ABU DHABI // A project aiming to save one of the emirate's most precious resources is almost finished and should be operating next month.
The Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company (ADSSC) has invested Dh1 billion in pumping stations and pipes to avoid wasting treated waste water.
The system will take water to mainland areas including Khalifa City, Mohammed bin Zayed City and all outlying areas in that district.
The pipeline, buried 80 metres below ground and stretching 94 kilometres, will also connect with Yas Island, where the water may be used on the Yas Links golf course.
"It really does expand the system quite dramatically from where we were before," said Alan Thomson, ADSSC's managing director, adding that the project was "99 per cent complete".
Abu Dhabi's desalination plants produce almost all of the emirate's fresh water. Up to a quarter of this is returned to ADSSC through the sewers.
That sewage water is then triple-treated, by which point it is pure enough to be used for landscaping.
"The way we treat it at the moment, a lot of the nutrients, phosphates and nitrates are still in the water and they feed, fertilise and promote growth in the plants," Mr Thomson said.
The problem then is getting the treated water to where it is needed, which requires a separate distribution network.
At present, only 50 to 60 per cent of treated waste water is actually used, with the rest being dumped into the Arabian Gulf. The new pipelines should change this.
"That 40 per cent is what we're working on with the system so that water can be diverted to the areas where we know there is demand," said Mr Thomson. "When this is complete, probably within two or three years, we would estimate all the [treated waste] water is being used in Abu Dhabi. There were some difficulties with crossings over roads, so there were minor delays. There's also been some minor construction challenges in the pumping station."
After all that, the network is ready to be switched on. "This will give end-users the opportunity to use that water for various purposes," Mr Thomson said.
The system will be able to distribute up to 200 million litres of water a day and, Mr Thomson hopes, help make dumping water a thing of the past.
"It will take time but there are many developments that are looking for irrigation water," he said.
"We're confident the 40 per cent will be reduced immediately and that in two to three years, it will almost become zero."
Not before time, according to Dr Mahmoud Abu-Zeid, president of the Arab Water Council in Cairo.
"Gulf countries are among the driest in the world," he said. "Surface and ground water have been completely utilised and the possibilities of new water are limited to desalination and treated waste water, so it's very important to be able to use [it] in the UAE and the Gulf."