INVESTIGATIONS FOR UPDATING THE GROUNDWATER MATHEMATICAL MODEL(S) OF THE SAQ AND OVERLYING AQUIFERS

MAIN REPORT

VOLUME 1

Abunayyan Trading Corporation BRGM Geosciences for a sustainable Earth

Rabi’I 1429 H March 2008 G

Investigations for Updating the Groundwater Mathematical Model(s) of the Saq and Overlying Aquifers

Volume 1 Main Report

Note
The present document is part of the Draft Final Report of the study entitled “Investigations for updating the groundwater mathematical model(s) of the Saq and overlying aquifers”. The Draft Final Report is composed of the following thirteen (13) volumes:

Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4 Volume 5 Volume 6 Volume 7 Volume 8 Volume 9 Volume 10 Volume 11 Volume 12 Volume 13

Main Report Groundwater Management Groundwater Mathematical Modelling Data Management Domestic & Industrial Water Demand Irrigation Water Abstraction Hydrology and Groundwater Recharge Groundwater Quality Hydrogeology Water Point Inventory Pumping Tests Geophysical Logging Geology

Executive Summary The present document is Volume 1 out of 13.

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Contents
1 2 Introduction.......................................................................................................................... 1 Main findings........................................................................................................................ 2

2.1 GEOLOGICAL MODELLING ......................................................................................................................... 2 2.1.1 Methodology........................................................................................................................... 2 2.1.2 Horizons modelled.................................................................................................................. 3 2.1.3 Model contribution to the understanding of the structure........................................................ 4 2.1.4 Conclusions............................................................................................................................ 5 2.2 FIELD INVESTIGATIONS ............................................................................................................................. 8 2.2.1 Water-point inventory ............................................................................................................. 8 2.2.2 Pumping tests....................................................................................................................... 15 2.2.3 Geophysical logging ............................................................................................................. 17 2.3 HYDROGEOLOGY ................................................................................................................................... 20 2.3.1 History of groundwater use in Saq study area...................................................................... 20 2.3.2 Main hydrogeological units ................................................................................................... 20 2.3.3 Aquifer exploitation and water salinity .................................................................................. 21 2.3.4 Groundwater Levels in the Saq aquifer ................................................................................ 24 2.3.5 Groundwater Levels in the Kahfah aquifer ........................................................................... 28 2.3.6 Groundwater Levels in the Quwarah-Sarah aquifer ............................................................. 28 2.3.7 Piezometry of the Tawil aquifer ............................................................................................ 28 2.3.8 Groundwater levels in the Jauf, Jubah and Berwath aquifers............................................... 29 2.3.9 Groundwater levels in the Khuff aquifer................................................................................ 29 2.3.10 Piezometry of the STQ aquifer system ................................................................................. 30 2.4 GROUNDWATER QUALITY ........................................................................................................................ 32 2.4.1 Comparison between the data collected during the SAQ-1 and SAQ-2 projects.................. 32 2.4.2 Salinity distribution ............................................................................................................... 32 2.4.3 Chemical facies .................................................................................................................... 34 2.4.4 Distribution of the magnesium versus chloride ratio ............................................................. 34 2.4.5 Compliance of water quality with WHO guidelines ............................................................... 34 2.4.6 Possible impact of agriculture on water resource quality...................................................... 35 2.5 GROUNDWATER RECHARGE .................................................................................................................... 38 2.6 IRRIGATION-WATER ABSTRACTION ........................................................................................................... 40 2.7 DOMESTIC AND INDUSTRIAL GROUNDWATER USE....................................................................................... 44 2.7.1 Population ............................................................................................................................ 44 2.7.2 Industry................................................................................................................................. 45 2.7.3 Public groundwater supply in the study area ........................................................................ 45 2.7.4 Present domestic-water demand.......................................................................................... 46 2.7.5 Present industrial-water demand.......................................................................................... 47 2.7.6 Forecasting future domestic and industrial water demand ................................................... 48 2.7.7 Recommendations ............................................................................................................... 49 2.8 GROUNDWATER MATHEMATICAL MODELLING ............................................................................................. 50 2.8.1 Scope of work....................................................................................................................... 50 2.8.2 Conceptual groundwater model............................................................................................ 50 2.8.3 Groundwater model design and calibration .......................................................................... 50 2.8.4 Main results of the model calibration .................................................................................... 51 2.8.5 Impact of groundwater abstraction on leakage between aquifers and aquitards .................. 56 2.8.6 Conclusions.......................................................................................................................... 58

3
3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4

Present status of water resources................................................................................... 60
BALANCE BETWEEN ABSTRACTIONS AND GROUNDWATER RECHARGE........................................................... 60 INFLUENCE OF THE WATER-TABLE DECLINE ON WATER-SUPPLY WELLS ......................................................... 64 EXISTING GROUNDWATER RESERVE......................................................................................................... 67 IMPACT OF ABSTRACTION ON GROUNDWATER QUALITY ............................................................................... 68

4
4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4

Constraints on groundwater use ..................................................................................... 70
AQUIFER EXPLOITABILITY........................................................................................................................ 70 DECLINING GROUNDWATER LEVELS ......................................................................................................... 70 WATER QUALITY PROBLEMS.................................................................................................................... 72 PRESENCE OF RADIOELEMENTS .............................................................................................................. 74

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Strategies in groundwater management ......................................................................... 78

5.1 POSSIBLE LINES OF ACTION .................................................................................................................... 78 5.1.1 Quantitative aspects ............................................................................................................. 78 5.1.2 Qualitative aspects ............................................................................................................... 78 5.2 SHORT-TERM VERSUS LONG-TERM APPROACH .......................................................................................... 79 5.2.1 Short- to medium-term approach.......................................................................................... 79 5.2.2 Long-term approach ............................................................................................................. 79 5.3 MODELLING SCENARIOS......................................................................................................................... 80 5.3.1 Scope of predictive modelling scenarios .............................................................................. 80 5.3.2 Main results of the predictive scenarios................................................................................ 81 5.3.3 Simulation of “reasonable” groundwater exploitation conditions........................................... 88

6

Conclusions and Recommendations .............................................................................. 92

6.1 CONCLUSIONS ...................................................................................................................................... 92 6.1.1 On the water use .................................................................................................................. 92 6.1.2 On the aquifers..................................................................................................................... 92 6.1.3 On the water levels............................................................................................................... 93 6.1.4 On the groundwater quality .................................................................................................. 93 6.1.5 On the exploitable reserves.................................................................................................. 95 6.1.6 On future trends ................................................................................................................... 95 6.2 RECOMMENDATIONS .............................................................................................................................. 98 6.2.1 To enhance the life-time of water supply infrastructures ...................................................... 98 6.2.2 To achieve reductions in groundwater abstractions ............................................................. 98 6.2.3 To improve the quality of available water ........................................................................... 100

Annex 1: Legal instruments to ensure a sustainable use of groundwater resources in France Annex 2: Plates

