Great Manmade River

Work on the (Great Manmade River), the largest scheme to exploit fossil aquifer tables in the world, got under way in 1984 and was inaugurated by President Qaddafi in August 1991. Its essential aim is the irrigation, via a vast system of waterways, of agricultural areas on the Libyan coastal region by using waters located deep under the Sahara in the southern part of the country.

Only the first phase of the project has been completed to date. Some 2 million m³ of water are piped – through a 1,200 km pipeline – from the large aquifer table situated in the south east of the country – the so called « intercalary continental table » – (in As-Sarir and Taherzo) towards the Adjabiya reservoir to irrigate the regions of Benghazi and Syrte, on the coast. This should continue to be exploited for two centuries at least.

The scheme includes four other phases:

  • Phase II, with the pumping from the south western aquifer table – the so-called (terminal continental table) – (in Fezzan) to irrigate the Tripoli region;
  • Phase III, should complete Phase I of the scheme to increase the flow of the eastern part of the (Great Manmade River) – by 1.68 m³ of water per day – by extending the pumping network further towards the south, to Koufra;
  • Phase IV, aiming to extend the possibilities of distribution by the construction of a pipeline linking the Ajdabiya reservoir to Tobruk in the north east of the country;
  • Phase V would see the connection of the eastern and western systems into a single network in Syrte.

Work on the completion of the (Great Manmade River) should last another 25 years. The total cost of the project is estimated at $25 billion. Phase 1 alone cost $14 billion. The project was originally designed by two American planning offices (Brown & Root and Price Brothers Cy) and its development was entrusted to the South Korean public works company Dong Ha.

Other sources of water in Libya – a country made up of 95% desert – are from renewable stocks (700 million cubic metres of water per year) or, to a much lesser extent, from the desalination of sea water.