Largest Desalinated Water Reserve Ever Unveiled in Abu Dhabi

The UAE has created a storage facility under the desert that can provide up to 100 million liters per day in the event of an emergency.

2 minute read

January 17, 2018, 5:00 AM PST

By Katharine Jose

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From the 2018 International Water Summit in Abu Dhabi, Akshat Rathi reports that underneath the desert, far from the desalination plants, there is now a very prudent reserve of 26 billion liters of water available for the United Arab Emirates in a crisis. Like many of the projects funded by the massive oil wealth of the UAE, it is an impressive feat of engineering.

“The desalinated water is transported through large pipes (about 1 meter in diameter), which had to be pieced together in the desert through high-precision welding to make them leak-proof for at least 50 years. The water is then dumped about 80 meters underground through perforated pipes, where it seeps deeper into the aquifer. There are about 300 wells to recharge, recover, and observe the aquifer’s water.”

Despite its arid climate, the UAE has one of the highest rates of per capita water consumption in the world; as a result of its arid climate, it is particularly vulnerable to climate change. It was the potential impact of climate change that inspired the reserve.

The project is likely to draw a great deal of interest, but the expense makes it of limited use to the rest of the world. Even in the United States, officials tend to balk at just the cost of desalination, let alone the cost of moving and storing the water underground. And the U.S. is in better financial shape than many of the world’s more arid nations.

“For most others facing water scarcity,” Rathi writes, “there’s no oil money to help.”

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