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List of figures
Figure 1. Geological map of the Saq study area (BRGM, 2005) ................................................. 2 Figure 2. Structure of the top of basement, view from the southeast (colour zone = 1,000 m) ... 3 Figure 3. Completed 3D geological model ................................................................................... 4 Figure 4. North-south cross-section along the 40°E meridian (longitude of Sakakah) ................ 6 Figure 5. Location map of the inventoried water points ............................................................... 9 Figure 6. Location map of the inventoried MoWE wells ............................................................. 10 Figure 7. Location map of the inventoried observation wells ..................................................... 14 Figure 8. Location of the geophysically logged wells ................................................................. 18 Figure 9. Example of lithological interpretation .......................................................................... 19 Figure 10. Evolution of the volume of groundwater abstractions in the Saq study area............ 20 Figure 11. Evolution of the volume of groundwater abstractions per aquifer............................. 22 Figure 12. Depth of top of the Saq aquifer and location of wells tapping the aquifer ................ 23 Figure 13. Groundwater-head contour map for the year 2005 – Saq aquifer ............................ 26 Figure 14. Piezometric series of the Al Mukharim well (1-Q-210-S / BU9210).......................... 27 Figure 15. Piezometric series at Rawd al Uyun (1-Q-136-S / BU9136)..................................... 27 Figure 16. Distribution of groundwater salinity within the Saq study area ................................. 33 Figure 17. TDS versus well depth within the Saq study area .................................................... 34 Figure 18. Location of water samples with radioisotopes exceeding WHO guidelines within the Saq study area....................................................................................................... 36 Figure 19. Schematic cross-section through the sedimentary cover of the Arabian Shield showing the different types of rainfall recharge and other components of the underground flow pattern. ............................................................................................ 39 Figure 20. Crop identification from satellite images ................................................................... 41 Figure 21. Crop-area variations derived from remote sensing and interpolation....................... 41 Figure 22. Irrigated area per region derived from remote sensing and interpolation................. 42 Figure 23. Irrigation water abstraction per crop type over the Saq study area from 1971 to2003 .......................................................................................................................... 42 Figure 24. Irrigation water abstraction per region over the Saq study area from 1971-2003 .... 42 Figure 25. Time variation of the irrigation-water abstraction in Mm3/a per region within the Saq study area ............................................................................................................. 43 Figure 26. 3D grid of the groundwater mathematical model ...................................................... 51 Figure 27. East-west cross section at the latitude of the Dead Sea .......................................... 52 Figure 28. Natural groundwater-head distribution and streamlines simulated in the Saq aquifer .......................................................................................................................... 52

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Figure 29. Simulated groundwater-head distribution and streamlines in the Saq aquifer for 2005 ............................................................................................................................. 54 Figure 30. Simulated groundwater-head decline in the Saq aquifer from 1960 to 2005............ 54 Figure 31. Simulated groundwater-head distribution and streamlines in the Tawil-Sharawra aquifer for 2005 ............................................................................................................ 55 Figure 32. Simulated groundwater-head decline in the Tawil-Sharawra aquifer from 1960 to 2005 ............................................................................................................................. 55 Figure 33. Time variation of vertical leakage between aquifers and aquitards (Vertical leakage and abstraction in Mm3/a) .............................................................................. 57 Figure 34. Groundwater abstractions in the Saq study area for different uses.......................... 60 Figure 35. Renewable groundwater resource in the Saq study area compared to the groundwater abstraction .............................................................................................. 60 Figure 36. Location of wells used for irrigation with tapped aquifer ........................................... 62 Figure 37. Simulated groundwater-head depletion in the Saq aquifer and location of watersupply wells (decline in metres from 1960 to 2005)..................................................... 63 Figure 38. Location of wells used for domestic water supply with tapped aquifer ..................... 65 Figure 39. Simulated groundwater-head decline between 1960 and 2005 in inventoried water-supply wells........................................................................................................ 66 Figure 40. Evolution of groundwater head in two observation wells in the Qassim region........ 71 Figure 41. Evolution of groundwater head in two observation wells in the Tabuk region .......... 71 Figure 42. Evolution of groundwater head in two observation wells in the Al Jawf region ........ 71 Figure 43. Occurrence of samples with a boron content exceeding WHO guidelines............... 73 Figure 44. Total radium content of Saq groundwater vs. water-level decline over the period 1960 – 2005 (Qassim and Ha’il regions) ..................................................................... 76 Figure 45. Simulated decline in the Saq aquifer from 2005 to 2055 (Scenario 2) ..................... 81 Figure 46. Piezometric evolutions in the Saq aquifer simulated in Al Qassim area (Scenario 2).................................................................................................................. 82 Figure 47. Simulated decline in the Tawil aquifer from 2005 to 2055 (Scenario 2) ................... 82 Figure 48. Optimized abstraction vs cut-off depth in the aquifer system taken as a whole (Scenario 4).................................................................................................................. 83 Figure 49. Optimized abstraction vs cut-off depth in the Saq aquifer and Al Qassim province (Scenario 4).................................................................................................................. 84 Figure 50. Zoning of the Saq aquifer for the siting of new domestic well fields (Scenario 5) .... 85 Figure 51. Zoning of the Tawil aquifer for the siting of new domestic well fields (Scenario 5) .. 85 Figure 52. Simulated drawdown in the Saq aquifer from 2005 to 2055 with current pumping rates and new well-fields in Saudi Arabia and Jordan (Scenario 3 - Simulation 1) .... 86 Figure 53. Global abstraction per crop from 1971 to 2005 and projection up to 2020 (Scenario 8-4) .............................................................................................................. 87 Figure 54. Reduction of the 2055 Saq simulated drawdown with Scenario 8-4 (MOA plan) ..... 87

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Figure 55. Irrigated areas within the Saq study area and limits of the most affected areas ...... 88 Figure 56. Qassim central area – Baseline scenario and agricultural abstraction reduced by 50% .............................................................................................................................. 89 Figure 57. Qassim central area – Baseline scenario and reduced agricultural abstraction scenarios...................................................................................................................... 90 Figure 1: French aquifers classified as “ZRE” in 2003, i.e. requiring lower abstraction volumes and a better management of the different uses (French Ministry for the Ecology and the Sustainable Development).............................................................. 108

List of tables
Table 1. Number of water points inventoried per province ............................................................... 11 Table 2. Main uses of the inventoried water points ........................................................................... 11 Table 3. Types of inventoried water points ......................................................................................... 11 Table 4. Classification of the inventoried water points according to tapped aquifer and static water level ................................................................................................................................ 12 Table 5. Inventoried well-depth statistics per aquifer ........................................................................ 13 Table 6. Aquifers monitored by the MoWE observation wells ......................................................... 13 Table 7. Results of the pumping test campaign ................................................................................. 16 Table 8. Evolution of groundwater abstraction for different aquifer units in the Saq study area ........................................................................................................................................... 22 Table 9. Species contents versus WHO guidelines and recommendations .................................. 35 Table 10. Public groundwater abstraction in the study area and comparison with other uses ... 46 Table 11. Present domestic water demand in the study area .......................................................... 47 Table 12. Present industrial-water demand in the study area ......................................................... 47 Table 13. Future domestic- and industrial-water demand in the Saq study area ......................... 48 Table 14. Present-day groundwater abstraction per Province......................................................... 61 Table 15. Immediate reduction required in agricultural groundwater demand to ensure a reasonable use of groundwater resources.......................................................................... 91

