Abu Dhabi unveils a Dh1.6bn underground reserve for desalinated water

The facility has a fallback pumping capacity of 100 million gallons of water per day if the emirate needs it

Providing safe and sustainable access to clean water is perhaps one of the greatest challenges of our time. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
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Abu Dhabi has constructed a Dh1.61 billion underground reserve for desalinated water as part of plans to secure its water supply in the resource-scarce desert region.

The project includes a 160-kilometre pipeline that connects the water reserve site in the Liwa desert, on the border with Saudi Arabia, to a distribution network in Abu Dhabi city, government entities involved in the project said in a statement on Monday.

The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD), Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority and its Transco subsidiary were involved in the project, which has been described as the world's largest man-made desalinated water reserve.

The facility, which lies in a region where rainfall rarely exceeds 10 centimetre a year, has a fallback pumping capacity of 100 million gallons of water per day if the emirate needs it.

The water runs from Shuweihat desalination plant at a rate of 7 million imperial gallons per day over 27 months to a network of 315 wells lying up to 80 metres below the Liwa desert.

“We need strategic reserves in the event of one or more [desalination] stations being out of service and we need to ensure the availability of an alternative so that the population, industrial and commercial sectors are not negatively affected,” said Saif Al Seairi, acting director general, at Adwea.

“The government realised the need for an alternative supply to cover our needs in the near or far term, and one which would also mitigate against climate risks and it is wisely investing in finding solutions.”


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Abu Dhabi lies in one of the world’s most water-scarce regions; securing water for an expanding population is one of the key security measures being put in place by the emirate's government. The UAE is home to a large number of desalinated plants, many of which are built on the independent water and power producer model.

The new underground reserve currently contains more than 26 million cubic metres of water that can be used to supplement drinking water supplies.

"The long-term well-being of our communities is enhanced by the maintenance and enhancement of groundwater while being conscious that we need to progress additional recharge and recovery projects to optimise flexible allocation of water as required," said Razan Al Mubarak, secretary general of EAD.