History of Wastewater Treatment in Abu Dhabi

From 1973 until now, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi has adapted itself to the massive urban growth by developing infrastructure to treat wastewater.

1958 - The petrol revolution

Before the petrol revolution in 1958 in Abu Dhabi, the principal means of livelihood for the Emirate's inhabitants were diving for pearls in the summer and engaging in animal herding and oasis agriculture (mainly in Liwa and Al-Ain) during the rest of the year. No other industrial activity was known during that period.

A simple, conventional septic system comes very close to matching Mother Nature. As the main components of a traditional residential septic tank are a tank, a connecting pipe, and a distribution box where the flow is maintained by gravity or sometimes pumped out.

But with the growth of Abu Dhabi city and its suburbs and the continuously increasing population, the municipality had to ensure a world class standard of wastewater treatment for the citizens of Abu Dhabi.


1973 - Construction of the first waste water treatment plant

The first wastewater treatment plant in Abu Dhabi was built in 1973, with a design capacity of 4,545 m3/day.

Mafraq WWTP

To cater for the rapid development of Abu Dhabi, the Sewerage Projects Committee decided to construct a new large wastewater treatment Plant (WWTP) at Mafraq, 40 km away from downtown Abu Dhabi city and at an elevation of 40m above sea level. Phase 1 of Mafraq WWTP was commissioned in August 1982, with a design capacity of approximately 100,000 m3/day and serving a population of 332,500 inhabitants.

In October 1997, Phase 2 of Mafraq WWTP was commissioned; increasing the total designed capacity to 260,625 m3/day, and re-rated to 320,000 m3/day by a water research company (WRC) equivalent to a total serviced population of 900,000 persons.
Mafraq WWTP has been continuously upgraded over its history. Between 1999 and 2001, Phase 1 was rehabilitated, while new systems for odour control and biosolids management were provided in 2003 for both phases 1 and 2.

Another large WWTP (Al Ain Zakher Wastewater Treatment Plant) was put into service in Al Ain in 1980 with an initial design capacity of 27,000 m3/day of domestic wastewater, which was later expanded in 1992, doubling its capacity to 54,000 m3/day to serve the rapidly developing population of Al Ain city and its suburbs.

In the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, besides the aforementioned two large WWTP (Mafraq and Zakher), approx. 30 small (less than 5000 m3/day of treatment capacity) were also built in different regions to treat water, protect the environment, and preserve human health.

2010 - Meeting growing needs

The major WWTP in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi

Construction of 4 new major waste water treatment plants

The Emirate of Abu Dhabi is witnessing one of the fastest growing populations and economies in the world. It is projected that the population will reach 6,8 Million in 2030, which is nearly three times the current population.

This is why it was critical for ADSSC to take action to ensure the wastewater infrastructure needs are met now and in the future. The development of WWTP and reuse of the Recycled Water is part of the Abu Dhabi 2030 Plan.

Accordingly, four new large WWTP were and commissioned in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi between 2010 and 2013, adding a total treatment capacity of 850,000 m3/day and able to serve the equivalant of more than 3 million inhabitants. This new infrastructure has been designed with state-of-the-art technologies enabling 100% reuse of the wastewater treated for irrigation purposes. These 4 new plants are part of two major projects:

  • ISTP2: Wathba 2 Plant and Allahamah Plant
  • ISTP1: Wathba 1 Plant and Al Saad Plant.

2010-2030: Future projects

In the next few years, the Strategic Tunnel Enhancement Programme (STEP) will be implemented. STEP is a 40-kilometer long wastewater tunnel in Abu Dhabi City, which will be built to meet the forecasted demand and the resulting development envisioned in the Urban Structure Framework Plan. STEP addresses the need for the collection and transport of waste water from all the expansion in currently developed areas and development of new areas identified in the Plan. It is also sized to accommodate the range of flows that could result from the development. For more in formation, follow this link.

Course of the STEP

Pictures: Emirates Heritage Club