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List of plates
Plate 1. Location map of the Saq study area ........................................................................... 112 Plate 2. Geological map of the Saq study area........................................................................ 113 Plate 3. Lithostratigraphical and hydrogeological units of the Saq study area ........................ 114 Plate 4. Aquifers tapped by inventoried wells .......................................................................... 115 Plate 5. Observation wells used for model calibration of the Northern and Western areas..... 116 Plate 6. Observation wells used for model calibration of the Qassim area.............................. 117 Plate 7. Simulated depth of the groundwater table in the Saq aquifer in 2005 in Qassim central area ................................................................................................................ 118 Plate 8. Simulated depth of the groundwater table in the Saq aquifer in 2030 in Qassim central area in the case of constant agricultural pumping at 2005 rates ................... 119 Plate 9. Simulated depth of the groundwater table in the Saq aquifer in 2055 in Qassim central area in the case of constant agricultural pumping at 2005 rates ................... 120 Plate 10. Simulated depth of the groundwater table in the Saq aquifer in 2005 in Tabuk area121 Plate 11. Simulated depth of the groundwater table in the Saq aquifer in 2030 in Tabuk area in the case of constant agricultural pumping at 2005 rates ....................................... 122 Plate 12. Simulated depth of the groundwater table in the Saq aquifer in 2055 in Tabuk area in the case of constant agricultural pumping at 2005 rates ....................................... 123 Plate 13. Simulated depth of the groundwater table in the Tawil aquifer in 2005 in Busayta area ............................................................................................................................ 124 Plate 14. Simulated depth of the groundwater table in the Tawil aquifer in 2030 in Busayta area (most probable scenario) ................................................................................... 125 Plate 15. Simulated depth of the groundwater table in the Tawil aquifer in 2055 in Busayta area (most probable scenario) ................................................................................... 126

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List of Abbreviations
Aquifer Aquiclude A formation, group of formations, or part of a formation that is water bearing. The term ‘aquiclude’ is used to designate a layer with such a low permeability that the underlying aquifer is completely sealed off. Such conditions do not occur in the Project area. Therefore, in this report the terms ‘major aquitard’ and ‘weak aquitard’ are used to describe the different confining layers. The term ‘aquitard’ is used in hydrogeology to describe a layer with low or very low permeability. Digital Elevation Model Geo-Information System Global Positioning System metres above sea level Groundwater modelling software developed by BRGM. metres below ground level

Aquitard DEM GIS GPS m.a.s.l. MARTHE™ mbgl

MODFLOW™ Groundwater modelling software developed by USGS. MoWE MoA Ministry of Water and Electricity Ministry of Agriculture

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1 INTRODUCTION
The groundwater resources of the Saq study area (Plate 1) are intensively exploited for drinking-water supply and irrigation (see Volumes 5 and 6 of the report); today, groundwater abstraction by far exceeds groundwater recharge (see Volume 7 of the report). However, the wells tapping the various aquifers of the region are unevenly distributed. As a result, water levels of some aquifers have dropped sharply over the past three decades in parts of the Saq study area, but show little or no decline elsewhere. A locally observed decline in water level is in itself not a measure for the degree of overexploitation of an aquifer, nor is the absence of a declining trend in another area a sign of sustainability of the groundwater reserves. Due to its very large lateral and vertical extent, the multi-layer aquifer system of the Saq study area is slow to react to any stresses imposed on it. Considering the complexity of the water balance of this multi-layer aquifer system, the degree of interaction between the various aquifers, and the relative importance of de-storage of water contained in aquifers and aquitards, it is understood that long-term predictions concerning the evolution of the aquifer system can most accurately be made by a groundwater mathematical model covering the full extent of the aquifer system. The construction and calibration of such a multi-layer aquifer model was therefore one of the main objectives of this project. Such a groundwater mathematical model can simulate realistically how the multi-layer aquifer system will react under different water-resource management scenarios, provided the model faithfully reproduces the system geometry and uses accurate data sets for its calibration. For this reason, the construction of the model was preceded by two main tasks: the construction of a 3D-geological model and the execution of a major field survey to accurately assess the present status of the water resources and to update the existing knowledge on the aquifer system. The present report is composed of 13 volumes. Volumes 4 to 13 each describe one of the tasks related to data collection and interpretation. Volumes 2 and 3 describe the construction of the groundwater mathematical model and the results of the various management scenarios simulated with the model. Volume 1 summarizes the main findings of the different project tasks and presents key data for a reflection on water-resources management within the Saq study area.

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2 MAIN FINDINGS
2.1 Geological modelling

The goal of the geological modelling task was to construct a numerical geological model based on the most recent scientific concepts and field data on geology, in order to improve our understanding of the flow model for groundwater-resource assessment. Previous work included the earlier flow model of the Saq 1 project (BRGM, 1985), as well as the publications since then on the stratigraphy and structure of the northern Saudi Arabian and adjacent sedimentary basins. The progress of geological knowledge since 1980 is mainly based, for outcropping formations, on the regional geological mapping (Figure 1 and Plate 2) carried out by BRGM and DMMR (now the Saudi Geological Survey), and for the subsurface on the oil exploration carried out by Saudi Aramco in the Nafud basin as well as in Central Arabia.
34° 32° 46°

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Wadi Sirhan graben

Al Qurayyat

Aruma Formation
0 50

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Sakakah D aw m at-al-Jandal

Tabuk 28° Jubbah Baq'a

Taym a

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Qibah

Harrats
AL U la 26°

Saq Sandstone
Buraydah U nayzah

Sajir

Ad D aw adim i 24°

Figure 1. Geological map of the Saq study area (BRGM, 2005)

2.1.1

Methodology

The method for constructing the numerical geological model is based on the knowledge of basinstacking patterns, i.e. of how stratigraphic units and the main unconformity surfaces separating them are related to each other in a vertical and horizontal sense, as well as on the identification and validation of 3D-georeferenced data describing the structure of the aquifer systems from a geometric point of view. This work could be broken down into six steps. The first step delineated the horizontal and vertical extent of several groups of geometrically related geological formations (packages) separated by major unconformity surfaces or faults. This was done on the basis of chrono- and litho-stratigraphical concepts as well as of a rough conceptual model of the basin structure defining the rules of the mutual horizon relationships.
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The second step was to set up a correspondence chart between lithostratigraphy and hydrostratigraphy, i.e. between geological formations and their aquifer or aquitard properties, looking for a separation or connection between the different hydrologic units. The third, most time-consuming, step was to collect the necessary 3D (x, y, z) information for defining both the shape of these horizons and the geometry of the layers throughout the project area and beyond. Such data originate from a great variety of sources, implying a major work of compilation, conversion to digital format, and georeferencing with GIS tools. The fourth step was to build several versions of the model using dedicated software (ArcGIS, GDM, EarthVision) and, through iterations, to correct and improve this model by adding new layers and new control points until the model appears geologically correct. The fifth step was the display of 3D views, cross sections, and isochoric maps. The sixth step was the calculation of the clipped output grids from the model and their export as x, y, z files toward the flow model. 2.1.2 Horizons modelled

All outcropping horizons were in priority matched to outcrops through a combination of the digital geological map compiled for this project (Plate 2) and of the digital elevation model (DEM), regardless of subsurface data. Within the stratigraphical sequence, 26 main lithological units were identified so as to separately represent all main hydrogeological units (both aquifers and aquitards), considering at the same time the different stratigraphical unconformities present within the sequence. Plate 3 presents the lithostratigraphical column with the 26 identified geological units. The constructed 3D geological model is shown in Figure 2 and Figure 3.

