Filtered sewage water used for indoor farms

The capacity of Treated Sewage Effluent (TSE) to be a key enhancer of the nation’s food security was explored at a workshop held yesterday, with the activity outlining a specialist research project that is being conducted in the UAE.

Undertaken by four main partners; the UAE-based International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA); International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA); the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU); and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), the science project that was the focus of the workshop is evaluating how the country’s growing landscape of advanced farming within protected agriculture systems initiatives - such as indoor greenhouses and vertical farms - can benefit from using TSE and biosolids, much of which is currently wasted.

Attending the virtual workshop, Mariam Hareb Almheiri, Minister of State for Food Security, said that it represented a significant step in evaluating novel methods in a multidisciplinary approach towards enhancing food security through adopting an approach to developing government policies based on research, development, and scientific evidence.

"The UAE’s annual water demand amounts to around 5 billion cubic meters, with Treated Sewage Effluent accounting for about 11% of this demand. We produce around 735 million cubic meters of TSE each year, but more than a quarter of this resource is either lost or discharged into the sea. This is a tremendous waste, as TSE is rich in nutrients, making it an ideal medium to support crop growth," said Her Excellency.

The scientific project is significant because the UAE has one of the world’s highest per capita water usages. The agricultural sector is responsible for the lions’ share of the UAE’s water consumption, as it consumes about 83% of the total water demand compared to its domestic and industrial sectors.

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In addition to the presence of Almheiri, the virtual workshop was attended by representatives from various federal government bodies, local authorities, private sector stakeholders, non-profit organizations, and international institutions.

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