With only five percent of the country getting at least 100 millimetres of rainfall per year, Libya is one of the driest countries in the world.
Historically, coastal aquifers or desalination plants located in Tripoli were of poor quality due to contamination with salt water, resulting in undrinkable water in many cities including Benghazi.
Oil exploration in the southern Libyan desert in the mid-1950s revealed vast quantities of fresh, clean groundwater - this could meet growing national demand and development goals.
Scientists estimate that nearly 40,000 years ago when the North African climate was temperate, rainwater in Libya seeped underground forming reservoirs of freshwater.
In 1983, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi initiated a huge civil water works project known as the Great Man-Made River (GMMR) - a massive irrigation project that drew upon the underground basin reserves of the Kufra, Sirte, Morzuk, Hamada and the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer - to deliver more than five million cubic metres of water per day to cities along Libya’s coastal belt.
"The Colonel’s GMMR project was discounted when first unveiled as an uneconomic flight of fancy and a wasteful exploitation of un-renewable freshwater reserves," Middle East-based journalist Iason Athanasiadis told IPS. "But subsequently it was hailed as a masterful work of engineering, tapping into underground aquifers so vast that they could keep the 2007 rate of dispersal going for the next 1,000 years." More >>>
Location: Cayman Islands