A state-of-the-art groundwater reservoir designed to supply the desert city of Abu Dhabi with freshwater.

A strategic water reserve under the desert

With its dry hot desert climate, Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, is a water-scarce place where almost all drinking water is provided through seawater desalination. Desalination is what made the city’s growth possible – and its population has boomed recently, with projections of reaching 1.6 million people by 2030.

However, desalination plants run the risk of being damaged or shut down by storms or other natural disasters, and their supply can be affected by events like red-tide outbreaks – harmful algal blooms – which have been exacerbated by climate change.

To provide the city with an emergency water reserve, Dar, one of Sidara’s leading design specialists, undertook a highly ambitious project to design the world's largest underground reservoir – capable of sustaining the city’s residents with freshwater for up to 90 days.

Modelling for quality control, underground

Aquifer storage and recovery is a better long-term option for emergency water storage, versus surface reservoirs which have less capacity, need more space, and can be more costly.

To ensure that as much of the high-quality injected water would be recoverable, and that it would meet drinking water standards immediately after recovery, we identified the aquifer’s hydraulic characteristics and developed a model to determine the most optimal operation scenarios for the reservoir’s systems. To support this, the team also designed a groundwater monitoring network of 30 multi-level observation wells.

A more secure water future

Through complex groundwater modelling, we were able to determine the optimal operation scenarios for the reservoir. Once fully completed in 2025, the underground facilities will hold up to 6,000 million gallons of water, securing a backup source of potable water that will also help meet the growing demand for water.

The success of this groundwater reservoir also provides confidence to develop more reservoirs in the future, in a region with limited options.

Project Details

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

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Liwa Al Dhafa

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