Figure 2. Structure of the top of basement, view from the southeast (colour zone = 1,000 m)

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Figure 3. Completed 3D geological model 2.1.3 Model contribution to the understanding of the structure

Great progress has been made by constructing the 3D model and using the 3D modeller. The first improvement was to identify properly and separately the structure of the Wadi Sirhan graben, which deeply cuts into the Nafud basin following the strike of the Basement edge from Central Arabia. This structure has been identified as mainly resulting from Hercynian uplift (several thousands of metres), followed by deep truncation especially in the northwest. During a second stage, this structure was cross-cut by the Wadi Sirhan (Azraq) Graben, which complicates our understanding of the final geological result. One of the main effects of these cumulative movements has been the rapid wedging-out of the Devonian succession and the unconformable contact of a thick Cretaceous-Tertiary succession over Early Paleozoic rocks. However, at depth on the Jordanian side, a sub-continuous series from Triassic to Tertiary persists. Due to the great depths of the basin, the existence of some of these complications (e.g. Triassic rocks) has little or no effect on the groundwater management of shallower aquifers. Looking in particular at the aquifer units, a north-south section along the 40°E meridian (Figure 4) illustrates the N-S wedge shape of the succession. All Early Paleozoic aquifers are present. At great depth, the Cambro-Ordovician (Siq+Burj+Saq) appears to be very thick. In spite of changing facies (prograding delta front), the Sharawra Member (orange) is here considered as partly sandy and connected to the Tawil Formation. The Jauf Formation, the hydraulic behaviour of which is complex, forms a vertical seal to the Jubah Formation, although it is water-bearing as well. The system is capped by the Maastrichtian-to-Eocene succession. From west to east, the continuity of the aquifer systems can be disrupted by the down-thrown of faults on both sides of the graben. In particular, the Saq and Qasim aquifer systems (Plate 3) come in contact with impervious layers of the Basement and the Qusaiba shale. In the northwest,
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the Paleozoic sequence is drastically truncated and the Saq aquifer becomes disconnected at the bottom of the graben. The Cretaceous-Eocene becomes the main aquifer in the graben, and faultrelated vertical connections are possible. On the eastern side, the broad Mesozoic-Cainozoic wedge opens in Central and Eastern Arabia towards the east. In Central Arabia (south of the Qassim area, in the Al Faydah and Ad Dawadimi quadrangles) the Saq and Qasim formations pinch out against basement paleo-highs. Here, the Qusaiba shale is reduced or absent. 2.1.4 Conclusions

Considering groundwater-flow patterns within the Saq study area, the following items are emphasized: - The Saq Sandstone is a huge aquifer compared to the other ones. - The Hanadir Member forms a continuous seal. - The Qasim aquifers develop good reservoir properties where the Sarah Formation is thick and connected to the Kahfah Member by erosion of the Ra’an Member. - The Sharawra Member and Tawil Formation will be merged, but a differential permeability should be used to account for the variable and less-permeable properties of the Sharawra Member. In the first Saq project, this member was merged with the Qusaiba Member, which is probably true at depth in the north, but not closer to the outcrop. - Differing from the first Saq project, the Jauf Formation should be considered as a semi-pervious system including some water resources, but acting as a confining unit between the Tawil and Jubah formations. - The Sakaka Sandstone (obsolete term) is now known as the Devonian Jubah Formation, which is a good reservoir. - The Berwath Formation acts as local screen or seal, the extent of which is largely assumed. Its role is completed by the effect of the Sudair Shale and of the basal Wasia Formation, both unconformably overlying the Jubah Formation sandstone. - One of the most important innovations of the flow model is a better knowledge of the basement structure, of the Pre-Unayzah unconformity (PUU), and of the Wadi Sirhan (Azraq) Graben in terms of their geometric and connecting implications.

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(m.a.s.l.)

Aquifers cross-section x=505,000 m
Late Cretaceous unconformity Harrats

(Qusa iba)

Pre-Qusaiba aquifers

W. Sirhan (Azraq) graben Azraq) Pre-Hercynian, postQusaiba aquifers

(m)

Figure 4. North-south cross-section along the 40°E meridian (longitude of Sakakah)

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2.2
2.2.1

Field investigations
Water-point inventory

The purpose of the water-point inventory was to collect basic data for the updating of our information on the status of groundwater resources within the Saq and overlying aquifers. Because these objectives relate to updating different types of hydrological information, the water-point inventory of the Saq project was the corner stone for several of the other project tasks. For example, the information gathered during the water-point inventory was used for defining the groundwater-sampling program and also, within previously identified areas, for selecting wells suitable for geophysical logging and wells amenable to test pumping. Moreover, the inventory has provided essential data on irrigation practices by the farmers, which is necessary for assessing current water-abstraction rates for irrigation. Finally, the data collected during the water-point inventory were the major source of up-to-date information on hydrogeology, hydrogeochemistry and water consumption. This, in turn, allowed identifying trends in the quantitative and qualitative aspects of the water resources of the Saq study area, through comparison with literature and historical data. A total of 5,969 water points was inventoried, covering all parts of the Saq study area where wells are present, and covering all the aquifers. With all drinking-water and groundwater monitoring wells being included in the inventory, the collected data provide a complete and comprehensive picture of the current status of groundwater resources within the study area (Figure 5 and Figure 6).

Geographical data The 5,969 inventoried water points in the field database comprise 5,745 water points visited in the study area and 211 water points identified outside it. Depending on the estimate used for the total number of wells in the area, this number of 5,969 represents between about 40% (for the lower estimate) and 50% (higher estimate) of the total wells existing in the study area. Two additional water points (TB9800 and TB9801) were added to the project database from the literature. Although not found during the field inventory, they are known to exist from the MoWE archives and are of specific interest because of being associated with piezometric data gathered by MoWE. Note that among the 5,747 water points within the project area, 733 are under the responsibility of MoWE.

