Mon 15-01-2018 19:25 PM
By Hatem Hussein ABU DHABI, 15th January, 2018 (WAM) -- The Liwa man-made desalinated water reserve is a breakthrough feat of sustainable engineering that will resonate throughout the region, confirming the commitment of Abu Dhabi to modern scientific knowledge and its future vision for a balanced approach between development and conservation, Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General of the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi, EAD, said today.
"The project has survived many challenges, not least of which is its remote location in a very harsh environment where pipelines have been built across huge dunes," Al Mubarak told the Emirates News Agency, WAM. She was speaking after the announcement of the project, the world’s largest reserve of high quality desalinated water, on the sidelines of the International Water Summit which is running in the UAE capital as part of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.
The project, completed at an estimated cost of AED1.61 billion, will ensure a continuous water supply for Abu Dhabi city and the Al Dhafra Region of the emirate.
"The other challenge is working with different types of people with different mindsets and disciplines, including engineers, geologists, hydrologists, economists and so on," Al Mubarak said. "You have different mindsets that you have to deal with efficiently to focus on achieving your goal. The third challenge that we still have to survive is that the project can’t be successful if the community doesn’t stand behind it because if we can’t reduce our consumption of water and particularly ground water, we will be tapping into this resource into which we have invested a lot of time and money," she added.
"The Liwa reserve will resonate all over the region’s countries which share the same environmental challenges. It started with the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and is now part of his legacy; a legacy which continues to grow through our wise leadership," Al Mubarak said, stressing that Liwa Strategic Water Reserve represents a global benchmark for water management in desert regions and could completely redefine international standards for recharge and recovery projects.
Al Mubarak underlined the importance of the public-private partnership, PPP, in achieving the sustainability goals championed by Abu Dhabi.
"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."
The official stressed the role of technology in achieving the major milestone. "If it were not for digitisation and technology, this project would not have materialised. We are using high-tech monitoring instrumentation to measure the quantity and quality of water across 315 wells through 100 monitoring stations on site. Access to information in real time, 24/7, is what enables us that to ensure the quality of water will remain good and that can we react to any emergency."
The reserve now holds more than 26 million cubic metres of water that can support the drinking water supply, when needed. "The 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 optimise the flexible allocation of water as required," Al Mubarak added.
Speaking to reporters after the launch, Dr. Saif Saleh Al Seairi, Acting Director-General of the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority, ADWEA, said that the project, established in one of the world’s driest areas where rainfall rarely exceeds 10 cms a year, has been completed at an estimated cost of AED1.61 billion equivalent, to deliver a fallback pumping capacity of 100 million gallons of water per day to the emirate, if required.
"The project ensures continuous water supply for Abu Dhabi city and the 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," he added, promising that the project will not be the last of its kind and that similar developments will see the light over the coming years.
On the selection of the Liwa desert in specific for the project, Al Seairi said that the area had been selected after it met strict specification criteria. "These included an extremely light water basin trajectory to prevent leakage; capable of sustaining a ‘tank’ thickness to handle significant storage volumes; safe surroundings, free of human activities which could contaminate the reserve, and where groundwater quality was of sufficient quality to allow for ‘recharge and mixing.’ "
Following the launch announcement, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by EAD, represented by Razan Al Mubarak,and TRANSCO, represented by Mohammed bin Omair Al Shamsi, Chairman of the Board of TRANSCO.
The strategic water reserve project will now be operated, managed and maintained by TRANSCO with scientific support being provided by EAD. In readiness for operations, TRANSCO has prioritised the training of UAE nationals as project managers. "Their contact with this project vastly increases their experience, enriching their national pride and their sense of this project's value and they add their insight and viewpoints to achieve the project’s objectives," Mohammed bin Omair Al Shamsi said.