Al Qusais Lake, United Arab Emirates

Lake Locations:

United Arab Emirates -

Also known as:  Tilapia Lake, Zakher Pools, Quad Lake, Sand Dune Lake

A new lake that has been the subject of much mystery over the past few years is Al Qusais Lake. This lake, of variable size, doesn’t have an official name, and most naturalists call it Zakher Pools. Fishermen refer to the freshwater desert lake as Tilapia Lake, while dune-running quad fans call it Quad Lake or Sand Dune Lake. The origin and the fate of the lake are just as elusive as the name. Hidden behind a line of dunes along the Truck Road between Al Ain and Abu-Dhabi, most people have discovered it by accident, marveling at this beautiful expanse of water among the desert sands.

Al Qusais Lake is known to have existed at least since 2004. During that short lifespan it has become home to a large number of tilapia fish, making it a favored destination for local fishermen. How the tilapia got there is unknown, but it is suspected that fish eggs were transported there on the feet of birds and thrived. The lake and its varying edges have allowed small wetlands and shoreline ecosystems supporting reeds and shallow-water plants to develop. The plants have attracted insects uncommon to the desert environment, and migratory birds have begun to add the lake to their rest stops. Nearly 200 different species of bird have made an appearance at the lake, including migrating ducks and herons that are never seen in the desert. Some recent sightings have included mallard, shoveler, white-tailed plover, spotted redshank, common kIngfisher, Euro stonechat, osprey, spoonbill and others. A few species have even taken to nesting at the lake. Local families quickly found that Al Qusais Lake was the perfect picnic spot, and some even began swimming in the lake.

Discussion among local residents centered on where the water was coming from. Some thought it was all ground water percolating up from beneath the dunes. While groundwater levels have been dropping in most of the United Arab Emirates, those in the Al Ain Municipality have been rising. Hence, many locals thought the water was simply pooling on the surface naturally. A recent report released by local officials in conjunction with hydrologists finally explained the source of the water: the lake is man-made, created as a solution to unique water problems in the area.

Because of its inland location, Al Ain cannot dump its treated wastewater into the ocean as do most cities in the area. A new desalination plant pipeline has increased the amount of available water dramatically in the past few years. A growing and healthy economy meant there was a larger population with more industry consuming more water, thereby creating more treated waste water. Using the treated water to copiously water gardens and trees was contributing to the high water table and causing minor flooding and damage to basements and excavations. The waste water treatment plant first began dumping excess water into the Wadi Al Ain and later built a pipeline to divert the treated water to a natural basin. This is what has now become Al Qusais Lake.

The water now contained in Al Qusais Lake soon became the source for trucked irrigation water for local farms and orchards. However, 2008 was a very dry year, and pumping for irrigation nearly dried the new lake up. A single heavy rainfall in 2009 dumped nearly five inches of rain on an area that seldom gets over four inches of rain a year. The storm water run-off made its way into the wastewater removal system and thus into the lake. The lake quickly recovered and added to its former size, expanding to almost 300 acres with a depth of up to 66 feet. Unfortunately, the growing lake now encroached too close to the main truck road between Al Ain and Abu Dhabi, threatening to undermine this vital route. This threat forced the local municipality to find better ways to handle both treated waste water and storm run-off. More efficient systems have halted further water diversions into the lake. Now the lake is shrinking and may soon disappear unless it is decided to provide a regular source of water to the lake.

A man-made and unplanned lake such as Al Qusais Lake provokes a dilemma for scientists and naturalists in the region. The naturally fragile dune environment has been disturbed. Excess humidity from evaporation around the lake has adversely affected some insect species naturally found in the desert. Water quality in the lake has varied considerably; at times the water has become brackish and at other times it showed signs of hydrocarbons and chemicals from improperly treated run-off. Two people have recently drowned swimming in the unsanctioned lake. The drownings, plus dangerous scorpions found near the lakeshore, have caused the municipality to fence off the lake from most visitors, although water trucks are still allowed to pump water out. Some scientists feel that the possibly contaminated water shouldn’t be used for irrigation purposes. For the present, opinions differ as to whether the lake should be allowed to exist and be nurtured to develop a waterfowl refuge. The jury is still out on the best way to proceed.

Al Ain is a very cosmopolitan city with great diversity among its residents. The economy of the United Arab Emirates is strong, and businesses from all over the world are encouraged to invest here. Increasingly Al Ain, along with better-known Abu Dhabi, courts visitors with excellent hotels, entertainment and shopping venues to suit every taste. One point of considerable pride is the Al Ain Zoo, which has one of the largest animal collections in the world. The famous Al Ain Oasis with its thousands of date palms is the biggest in the region. And the Camel Souk (market) attracts breeders and buyers from all over the UAE. The Al Maqam Camel Race Track makes for an exciting afternoon with lots of local atmosphere. The capital city of Abu Dhabi is only a hundred miles to the west over reasonable roads and offers oceanfront resorts and saltwater recreation on the Egyptian Gulf. All types of lodgings can be found in both locations, along with unique historic mosques, palaces and attractions.

Visitors to the United Arab Emirates should put Al Qusais Lake on their travel itinerary. Come see the endless colors and shifting sands of the dunes around the lake.

*Statistics are for the lake at its largest.

Things to do at Al Qusais Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Picnicking
  • Birding
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Al Qusais Lake

  • Tilapia

Al Qusais Lake Photo Gallery

    Al Qusais Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

    divider

    Spread the word! Share our Al Qusais Lake article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!

    Trophic State | LakeLubbers

    Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

    An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

    A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

    A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

    The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

    This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

    Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

    Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    Completion Year | LakeLubbers

    This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

    The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

    You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    Water Volume | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

    You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

    Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

    1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

    The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

    You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    Average Depth | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

    Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

    Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

    At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

    Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

    When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

    You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

    This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

    A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

    When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

    You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    Surface Area | LakeLubbers

    This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

    The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

    You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

    This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

    Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

    "Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    Lake Type | LakeLubbers

    There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

    - A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

    - A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

    - A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

    "Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


    Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

    Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.