Abu Dhabi is seeking to secure water supply

Adwea close to awarding contract for landmark water storage project.

Abu Dhabi's current water reserves would only last for three days.
Abu Dhabi's current water reserves would only last for three days.

The Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (Adwea) is close to awarding the contract for a landmark water storage project that will create a three months emergency supply for the Emirate’s one million inhabitants, a source involved in the project has said.

The Strategic Water Storage/Recovery Project will lead to significant increase the strategic drinking water reserves of the UAE’s largest emirate, said Peter Menche, director or projects at GTZ, a German governmental organisation that plays an advisory role.

The contract will most likely be awarded at the end of August, sources have said. While Adwea has remained tightlipped about the project, there has been speculation that a UAE contractor will win the tendering process.

To safeguard against the disastrous consequences of production outages at the Emirate’s desalination plants, 26 million cubic meters of desalinated water will be pumped into the ground at Liwa, Abu Dhabi. Of these, 16.3 million cubic litres can be recovered as drinkable water, enough to supply each resident with 182 liters of water over a three months period. Abu Dhabi currently only has enough capacity to store around two million cubic meters of potable water, sufficient to bridge a three day production gap, according to Menche.

Once the contract has been awarded, three basins will be constructed, filled with gravel and topped with a ‘geotextile’ cover over a period of 30 months. The cover will prevent evaporation and contamination. When completed, the five meter deep basins will allow water to seep into the groundwater via PVC pipes.
While concept of artificially bolstering groundwater levels is not new, the scale of the project is unprecedented. “This is the world’s largest project of its kind, and the fact that it is executed in the harsh desert terrain and will make use of desalinated water mean that this is very much a landmark for the region,” said Menche.

The water storage capacity of the scheme can be expanded in future, says Menche, provided extra water basins are constructed. Abu Dhabi’s population is expected to increase to 3,1 million by 2030 according to GTZ estimates.

Abu Dhabi produces around 800,000 cubic meters of desalinated water per day. Apart from the risk posed by natural disasters and accidents, its production facilities are easy targets for sabotage or military attacks. “All it would take is a few paratroopers dropped over a desalination plant by a hostile neighbour,” said Menche. “And there are a few of those.”

Other options to secure an emergency water supply had included the concept of a ‘GCC water grid’, emulating the GCC Interconnection Grid that will be completed in 2011, and enable GCC countries to shift electricity between them to prevent power outages in member states. At a projected cost of US$5.3 billion, the concept was too expensive to have been put into action, says Menche.



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