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36° 32°

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Province limit Governorate or district limit Limit of Saq study area

Use of the inventoried water points
Domestic water supply Irrigation

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Figure 5. Location map of the inventoried water points

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Legend
28° 28°
Province limit Governorate or district limit Limit of Saq study area

Use of the inventoried MoWE water points
Domestic water supply Irrigation

26°

26°

Observation well Others / Not known

0

50

100 Kilometres

200

36°

38°

40°

42°

44°

Figure 6. Location map of the inventoried MoWE wells

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The water-point locations have been classified according to the Province limits determined by the Ministry of Planning (see Table 1). Figure 5 shows the unequal geographical distribution of the inventoried water points over the total project area, with most of them being concentrated in the Al Qassim, Al Jawf, Tabuk and Riyadh provinces. This situation reflects the actual distribution of the wells drilled over the Saq study area. Table 1. Number of water points inventoried per province Province Al Jawf Al Madinah Al Qassim Ha'il Northern Border Riyadh Tabuk TOTAL Number 2,129 196 1,421 469 91 742 699 5,747 All wells Percentage 37.0% 3.4% 24.7% 8.2% 1.6% 12.9% 12.2% 100.0% MoWE Wells only Number Percentage 101 13.8% 10 1.4% 271 37.0% 94 12.8% 81 11.1% 77 10.5% 99 13.5% 733 100.0%

Use and nature of the water points Table 2 and Table 3 show various general statistics regarding the inventory. Table 2 breaks down the inventoried water points into their main uses: i.e. domestic water supply (including well-fields), observation wells, and irrigation, livestock and industry wells. The MoWE wells associated with irrigation correspond to municipal wells used for watering public gardens (Figure 6). If several uses are made of a single borehole, only the main one is indicated. Table 2. Main uses of the inventoried water points Well use Domestic water supply Irrigation Livestock Industry Observation well Not known TOTAL All wells Number Percentage 573 10.0% 4,972 86.5% 23 0.4% 16 0.3% 115 2.0% 48 0.8% 5,747 100.0% MoWE Wells only Number Percentage 564 76.9% 70 9.5% 0 0.0% 0 0.0% 91 12.4% 8 1.1% 733 100.0%

Table 3 presents the nature of the water points: i.e. drilled well, dug well, drilled well within a dug well (hand-dug well later deepened by drilling), open hole (non-equipped drilled well: i.e. no casing, no screen), or spring. Table 3. Types of inventoried water points Type of water point Drilled well Drilled well inside dug well Dug well Open hole Spring TOTAL All wells Number Percentage 5,704 99.3% 1 0.0% 14 0.2% 27 0.5% 1 0.0% 5,747 100.0% MoWE Wells only Number Percentage 727 99.2% 0 0.0% 5 0.7% 1 0.1% 0 0.0% 733 100.0%

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Hydrogeological data The tapped aquifer has been identified for 5,060 (86.4%) of the water points; identification was not possible for the remaining wells due to their unknown depth and/or to the absence of a general trend for a specific water-point use within the area. It should be noted that some geological layers, generally considered as aquitards, could be tapped locally due to a spatial heterogeneity of their lithology. Saq Sandstone is by far the main aquifer tapped in the area; it accounts for almost half the inventoried wells (47.3%). However, the targeted aquifers do vary from one province to another. For example, the Saq aquifer is tapped by 90% or more of the inventoried water points in the Tabuk, Ha’il and Riyadh provinces, and is not tapped at all in the Northern Border and Al Jawf provinces. One particular point of concern within the Saq study area is the considerable amount of wells supposedly tapping more than one aquifer. Out of all the water points visited in the field, the static water level (SWL) is known, through measurement, estimation, or information given by the owner, for 4,728 (82.3%) of them. The SWL ranges from flowing water at the surface (artesian) to 310 m below ground level (mbgl) as in Ar’Ar. Table 4 shows the water points classified according to their SWL, with 78% ranging between 50 and 150 mbgl. The well depth is known for 4,902 of the inventoried water points, i.e. 85.3% of those visited. Table 5, presenting the mean, minimum and maximum well depths per aquifer (along with the standard deviation), shows for example that the Berwath aquifer exploited in the far northeastern part of the study area is on average tapped by deep wells with little variation around the mean depth. Other aquifers, such as the Jubah and Tawil aquifers, show a much larger range of exploitation depth.

Table 4. Classification of the inventoried water points according to tapped aquifer and static water level Aquifer name Alluvium Basalt Secondary-Tertiary-Quaternary Sudair Khuff Unayzah Berwath Jubah Jauf Tawil Sharawra Quwarah-Sarah Kahfah Saq Saq & Alluvium Basement Not known TOTAL <=50 64 1 126 7 6 3 25 65 17 16 24 16 205 42 1 35 653 Static water level in m below ground level 51-100 101-150 150-200 >200 541 18 8 2 3 5 50 422 10 11 88 866 161 2185 102 2 18 1 1 17 439 2 9 50 755 97 1493 1 4 1 1 12 1 1 2 292 2 32 349 4 15 1 1 1 14 5 48 7 Total 64 1 777 27 36 6 7 47 134 891 29 46 156 2132 42 3 330 4728

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Table 5. Inventoried well-depth statistics per aquifer Aquifer Alluvium Basalt Secondary-Tertiary-Quaternary Sudair Khuff Unayzah Berwath Jubah Jauf Tawil Sharawra Quwarah-Sarah Kahfah Saq Saq & Alluvium Basement Not known All aquifers Number of Mean depth Minimum wells in m depth in m 63 81 6 1 28 28 974 265 15 28 184 80 50 226 30 7 189 90 9 472 350 55 334 100 147 265 40 908 364 100 29 179 95 52 241 50 171 345 30 2358 479 50 42 74 40 2 215 180 6 392 40 4896 246 6 Maximum Standard depth in m Deviation (m) 200 30 28 1451 131 470 105 700 153 400 116 600 91 1500 263 1500 309 2510 149 450 95 700 206 1100 228 2400 295 120 19 250 49 960 353 2510 258

Observation wells Of the 115 observation wells (Figure 7), 91 are MoWE wells most of which, as shown in Table 6, record the water-level fluctuations in the Saq Sandstone. Table 6. Aquifers monitored by the MoWE observation wells Aquifer Secondary-Tertiary-Quaternary Khuff Jubah Jauf Tawil Kahfah Saq TOTAL Piezometers 11 2 2 3 7 10 56 91

Inventory of the SAQ-1 Project hydroclimatological stations The 1985 Saq-1 project led by BRGM included the installation of 29 hydroclimatological stations: 9 runoff (hydrological) stations and 20 meteorological (climatological) stations. All locations given in the 1985 report were visited in the field. Of the nine hydrological stations installed during the Saq-1 project, three were either not found (probably destroyed or dismantled) or out of order. Of the remaining six, none were operated when visited in the field. Nevertheless, they could still be operational if equipped with a recorder and/or in the presence of a technical operator during flood events, whenever the measurement section has not been by-passed.

