The world’s largest reserve of high quality desalinated water, recently announced below the Liwa Desert, is a significant milestone toward ensuring sustainable water security in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, H.H. Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Council, said.
“The directives given by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the follow-up of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region, are the main driver behind ensuring sustainability at the water and electricity sector in line with the Abu Dhabi Plan 2030 and the UAE Water Security Strategy 2036, aimed at providing water security, social welfare and economic wellbeing for the entire country,” said H.H, Sheikh Hazza after a field visit of the world’s largest reserve of high quality desalinated water which has been secured in a network of 315 recovery wells lying up to 80 meters below the Liwa Desert.
The wells are fed by one of UAE’s 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.
H.H. Sheikh Hazaa commended the efforts made by Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity (ADWEA) in implementing the mega project, saying it is added to the track record of achievements made by the authority in this essential sector to the country’s economy.
Present during the visit were Mohammed bin Ahmed Al Bowardi, Minister of State for Defence Affairs, Dr Ahmed Mubarak Al Mazrouei. Secretary-General of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, Jassem Mohammed Al Zaabi, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Office, Major General Mohammed Khalfan Al Rumaithi, Commander-in-Chief of Abu Dhabi Police, Falah Mohammad Al Ahbabi, Chairman of the Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities, Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary-General, Environment Authority – Abu Dhabi (EAD), and Dr. Saif Saleh Al Sayari, Acting Director-General of ADWEA, in addition to a number of state officials.
The project was announced on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, which recently concluded in the UAE capital.
The project addresses 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, Abu Dhabi Transmission & Despatch Company (TRANSCO), ADWEA, RSB, the independent regulatory body for Abu Dhabi’s water and electricity sector, GIZ International, Dornier 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 at an estimated cost of AED1.61 billion 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. The reserve now holds more than 26 million m3 of water (equivalent to 5.6 billion imperial gallons) that can bolster drinking water supply when needed.
“Long-term wellbeing 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 optimize flexible allocation of water as required,” said Razan Al Mubarak.
Throughout the implementation of the project, considerable attention was paid to the use of highly engineered, environment-friendly specification materials, which were deemed appropriate to the Liwa area. The infiltration basin was insulated with protective materials, including a gravel mix of large pore stones to evenly distribute water and ensure better filtration.
The 160-kilometre pipeline from the strategic water reserve site to the Madinat Zayed distribution network in Abu Dhabi city consists of approximately 9,000 sections of welded pipes some of which measure 1.2 metres in diameter, and are up to 18 metres long. The sections had to be transported into the desert and pieced together through high precision welding which would take up to five continuous hours per section with stringent, follow-on X-ray inspection to ensure the system was leak-proof and could withstand the prevailing water pressure for a minimum of 50 years.