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Reuse of Treated Sewage Water in the UAE Capital : Resource Management and Impact on Food Safety

Mrs. Manal Al-Hashemi Inorganic Chemistry Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) Abu Dhabi,UAE

THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , UAE

UAE Water Resources
MAIN FEATURES:
Arid Climate High summer Temperatures Limited Conventional Water Resources Increasing Demand (agriculture, pop. Growth, urbanization ) Heavy dependence on seawater desalination

UAE Water Consumption
Third Highest Consumption Worldwide 83% Consumption by Agriculture Increasing demands of Agricultural expansion 341% increase in desalinated water Supply (1993-2003).

Abu Dhabi Water Resources
Distribution:
Water Resources (Year 2003 Estimates)
4% 17% 0.5%

78.5%

Treated Wastewater Fresh Groundwater

Desalinated Water Brackish Groundwater

Deteriorating Ground Water Resources

Abu Dhabi Water Consumption
Abu Dhabi Water Consumption (2003)
7.0% 18.0% 15.5% 1.5%

Domestic Agriculture Amenity

58.0% Industry / Commerce Forestry

Abu Dhabi Waste Treatment
Al Mafraq Wastewater Treatment Works (MWTW):
Over 40% of UAE Production Over 75% of Abu Dhabi Emirate Production Tertiary Treatment (Activated Sludge, Chlorination, Sand Filtration)

MWTW Influent Quality
Parameter
Temperature °C BOD (mg/L) COD (mg/L) TSS (mg/L) Soluble Sulphide (mg/L) Conductivity (µS/cm)

MINIMUM MAXIMUM 27 120 122 18 500 2500 35 330 471 63 760 5800

MEAN 31 207 245 38 623 3500

MWTW Treated Effluent Quality

Abu Dhabi Treated Wastewater characteristics

Low level of total suspended solids (High water consumption) High recovery rate of 94% at MWTW : Average incoming flow : 407,315 m3/day Average outgoing flow : 383,076 m3/day.

Reuse of Wastewater in Irrigation (Abu Dhabi Emirate)
Over 360,000 ha of cultivated land (Agriculture, Forestry, Amenities).
Cultivated Land consumes over 2700 (Mm³/yr) of irrigation water (mainly ground water).

Wastewater only used for irrigation of around 4000 ha of amenities (parks, gardens, etc) in Abu Dhabi city and environs.

Reuse of Wastewater in Irrigation (Abu Dhabi Emirate)

MWTW wastewater production: 139.8 Mm3/yr
No measurement of efficiency of wastewater reuse

- No measurement of exact Quantities Used or
Efficiency of irrigation methods used

Treated Wastewater (Abu Dhabi)
Prohibition of wastewater irrigation for food crops is the common practice, despite high effluent quality.
Roadside date palm trees distributed among local amenities are the only food crops irrigated with treated wastewater

Food Crops Irrigated with

Factors Discouraging Wastewater Reuse in Food Crop Production

Social Factors Food Safety and Health risk assessment Lack of a clear water management policy

Factors Discouraging Wastewater Reuse in Food Crop Production Social Factors
Public awareness and acceptability of products

Misconceptions regarding risk involved Ignorance regarding real but unknown risks

Factors Discouraging Wastewater Reuse in Food Crop Production

Food Safety & Health Risk Assessment
Restricted & Unrestricted Irrigation

Risk of Eating Raw Vegetables
Risk of Contact with Treated Irrigation Water

Food Safety & Health Risk Assessment
Unrestricted Irrigation: Irrigation of all food crops, including vegetables and salad crops eaten raw. Health Concerns: Consumer Safety Field Staff Safety

Food Safety & Health Risk Assessment
Restricted Irrigation: Irrigation of all crops except vegetables and salad crops eaten raw. Prime Health Concern: Field Staff Safety