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36° 32°

38°
JA9088

40°

42°

44° 32°
JA0650
# # JA0645

JA0596 JA5013
# # # # #

§
30°
TB9097 TB9098 TB9107 TB9112 TB9108 TB9405 TB9173 TB9114 TB9553 TB9072 TB9071 TB9111 TB9152

#

JA9651
# #

JA9091 JA0630

JA0578

JA5009
# #

JA9089 JA9139
# # # # #

JA0608

JA9625

JA0583

JA0564 JA9090 JA9143 JA0306

JA9623 JA9624

JA9627 JA9093
# # # ### ## # # #

JA9011

JA9094

JA5002
#

JA9146
#

JA5003

TB9099

30°
JA0151 JA9612 JA9145
#

0
JA5000

6 Kilometres

12

TB9109 TB9077 TB9800

JA9092

JA9147

Legend
TB9158 TB9178 TB9116 TB9070 HA9130 HA9139 BU0207 HA9056 TB9075 TB9117 HA9054 TB9162 TB9163 TB9801 TB9160 TB9159 TB9161 HA9055 HA9053 BU0205 BU0206 BU0245 BU9135 BU9210 AW9650 BU9134 BU9159 BU9204 BU9202 BU9163
# #

Province limit Governorate or district limit
BU9053 BU0252 BU0247 BU9164

TB9115

28°

BU0260 BU0246

28°
#

Limit of Saq study area

Tapped aquifer
Not known Sec. Tertiary Quater. Khuff Jubah Jauf
#

BU1150

BU9205 BU9136 BU9203 BU9734 BU9139 BU9575 BU9087

BU9157
#

26°

BU9158 BU9097

AS9036 BU9094 BU9100 BU9098 BU9000

26°

BU9099 BU9137 BU9065 BU9052 BU9060 BU9043 BU9187 BU9013 0 BU9014

Tawil Kahfah Saq
50 100 Kilometres 200

BU9070 BU9162

36°

38°

40°

42°

44°

BU9086

Figure 7. Location map of the inventoried observation wells
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Of the 20 meteorological stations installed during the Saq-1 project, none were operated when visited in the field. No instrumentation was found at eight of the sites, this having probably been destroyed or buried under sand dunes (see HC station TB201) after more than 20 years. The other 12 sites are still equipped, but the equipment suffers from aging. 2.2.2 Pumping tests

The Consortium has performed pumping tests in 11 wells. Nine of these wells tap the Saq aquifer and the two other ones concern the Tawil and Neogene formations. Two types of tests were performed: - Step-drawdown tests for the assessment of well characteristics; - Constant-discharge tests for assessing the local hydrodynamic parameters of the tested aquifer. The tested wells tap various geological formations, including the Saq, Tawil and Neogene aquifers. Nine of these wells are used for drinking-water supply to the population. Among the tested wells, one was available with an observation well. The exploitation pumps were removed by MoWE in order to allow the installation of test pumps by the Consortium. The pumping program was completed as planned, except that the duration of some constantdischarge tests had to be reduced to restore water supply to the population. Step-drawdown tests were used to determine the hydrodynamic characteristics of the wells. The data recorded during constant-discharge tests were used for assessing the local hydrodynamic parameters of the tested aquifers. Data from one additional well have also been interpreted. These data were handed over by MoWE; they are related to a well tapping the Saq aquifer along the international border with Jordan. This well is provided with two observation wells. The recorded data were then used for modelling radial flow by means of different models, such as the Jacob, Theis, Hantush-Jacob, Boulton-Streltsova, and Warren-Root approaches. The results are shown in Table 7.

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Table 7. Results of the pumping test campaign

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2.2.3

Geophysical logging

Twenty-five boreholes were investigated with geophysical methods. This involved the use of nine geophysical probes for measuring different parameters relative to borehole geometry, the characterization of lithology, water quality, and radioactive contamination of groundwater. The nine probes were the (1) Three-Arm Caliper/CCL, (2) Cement Bond Log probe (CBL), (3) Flowmeter probe, (4) Sidewall Density (Gamma-Gamma) probe, (5) Dual Neutron probe, (6) Electric probe, (7) Gamma Spectrometry probe, (8) Temperature/Conductivity probe, and (9) Borehole Video Camera. The 25 wells, each of which was visited with MoWE engineers before approval for logging, were selected according to one or more of the following criteria: - Geological and geographical interest, with a spatial distribution covering the project area (Figure 8); - Accessibility (most of the wells were not equipped with a pump); - Recently drilled, so that the inside of the well could be visually checked using the video camera probe; - Radiometric interest: the Gamma Spectrometry probe (also called the Spectral Gamma probe) is a specific instrument for determining the presence of radionuclides; “spectral gamma” can distinguish uranium-, thorium- and potassium-isotope signatures within natural radioactivity. It is well known that the Saq Sandstone contains thin shale interbeds. These thin layers show high gamma-radiation levels on the geophysical logs and thus may, to a certain degree, be responsible for radium contamination in the water. The level of contamination will depend on many factors, such as the layer's thickness, its radio-isotope concentration, the type of environment (reducing or oxidizing), etc. In some wells (e.g. the Baqa Well), the high-radiation shaly zone is located at the bottom of the well; in others (e.g. the Midhnab Well), shaly layers with high radiation levels occur at intervals throughout the intersected formation. A second source of natural radioactivity seen on the geophysical logs is the Hanadir Member (or Hanadir Shale) of the Qasim Formation. This formation is not everywhere cased in the wells. For example, the Uyun Al-Jiwa Well shows a high radiation zone of partly uncased Hanadir Shale. According to laboratory analyses, this well shows a high level of contamination. A third possible source of natural radioactivity is the silty sandstone at the base of the Kahfah Member of the Qasim Formation (previously “Lower Tabuk”) which shows high radiation levels, especially in the Qassim region. As shown by the spectral-gamma log, the predominant radioactive element in the rock is thorium, ahead of uranium. This could result in higher concentrations of the radium-228 isotope, derived from thorium, compared to radium-226 derived from uranium. Figure 9 shows two gamma-ray peaks. The first, around 945 m depth, correlates with a decrease in the neutron logs indicating a lower effective porosity, a decrease in density and a decrease in resistivity. The interpretation deriving from these observations is the likely presence of a clay (shale) layer. The second gamma-ray peak (or series of peaks) does not seem to correlate with any other log. Interpreting this section as a clay (shale) layer is therefore much less obvious. This example shows that: - Several logs are needed to properly interpret a log chart and; - Natural radioactivity in the Saq Sandstone may not systematically be associated with clay, but may also be linked to sandstone layers containing a degree of silt/clay.

