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Groundwater resources in Jordan Valley: an integrated approach to the hydrogeological investigation of unconsolidated aquifers

IWRA World Water Congress 2008 Montpellier France
1. Water availability, use and management
Author(s): M. Toll
Elias Salameh
Martin Sauter
Prof. Dr. Salameh: Department of Applied Geology, University of Jordan, 11942, Amman, Jordan Prof. Dr. Sauter Applied Geology, University of Göttingen, Goldschmidtstr. 3, 37077, Göttingen, Germany

Keyword(s): integrated approach, groundwater resources, semi-arid, Jordan, unconsolidated aquifer, numerical flow model, impact of climate change
Article: Poster:

AbstractIn semi-arid areas groundwater systems are frequently not sufficiently characterized hydrogeologically and long term data records are generally not available. Long-term time series are necessary, however to design future groundwater abstraction scenarios or to predict the influence of future climate change effects on groundwater resources. To overcome these problems an integrated approach for the provision of a reliable database based on sparse and fuzzy data is proposed. This integrated approach is demonstrated in the lowermost area of the Jordan Valley. The Jordan Valley is part of the Jordan Dead Sea Wadi Araba Rift Valley, which extends from the Red Sea to lake Tiberias and beyond with a major 107 km sinistral strike-slip fault between the Arabian plate to the east and the northeastern part of the African plate to the west. Due to extensional forces a topographic depression was formed. As a result of an arid environment it is filled with evaporites, lacustrine sediments, and clastic fluvial components. A subtropical climate with hot, dry summers and mild humid winters with low amounts of rainfall provide excellent farming conditions. Therefore the Jordan Valley is considered as the food basket of Jordan and is used intensively for agriculture. As a result hundreds of shallow wells were drilled and large amounts of groundwater were abstracted since groundwater is the major source for irrigation. Consequently groundwater quality decreased rapidly since the sixties and signs of overpumping and an increase in soil salinity could clearly be seen. In order to achieve a sustainable state of water resources and to quantify the impact of climate change on water resources a proper assessment of the groundwater resources as well as their quality is a prerequisite. In order to sufficiently describe the complex hydrogeologic flow system an integrated approach, combining geological, geophysical, hydrogeological, historical, and chemical methods was chosen. The aquifer geometry and composition is described with the help of geological, hydochemical, and geophysical methods. As far as the water budget is concerned, the recharge to the considered aquifer is estimated with geological methods and available data sets, while the abstraction from the aquifer is estimated with the help of remote sensing techniques. A historical approach is used to detect the general conditions under which the groundwater system has been in the past. Afterwards this information is implemented into a flow model. On the basis of the findings a numerical 3-D transient model integrating all important features of the hydrogeological system was developed In order to be able to give reliable predictions about the impacts of climate change scenarios on the groundwater system the flow model was tested against stress periods depicted during the historical review of the test area.. These stress periods include periods of intense rainfall, of drought, and of anthropogenic impacts, like building of storage dams and of violent conflicts. Recommendations for future sustainable groundwater abstractions are given.
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