Food Safety & Health Risk Assessment Risk of Eating Raw Vegetables
Treated Wastewater: For Quality within 1000 faecal coliforms/100 ml (WHO), Estimated Risk = 10-6 or 0.0001%. * UnTreated Wastewater: Estimated Risk = 5 – 15 % (Fattal et al., 2004) Abu Dhabi Treated Wastewater: Average < 50 faecal coliforms/100 ml (Well below international Safety Margin).
_____________________________________ * USEPA acceptable risk level = 0.01% (10-4)

Consumption of Food in Contact with Treated Wastewater (Abu Dhabi)

: Imported Vegetables irrigated
with water of unknown Quality

Risk of Contact with Treated Wastewater

No Risk for Abu Dhabi’s Wastewater !

Food Safety & Health Risk Assessment Risk of Contact with Treated Irrigation Water
Increased Infection Risk: For contact with sprinkler water containing: 106 faecal coliforms/100 ml No Increased Infection Risk: For contact with sprinkler water containing: 103 - 104 faecal coliforms/100 ml
(WHO limit to 10 times the limit) [Blumenthal et al., 2002]

Abu Dhabi Treated Wastewater: Average < 50 faecal coliforms/100 ml (Well below international Safety Margin).

Factors Discouraging Wastewater Reuse in Food Crop Production
Lack of a Clear Water Management Policy
Lack of integrated conservationist resource management policy.

Availability of expensive non-conventional sources. Water management policy oriented towards increasing supply rather than controlling demand.

Advantages of Wastewater Reuse in Food Crop Irrigation
Contribution to the conservation of overabstracted underground resources. Environment Protection by reducing pollution from desalination plants. Environment Protection by providing substitute to chemical fertilizers.

Advantages of Wastewater Reuse in Food Crop Irrigation
Soil enrichment with nutrients (N, P, K) : Increased Production Saving Fertilizer Cost Economic benefit of providing a cheaper alternative to irrigation with expensive desalinated water. Protection of agricultural soil by providing a substitute to irrigation with highly brackish or saline well water.

Conclusions & Recommendations
Based on existing data gathered over more than 20 years regarding the quality of Abu Dhabi treated wastewater (under tertiary treatment), it is safe to say that the reuse of wastewater in food crop irrigation is highly recommended and poses no real risk to food safety .

Conclusions & Recommendations
Reuse of wastewater in food crop irrigation is highly recommended: To protect conventional water resources; To protect & improve the quality of agricultural soil through valuable nutrients that increase agricultural production; To protect the environment by reducing pollution associated with other water sources.

Conclusions & Recommendations
To conduct research to assess the risk involved with the sizeable imports of raw-eaten fruits and vegetables of unknown history which may have been irrigated with poorly treated wastewater or even raw sewage.

Conclusions & Recommendations
Frequent monitoring of chemical and microbiological safety of imported food crops eaten raw with special emphasis on helminthes eggs and other parasites.

Conclusions & Recommendations
Food control authorities need to develop highly efficient parasitological labs.

Conclusions & Recommendations
Imposition of regulations compelling vegetable exporters to the UAE to provide certified documents indicating the type of irrigation water used and whether or not wastewater (treated or untreated) was used.

Conclusions & Recommendations
To Manage wastewater reuse within the framework of a comprehensive water resource management strategy.

Conclusions & Recommendations
Competent authorities need to monitor and measure the efficiency of irrigation with wastewater with a view to reduce water demand by improving the efficiency of irrigation networks ; adopting more efficient irrigation methods and maintaining seasonal water reservoirs at the sewage treatment plants.

Conclusions & Recommendations
Competent authorities need focus on managing water demand by replanning the development of farmed areas in terms of quantity and quality and adopting plans to introduce lowwater consumption plants.

Conclusions & Recommendations
Competent authorities must adopt means , such as sign posts, to alert the public using recreational amenities that the treated wastewater used for irrigation is not of potable quality.

Thanks

Date Palm irrigated with Treated Sewage Water in Abu Dhabi