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32° 32° 32° 32° 32° 32°

Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat
QU9 00 9 QU9 00 9 QU9 00 9 QU9 00 9 QU9 00 9 QU9 00 9

Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar
AR91 42 AR91 42 AR91 42 AR91 42 AR91 42 AR91 42

QU9 04 3 QU9 04 3 QU9 QU9 04 3 JA951 3 JA951 3 JA951 3 JA951 3 JA951 3 JA951 3

30° 30° 30° 30° 30° 30°

QU9 55 3 QU9 55 3 QU9 55 3 QU9 55 3 QU9 55 3 QU9 55 3

Sakakah Sakakah Sakakah Sakakah Sakakah Sakakah
JA951 9 JA951 9 JA951 9 JA951 9 JA951 9 JA951 9

T B90 97 T B90 97 T B90 97 T B90 97 T B90 97 T B90 97

T B90 99 T B90 99 B90 99 T B90 99 TB90 99 TB90 99

T B90 98 T B90 98 T B90 98 T B90 98 T B90 98 T B90 98 T B94 02 T B94 02 T T B94 02 T B94 02 T T B94 01 T B94 01 T B94 01 T B94 01 T B91 20 T B91 20 T B91 20 T B91 20 T B91 20 T B91 20

Tabuk Tabuk Tabuk Tabuk
T B90 72 T B90 72 T B90 72 T B90 72 T B90 72 T B90 72

T B91 15 T B91 15 T B91 15 T B91 15 T B91 15 T B91 15 T B92 47 T B92 47 T T B92 47 HA90 39 HA90 39 HA90 39 HA90 39 HA90 39 HA90 39 T B91 17 T B91 17 T B91 17 T B91 17 T B91 17 T B91 17

28° 28° 28° 28° 28° 28°

Baq'a Baq'a Baq'a Baq'a Baq'a Baq'a
BU91 38 BU91 38 BU91 38 BU91 38 BU91 38 BU91 38 HA00 26 HA00 26 HA00 26 HA00 26 HA00 26 HA00 26

Tayma Tayma Tayma Tayma
HA90 58 HA90 58 HA90 58 HA90 58 HA90 58 HA90 58

Ha'il Ha'il Ha'il Ha'il Ha'il Ha'il

Al' Ula Al' Ula Al' Ula Al' Ula Al' Ula Al' Ula

BU90 03 BU90 03 BU90 03 BU90 03 BU90 03 BU90 03 BU94 58 BU94 58 BU94 58 BU94 58 BU94 58 BU94 58

Buraydah Buraydah Buraydah Buraydah Buraydah Buraydah 26° 26° 26° 26° 26° 26° Unayzah Unayzah Unayzah Unayzah Unayzah Unayzah

BU90 61 BU90 61 BU90 61 BU90 61 BU90 61 BU90 61 BU93 28 BU93 28 BU93 28 BU93 28 BU93 28 BU93 28 BU90 71 BU90 71 BU90 BU90 71

LEGEND
w ell used for geophysical logging major tow n minor tow n
0 0 0 0 0 0 10 0 10 0 10 0 10 0 10 0 10 0 Ki lo metre s Ki lo m etre s Ki lo m etre s Ki lo metre s Ki lo m etre s Ki lo m etre s 20 0 20 0 20 0 20 0 20 0 20 0

As Sajir As Sajir As Sajir As Sajir As Sajir As Sajir

Ad Duw adami Ad Duw adami Ad Duw adami Ad Duw adami Ad Duw adami Ad Duw adami

boundary Saq study area 24° 24° 24° 24° 24° 24° 35° 35° 35° 35° 35° 35° 37° 37° 37° 37° 37° 37° 39° 39° 39° 39° 39° 39° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 43° 43° 43° 43° 43° 43° 45° 45° 45° 45° 45° 45°

Figure 8. Location of the geophysically logged wells
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Name TB9098 Neutron [Near] DEPTH (M)
0

Gamma Ray
50 100

0 1500 100

500 200

1000 300 400

1500

Density bed res.
25000 30000 350000

Density long spac. Density high res.
2500 5000 7500 10000

Res. short Res. long
1000.0

Fl. cond. (µS/cm) Temp. (°C)
40.0 50.0 51.0

Neutron [far]
50015000 20000

935 940 945 950 955 960 965 970 975 980 985 990 995 1000 1005 1010 1015 1020 1025 1030 1035 1040 1045

Figure 9. Example of lithological interpretation (for explanation see text above)

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2.3
2.3.1

Hydrogeology
History of groundwater use in Saq study area

Figure 10 presents the evolution of groundwater abstraction in the Saq study area compiled from different sources. Because of the predominant position of the region in the past and the availability of historical data, separate figures are also provided for the Qassim region. It can be seen that groundwater abstraction remained marginal till the 1960s. A rapid growth in the abstracted volume occurred in the Qassim region between 1966 and 1984, which continued between 1984 and 2005. In other regions, the growth of the abstracted groundwater volume was moderate till 1984, but then was multiplied by ten during the past 20 years. The total volume of groundwater annually abstracted in the Saq study area in 2005 (8,727 Mm3/a) equals a water column of 24 mm covering the entire Saq study area (~370,000 km²). This is more than five times higher than the few mm of recharge occurring during the same period and thus is not sustainable. Considering that groundwater abstraction is concentrated in the main irrigated areas representing not more than 10% of the Saq study area, it is obvious that in these regions the ratio between groundwater abstraction and groundwater recharge is over 50:1.
10000 in total Saq study area (Mm3/yr) 9000 8000 Groundwater abstraction (Mm3/yr) 7000 6000 5000 4000 3000 (BRGM, 1985) 2000 1000 0 1920 in Qassim region (Mm3/yr) (this study)

(Parsons Basil, 1968)

1930

1940

1950

1960 year (G)

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Figure 10. Evolution of the volume of groundwater abstractions in the Saq study area (source between brackets)

2.3.2

Main hydrogeological units

Plate 3 shows, besides the lithostratigraphical and geological logs, the main hydrogeological units. In the groundwater model, three groups can be distinguished among the 13 model layers. These groups are ‘Aquifers’, ‘Aquitards that are locally aquifers’, and ‘Aquitards’. Aquifers There are seven main aquifers or aquifer groups, from bottom to top: • Saq Sandstone; • Kahfah sandstone;

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• • • • •

Quwarah - Sarah sandstones; Sharawra and Tawil sandstones; Jubah sandstone; Khuff limestone; Secondary (Mesozoic) -Tertiary - Quaternary (STQ) sandstone and limestone.

Aquitards that are locally aquifers Two layers act regionally as aquitards, but contain units that are locally exploited as aquifer: • Jauf limestone and sandstone; • Unayzah and Berwath sandstones.

Aquitards Four layers have been identified as aquitards. The term ‘aquitard’ is used in hydrogeology to describe a layer with low or very low permeability. The term ‘aquiclude’ is used to designate a layer with such a low permeability that the underlying aquifer is completely sealed off, but such conditions do not occur in the Saq study area. Therefore, in this report the terms ‘major aquitard’ and ‘weak aquitard’ are used to describe the different confining layers. The following aquitards play a role in the underground flow pattern (from bottom to top): • Hanadir shale; • Ra’an shale; • Qusaiba shale; • Sudair shale.

