A farm in the Western Region where the new system has been deployed. Abu Dhabi Farmers Service Centre distributed these systems to over 90 per cent of farms. Image Credit: Courtesy: ADFSC

Abu Dhabi: A new irrigation system installed in Abu Dhabi farms has started to save about 46 per cent water.

The initiative is relevant because agriculture and related sectors consume about 72 per cent of the total water consumption in the emirate. Groundwater accounts for 94 per cent water consumption in the agriculture sector in the emirate. But the current usage of groundwater reservoirs is about 15 times more than the natural recharge rates, according to the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi.

The irrigation systems used by farmers and practices followed by workers were causing overwatering, according to the Abu Dhabi Farmers Service Centre (ADFSC), an Abu Dhabi Government organisation.

To reverse the trend, the centre started introducing new irrigation systems and providing training to farm workers.

The new irrigation systems, namely, “inline pressure compensating dripline” and “adjustable online drip system”, installed at two demonstration farms in the Western Region have started saving 46 per cent water.

These systems continuously adjust to varying water pressure, ensuring a constant flow rate.

The results at feed grass demonstration farms in Madinat Zayed since early this year also showed that the same yield was gained with less water, an official spokesman of ADFSC told Gulf News on Monday.

The centre has distributed efficient irrigation systems to over 90 per cent of farms in the Western Region in the emirate and trained more than 6,000 workers in water-saving techniques.

The workers were given reference cards that indicate watering times for date palms based on seasonal requirements.

“In some circumstances there have been cases of farm workers overwatering date palm trees 20 times more than the recommended amount. ADFSC is distributing a number of posters in Arabic and Urdu to farm workers and separate posters to farm owners that outline steps to avoid overwatering,” the spokesman said.

The centre has been supplying efficient irrigation systems to date palm farm owners also as part of the Efficient Irrigation Fund that was established in 2010. More than 6,550 farms in the Western Region have received new water-saving irrigation systems.

“ADFSC has set a goal to reach a 40 per cent reduction in agricultural water usage. We are currently offering advice and technical assistance to reach this goal,” Chris Hirst, Chief Executive Officer, ADFSC, said.

However, witnessing the performance first-hand is the most important way to effect long-term change and ensure that water-saving techniques are adopted, he said. The training sessions ensure that the materials supplied by ADFSC are installed and operated correctly and workers are not overwatering the crops. “By educating farm workers on the disadvantages of overwatering, stopping leaks and modernising equipment, we aim to reduce agricultural water usage,” Hirst said.