A new research has shown that the UAE’s treated sewage water is free of the Covid-19 coronavirus and can be used safely for irrigation and municipal distribution.
A team of experts from the Khalifa University of Science and Technology (KU) said they were not able to detect the Covid-19 virus in any of the treated wastewater samples from three different plants across three emirates.
With their latest study – carried out in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy (DoE) and other partners – the experts found that wastewater treatment processes effectively deactivate the virus.
This makes the country’s recycled water suitable for agriculture and municipal distribution, which were its usual purposes even before the pandemic began, the research said.
“This cooperation (for the project) represents a concrete step within our relentless efforts with partners in the sector to ensure that the recycled water is free of any disease. The Department of Energy places top priority on preservation of public health, and those efforts have multiplied since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Mohammed bin Jarash Al Falasi, undersecretary of the DoE Abu Dhabi.
Al Falasi explained that the wastewater treatment in Abu Dhabi is based on a triple treatment system, which is among the best in the world in terms of quality and efficiency.
After completing the treatment process, samples of recycled water are taken for regular analysis. Then, results are reviewed and monitored to ensure safety, he said.
Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, executive vice-president at the KU, said: “Khalifa University continues to focus on projects related to the Covid-19 pandemic and the collaboration with governmental entities through offering many projects to support the country’s efforts in ensuring the good health of the public. We are delighted to offer our expertise in this area to support the country’s efforts towards reusing water and the management of scarce natural resources. We will continue to offer our infrastructure to support stakeholders in the government sector, for tackling challenges posed by the pandemic.”
As the value of the KU’s wastewater research becomes more evident in the country, other research teams around the world have indicated that they are launching a national effort to perform their own surveillance of the Covid-19 virus, similar to what the UAE has started.
Though some countries in Europe and North America have published preliminary results indicating success at detecting the virus in wastewater, the frequency and degree of testing have been replicated only in a few other jurisdictions.
Among the researchers on the team were Dr. Habiba Alsafar, director of Khalifa University Centre for Biotechnology; Dr. Ahmed Yousef, assistant professor for chemistry; and Dr. Shadi Hasan, associate professor for chemical engineering. Dr. Alvaro Lopes, the expert in epidemiology and toxicology, was also part of the team.