Libya is a country of 1.7 X 106km2 and over 1600 km of Mediterranean coastline. Most Libyans live in the two principal towns of Benghazi and Tripoli and along the fertile coastal belt; the remaining 950f the country being hot desert. Since ancient times, Libya has been an agricultural country and was once renowned as the granary of the Roman Empire. Fertile regions of Cyrenia in the east and Tripolitania in the west produce wheat and fruit.
With limited rainfall and a high evaporation the country has always had to husband its water resources carefully. A system of dams and catchments conserve as much rainfall as possible. This is augmented by wells tapping local aquifers along the coastal belt. Rapid urban development and the drive for agricultural self-sufficiency, in recent years however, have imposed unrealistic demands on these slender water resources.
In the 1950s geologists searching for oil discovered huge water reserves beneath the Sahara in southern Libya and despite the immense technical and logistic problems the idea was conceived to bring this to the coast. Deserts are difficult construction regions with loose sands, aggressive salt environments particularly near the coasts and inland, moving dunes, metastable loess and wadis subject to flash flooding (Fookes 1978).
Studies commissioned by the Libyan government considered various ways of transporting up to 2 million m3/day of water from the aquifers to the coastal belt, including pipelines and open channels. The chosen solution required 1900 km of 4 m diameter pipeline to link wellfields