has been assigned a unified identification number to ensure it is easily traceable and identifiable. The maps also combine outcomes of the soil salinity mapping initiative, in which soil samples from more than 4,000 farms were analysed to determine the soil type, salinity and quality in order to study the sustainability of crops and farming in Abu Dhabi, the agency said.

Engineer Shaikha Al Hosani, Executive Director of EAD’s Environmental Quality Sector, said: “The analysis shows that areas with fast declining groundwater reserves coincide with the areas of highest groundwater abstraction for agricultural irrigation. In fact, the water level in groundwater monitoring wells has dropped by more than 20 metres in Remah, and by over 14 metres in the Liwa Crescent over the course of only 12 years.

“However, in some parts of Abu Dhabi, this trend has reversed over the last few years – in Madinat Zayed, groundwater levels have risen since 2010 following a decline for many years. Other regions, especially in the northeast, also show rising water levels in comparison to records from 2005, which can mainly be attributed to a reduction in agricultural activity.”

According to the EAD, nearly 65 per cent of water used in Abu Dhabi is groundwater – almost 2,100,000 cubic metres per year flowing mainly from the Hajjar Mountains on the Omani border towards the Arabian Gulf and nearly 80 per cent groundwater reserves in the emirate are used primarily for farm agriculture, irrigation of forestry and afforestation.

In figures

The three-year survey analysed over 4,000 farms for soil type

Total number of wells in Abu Dhabi Emirate: 118,183.

73,184 wells in Al Ain

38,507 in Al Dhafrah

6,492 in Abu Dhabi region.

Untapped wells: 56,000 [49% of the total wells]

6,100 are buried wells.