Abu Dhabi has unveiled the world’s largest reserve of high quality desalinated water, secured in a network of 315 recovery wells lying up to 80 meters below the Liwa Desert.
The wells are fed by one of United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) longest water pipeline networks which runs the water from Shuweihat desalination plant at a rate of 7 million imperial gallons (approx. 32,000 m3) / day over 27 months.
The reserve, which has at its core an infiltration and recovery system sitting atop a natural fresh water underground aquifer, was first investigated in 2002 and has been extensively researched by the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD).
The Dh1.61bn ($435.6mn) project was undertaken as a collaborative venture between EAD, delivering the vital scientific studies, feasibility, risk and mitigation scenarios as well as strategic planning Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (ADWEA) and its TRANSCO subsidiary, which managed the construction and on-the-ground implementation.
“The reserve acts as a safety net for the provision of water and is now being regarded as an excellent regional model for foresight and planning,” said His Excellency Saif Al Seairi, Acting Director General, ADWEA.
“We applaud the efforts of the team that worked hard in some of the harshest desert conditions and in an environment of a constantly undulating landscape. The project team overcame considerable challenges to complete this one-of-a-kind scheme and lessons learned have been shared with our regional partners. This project has positioned Abu Dhabi”, he added.
“The entire project is testament to the power of multi-stakeholder collaboration, and an exemplary case study in inter-governmental cooperation driven by environmental pillars guiding sustainable economic imperatives,” said Her Excellency Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General, EAD.
The project has addressed Abu Dhabi’s water security and its resilience through the recharge of groundwater aquifers with high-quality desalinated water, which cannot be stored above ground due to contamination and other factors.
The desalinated water is piped from the coast to create the secure, underground reserve system and was accomplished by a multi-national and multi-disciplinary team of experts from EAD, TRANSCO, ADWEA, RSB, the independent regulatory body for Abu Dhabi’s water and electricity sector, GIZ International, Do. Rainer Consultancy and ACC-POSCO JV.
Established in one of the world’s driest areas where rainfall rarely exceeds 10 cms a year, the project has been completed to deliver a fallback pumping capacity of 100 million gallons of water / day to the emirate if required.
The desalinated water percolates into the subsurface through basins with a system of semi-perforated underground pipes to recharge the aquifer using only gravity as a driving force.
The project ensures continuous water supply for Abu Dhabi city and Al Dhafra region and secures the reserve for future generations. Whenever needed, water from the 315 wells, lying up to 80 metres below ground, can be used to recover supplies at any time.