The 27bn litre reservoir sits under the Liwa desert ©Environment Agency Abu Dhabi
The 27bn litre reservoir sits under the Liwa desert ©Environment Agency Abu Dhabi

World’s largest desalinated water reserve unveiled

16 January 2018

Abu Dhabi has unveiled the world’s largest reserve of desalinated water.

The Liwa Strategic Water Reserve is a 27bn litre reservoir that sits under the Liwa desert. Created at an estimated cost of AED1.81bn ($493m), if needed it can pump 455m litres of potable water a day to Abu Dhabi and the Al Dhafra region.

The announcement was made on the sidelines of the World Future Energy Summit, being held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, by Saif Saleh Al Seairi, acting director general of the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (ADWEA).

“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 Al Seairi.

The reservoir is an important backup for the emirate that, like many of its Gulf counterparts, is reliant on desalination plants for its growing water needs. Not only are desalination plants energy intensive, they can be temporarily brought to a halt by storms, technical malfunctions or even high levels of algae bloom in the ocean.

In 2014 ADWEA recorded peak water supply of nearly 2bn litres a day for Abu Dhabi. It expects peak demand to surpass 6bn litres by 2030.

Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, secretary general of the Environmental Agency Abu Dhabi, said public private partnerships (PPPs) were vital to the project and to meeting the emirate’s other sustainability goals. 

“PPP is key as we have immense challenges. We are living in an arid, dry region, our rainfall is very limited, desalination is a very costly operation and requires the support of many sectors so we can manage supply and demand in the most effective way,” she said.

The reservoir is fed by the Sheweihat desalination plant in Abu Dhabi via one of the UAE’s longest water pipelines, and takes 27 months to fill. It was built from a natural aquifer, and consists of 315 wells and 100 monitoring stations that provide real time information on the quality of the water.

It is hoped the construction of the reservoir will act as a model for other countries facing similar issues with water. “The Liwa reserve will resonate all over the region’s countries which share the same challenges,” said Al Mubarak.

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