x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Water registry urged for farms

New water monitoring at farms can help slow the rate of depletion, an expert says.

A worker checks the water level at Ajban Farms in Abu Dhabi. An expert has called for a registry that could help slow the depletion of the nation's groundwater.
A worker checks the water level at Ajban Farms in Abu Dhabi. An expert has called for a registry that could help slow the depletion of the nation's groundwater.

DUBAI // The UAE should keep a registry of all the water used on farms in an effort to reduce waste, a regional expert said this week.

Combined with new, water-saving techniques being introduced at farms across the country, the registry could slow the depletion of the nation's groundwater.

"What we will do is measure the exact amount of water needed by the plants," said Dr Naem Mazahrih, the new irrigation and water management specialist at the International Centre for Agriculture in the Dry Areas in Dubai. The centre, a regional body based in Syria, works in the UAE with the Ministry of Environment and Water.

Dr Mazahrih explained how the monitoring would work. "We take a sample from the soil and use a weighing laser meter, which is like a box. It's the most efficient way to measure water for plants."

That would help build a database of all the water used by agriculture. Once approved by the Ministry of Environment and Water, the scheme would take at least three years to complete.

Experts said that cannot happen soon enough. "A competent authority must provide the water budget for each registered farm based on the crops," said Shameer Babu, head of business development at GulfTech Group in Oman. "The usage should be strictly monitored."

Recent studies suggest the UAE's groundwater could be lost within 55 years if it is not used wisely. That, said Dr Mazahrih, means the problem needs to be tackled head on - with the farmers. "I will introduce new water meter sensors to farmers as well as soil moisture content techniques," he said.

cmalek@thenational.ae