This desert reservoir could fill 10,000 Olympic swimming pools

World's largest water reservoir unveiled in the desert
World's largest water reservoir unveiled in the desert

The oil rich-emirate of Abu Dhabi is storing a vital resource in the desert: water.

On Monday, the capital of the United Arab Emirates unveiled the largest desalinated water reserve in the world.

It holds 5.6 billion gallons (6.7 billion U.S. gallons, or 26 billion liters) of drinking water, enough to fill more than 10,000 Olympic swimming pools.

In an emergency, it can provide one million people with 180 liters per person every day for three months, drawing water from 315 underground wells.

"Rather than building new tanks or storing water at ground level, where it is vulnerable to contamination or evaporation, our leaders made the bold decision to focus on this elegant water storage solution," said Razan Al Mubarak, Secretary General of Abu Dhabi's Environment Agency.

Freshwater is in very short supply in the UAE. Rainfall rarely exceeds 10 centimeters a year.

"This is only one component of the water security strategy that the Abu Dhabi government is implementing," said Al Mubarak.

Officials are also considering how to reduce demand and other innovative ways to improve supply, she added.

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Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, member of Abu Dhabi's ruling testing the water at the reserve

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The water for the new reservoir is desalinated at a plant on the city's coast and pumped through a pipeline to a natural freshwater aquifer in the Liwa desert, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the city.

The idea for the project dates back 15 years and construction began in 2010. Water began pumping in 2015 and the reservoir reached its capacity last month.

The project cost $435 million, and will act as a reserve for the whole of the UAE. Abu Dhabi hopes it will become the global benchmark for managing water in desert regions.

"We do believe that this project will resonate with our neighboring countries because of the similar challenges that they face in terms of water supply," said Al Mubarak. "We do believe this could be a blueprint that can be replicated."

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