The Importance of Underground Water in UAE

Al Ardh Alkhadra > Blog > Agriculture > The Importance of Underground Water in UAE

All of us are aware that the UAE is located in the desert with only limited sources of underground water, no rivers, and little rain. The main problems that the UAE government faces today are water shortage. That’s why the UAE relies on water sources like seawater desalination, underground water, Surface water, and treatment of water. UAE is one of the most extensive and most populous countries. That’s  why people in the house, office, factories and the farmers in their farms have a high consumption of water.

What is Underground Water?

Underground water is found under the Earth’s surface. It occupies the pores and fissures of the most solid rocks. In general, it maintains a temperature that is very similar to the annual average in the area. This effectively means that in the Arctic regions, it can freeze. The deepest underground water can remain hidden for thousands or millions of years. However, most deposits are shallow and play a constant role within the hydrological cycle.

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Globally, underground water represents about twenty times more than the total surface water of all continents and islands. Consequently, the underground water acts as a reserve and a freshwater resource. In addition, it has a vital role in nature. 

Importance of Underground Water

Underground water is of essential importance to our civilization because it is the largest drinking water reservoir in regions inhabited by humans. It can appear on the surface in springs or extracted by wells. In times of drought, you can use it to maintain surface water flow. Still, even when there is no shortage, it is preferable to use underground water because residues or microorganisms do not contaminate it. Although this water is less polluted than surface water, its contamination has become a concern in industrialized countries. It is in a way part of the water cycle.

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Due to a series of uncontrolled actions of a few individuals, aquifers have been exploited. This has significantly damaged and resulted in problems of various kinds, such as depletion of reserves, deterioration of water quality, economical and environmental impacts, etc. The issue of overexploitation affects many aquifers used as a source of drinking water supply. At least 58 hydrological units used for this purpose suffer from this problem, which means that at least 20% to 30% of underground water resources are threatened with sustainability.

The mobility of under ground water depends on the type of underground rocks in each place.  Other layers, such as blackboards, clays, glacial moraines, and silts reduce underground water flow. In the porous areas, the surface layer of the water saturation area is called the water table. 

Underground Water in UAE

The scientists in UAE are extensively researching and doing some experiments and projects about underground water resources in Emirates. They aim to determine the quality, deeper, and volume in issuing recommendations on how they will sustain them in the long term. The underground water in UAE is primarily used in agriculture.

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In Abu Dhabi, current annual water use is twenty-six times larger than its annually renewable natural water resources. Therefore, there is an urgent requirement to implement projects and programs to rationalize water use in all sectors and improve water management. It talks about the underground water resources and water management issues with the various groundwater sector users in UAE.

The unavailability of water sources is one of the problems in the United Arab Emirates that directly affects the livelihood and lives of inhabitants. Underground water is one of the critical sources of water in the UAE. The water scarcity in the UAE is approaching the rapid increase of populations. 

Underground Water in Abu Dhabi

On the other hand, the desalination process supplies water for non-agricultural sources. The UAE primarily uses 68% of water for agriculture, 23% for domestic usage, and 9% for industrial use. USGS has joined hands with the National Drilling Company (NDC) of Abu Dhabi to collect information on the groundwater resources in UAE. Crops in Abu Dhabi are primarily grown in sand, highly irrigated, and fertilized.

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Some sectors perform some investigations about the impact of farming practices on the quality of the Emirates groundwater resources. Abu Dhabi is one of the wealthiest emirates of the UAE that consume around 550 liters of water per day per person. This is comparatively quite more than other countries in the world. The UAE government incurs a lot of money on the energy cost of setting up desalination plants in UAE to provide fresh water.

Depletion of Underground Water in UAE

Underground water in the UAE is fast depleting because of prolonged drought conditions. According to a scientific study conducted by the UAE University, about 80,000 wells, including 13,000 in Abu Dhabi and 12,000 in Sharjah, are at the risk of depletion and comprise high salinity. About 40% of wells in Fujairah and other Eastern regions were affected.

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Underground refers to all subsurface water. Underground water is a significant water source for agricultural and industrial purposes and is an essential source of drinking water for many people worldwide. Today, the supply of underground water is facing increasing pressures. As the government authority mandated with protecting the environment in the Emirate, one of EAD’s priorities is to conserve ( water conservation) Abu Dhabi’s groundwater resources to help ensure the protection of this strategic resource. it helps to save water.

Water underlies the Earth’s surface almost everywhere, beneath hills (contour farming), plains, mountains, and deserts. However, it is not always accessible or fresh enough for use without treatment. Underground water may occur near the land surface, like a wetland. It may also lie several hundreds of feet below the surface, as in some arid regions.

Natural Storage of Underground Water

Underground water moves slowly through layers of soil, rocks, and sand called aquifers. Aquifers typically consist of sand, gravel, sandstone, or fractured rock. These materials are porous because they have large connected spaces that allow water to flow. This may be located only a foot below the ground surface or sit hundreds of feet down.

Almost 90% of underground water in Abu Dhabi is salty, in some cases more than eight times as far as seawater. There are two kinds of freshwater aquifers. They built Recharge dams on wadis to stop floodwater from pushing into the sea, recharging it instead of aquifers.

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UAE uses artificial underground water recharge with desalinated seawater.  Their goal is to excel a 90-day lock instead of the current 48-hour reserve for drinking water to secure the UAE against the risk of oil spills that will shut down the total water supply. Recharge will happen during summer while the desalination plants obstetrics excess freshwater.

Underground Water in UAE – Data Collection. Analysis and Results

A research study was conducted in Abu Dhabi, and it was analysed using percentages. The UAE government built dams in different places to increase underground water recharge. There are nearly 35 dams and embankments of various dimensions having a total storage capacity of 80 million.

They also provide security against damage caused by flash floods. The UAE has minimal potential for agricultural development since over 90% is desert. There are no perennial surface water resources in the desert, and rainfall is unorganized and meager. Although, climatic conditions and soil and water constraints. All irrigation water is underground water.

Almost 78.5% of water sources are from underground water, and the remaining 29% are from other resources like freshwater, treated water, and desalination of water. It also shows that the Agriculture sector uses underground water rather than domestic and Industry.

Dealing with Underground Water in UAE

Abu Dhabi is one of the seven Emirates that comprise the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It occupies an area of 67,340 square km, which is about 80% of the total area of the UAE. Many industries and steel plants have also cropped up as the UAE progressed. These industries added pressure on the reserves; initiatives affect the shortage of water in the UAE and people, especially the high usage of Agriculture sectors.

It shows that almost 80% of the water in UAE is from underground water, and they use this primarily for irrigation and farming. They also have some processes that they are planning to protect the groundwater and help in reducing the problems of water shortage. They are planning to relocate all  agriculture and related activities that are water reliant in areas with long-term and sustainable sources of water, whether underground water or recycled water.

Government entities are implementing new solutions for minimizing water use in the agriculture sector and public spaces. During 2012, the area of soil-less agricultural production increased by 12%. 


There is less than 4% of water renewal annually, which is a significant challenge for the agricultural sector in Abu Dhabi and UAE. This is a considerable bottleneck as rainfall does not exceed 100 mm per year.

Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) has warned of water shortage within the next 50 years if the consumption by agriculture in the UAE continues at this pace without steps taken to conserve underground water. About 95 percent of farmers in Abu Dhabi depend on well water, while freshwater does not exceed at least 1% and not to mention the high rates of nitrates in the wells.

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