2.3.3

Aquifer exploitation and water salinity

The aquifers encountered in the Saq study area do not all have the same regional extension and, depending upon their presence, depth and also their salinity, at most locations in the Saq study area only one or at most two aquifers are exploited. Plate 4 shows the inventoried (5,060 out of nearly 6,000) wells for which the tapped aquifer was determined. From this plate it can be seen that in every region one aquifer is predominantly exploited. Due to their differences in thickness, extension, hydraulic characteristics and water quality, some aquifers have a much larger area of exploitation than others. Table 8 and Figure 11 show the abstracted groundwater volumes for the main aquifer units for 1984 (BRGM, 1985) and 2005 (this study). It can be seen that the Saq Sandstone is by far the most exploited aquifer, accounting in 2005 for almost two-thirds of all abstraction within the Saq study area. The other main aquifer is the Tawil, accounting for 10% of the abstractions. The Secondary-Tertiary-Quaternary aquifer complex accounts for nearly 16% of abstractions, but this unit combines a group of independent aquifers and not a single hydrogeological unit. Saq aquifer Figure 12 shows the extent and depth of the Saq aquifer and the location of the inventoried wells tapping the aquifer. The aquifer has extensive outcrop areas along the boundary with the Arabian Shield in the west, where it receives some recharge, albeit much less than the volumes abstracted from the aquifer. East of the outcrops the aquifer is present below almost the entire study area, except for a small area northeast of Buraydah. In the northeastern part of the study area the aquifer is too deep to be exploited.

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Table 8. Evolution of groundwater abstraction for different aquifer units in the Saq study area
Aquifer Model layer 1984 (Mm3/a) 2005 (Mm3/a) % of total in 2005

STQ Khuff Jubah Jauf Tawil Quwara Kahfah Saq Total

1 3 5 6 7 9 11 13

141 87 86 9 39 90 187 1427 2064

1388 159 12 158 876 128 298 5708 8727

15.9 1.8 0.1 1.8 10.0 1.5 3.4 65.4 100.0

6000 1984 5000 2005

groundwater abstraction (Mm3/yr)

4000

3000

2000

1000

0 Saq Kahfah Quwara Tawil Jauf Jubah Khuff STQ

Figure 11. Evolution of the volume of groundwater abstractions per aquifer A total of 2,434 wells tapping the Saq aquifer has been inventoried. Most are located on outcrops in the Qassim, Ha’il and Al’Ula regions, or in the confined parts of the aquifer in the Qassim, Ha’il, Tayma and Tabuk regions. In the Qassim region, many wells tap the Saq aquifer near or below 1,000 m depth, whereas in the Tabuk region few wells reach such a depth. The central part of the outcrop area, south of Tayma, is fairly unexploited as are those parts of the aquifer covered by the sand dunes of the Nafud desert. For those wells where physico-chemical parameters could be measured in the field, the electrical conductivity (EC, expressed in µS/cm) is shown on Figure 12. In the Qassim region, salinity levels are high (EC >2,000 µS/cm) in unconfined parts of the aquifer, especially near the main wadi channels such as Wadi Ar Rumah. High salinity levels can be explained by the dissolution of salts through percolating surface water. Salt can accumulate in wadi channels in areas where runoff waters stagnate, or in sabkhas, areas where exfiltrating groundwater exists or existed in the past.

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32° 32° 32° 32° 32° 32°

Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar

LEGEND
major tow n minor tow n highw ay main road minor road Saq area

30° 30° 30° 30° 30° 30°

Sakaka h Sakaka h Sakaka h Sakaka h Sakaka h Sakaka h

T ab uk T ab uk T ab uk T ab uk T ab uk T ab uk

28° 28° 28° 28° 28° 28°
T aym a T aym a T aym a T aym a T aym a T aym a Ha'i lll Ha'i Ha'i Ha'i lll Ha'i Ha'i

Baq 'a Baq 'a Baq 'a Baq 'a Baq 'a Baq 'a

Al ''''''Ul a Al Ul a Al Ul a Al Ul a Al Ul a Al Ul a

0

20

40

K il ometres

Burayd ah Burayd ah Burayd ah Burayd ah Burayd ah Burayd ah Una yza h Una yza h Una yza h Una yza h Una yza h Una yza h

26° 26° 26° 26° electrical conductivity measured in w ells tapping Saq aquifer (µS/cm) 5 000 < 2 000 - 5 000 1 500 - 2 000 1 000 - 1 500 500 - 1 000 0 - 500 w ell w /out EC measurement depth top Saq aquifer (m bgl) outcrop 0 - 1000 1000 - 2500 > 2500
As Saj iiirrr As Saj As Saj As Saj iiirrr As Saj As Saj

0 0 0

10 0 10 0 10 0 Ki lo m etre s Ki lo m etre s Ki lo m etre s Ki lo m etre s Ki lo m etre s Ki lo m etre s

20 0 20 0 20 0

Ad Duwa dam iii Ad Duwa dam Ad Duwa dam Ad Duwa dam iii Ad Duwa dam Ad Duwa dam

24° 24° 24° 24° 24° 24° 35° 35° 35° 35° 35° 35° 37° 37° 37° 37° 39° 39° 39° 39° 39° 39° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 43° 43° 43° 43° 43° 43° 45° 45° 45° 45° 45° 45°

Figure 12. Depth of top of the Saq aquifer and location of wells tapping the aquifer
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In the Tayma region the salinity of the phreatic parts of the aquifer is lower, indicating that different recharge mechanisms may prevail here. The EC is generally lower (1,000>EC>500 µS/cm) in the confined parts of the Saq aquifer. In the absence of mechanisms that could explain the reduction of salt levels, the likely explanation for these low EC values is that the waters stored in the deeper part of the aquifer result from recharge that occurred under more humid climatic conditions, like those during the mid-Holocene up to 4,000 years BP. Comparatively high EC values in confined parts of the Saq aquifer, such as in the region north of Buraydah, may be the result of mixing of waters in wells tapping both Saq and Kahfah aquifers. Details of other aquifers are discussed in Volume 9 of the report. 2.3.4 Groundwater Levels in the Saq aquifer

The groundwater-head-contour or piezometric map of the Saq aquifer has been drawn based on water levels recorded in 183 wells. These wells are not equally distributed over the aquifer, as information is concentrated near towns and irrigated areas. Moreover, despite its presence below almost the entire project area, the water levels are not known where its depth is below 2,000 m. For this reason, the piezometric map was drawn using plain contour lines wherever the water-table elevation is known with a certain degree of reliability (sufficient data both in quantity and quality), but using dashed lines where this elevation is estimated or extrapolated. Within the Saq study area, two main regions can be distinguished based on the groundwater flow directions: − − a) the Qassim-Ha’il region with a natural flow direction towards the northeast, and b) the Tabuk-Tayma region where the main flow direction is northward.

a) In the Qassim-Ha’il region, the Saq water table culminates at an elevation above 700 m.a.s.l. north of Ha’il, as well as in the extreme south, east of Ad Dawadimi (Figure 13). A particular situation is encountered along Wadi ar Rimah, where the alluvial aquifer appears to be in contact with the Saq aquifer. The groundwater in the alluvial aquifer is highly mineralized and where Wadi ar Rimah crosses Saq outcrops the groundwater in the Saq aquifer also shows high conductivity, indicating downward percolation of water from the alluvial aquifer. It is likely that an inverse situation existed before the intense agricultural development occurred. Until the late 1970s, the piezometric levels in the Saq aquifer near Wadi ar Rimah were higher than the ground elevation at the bottom of the deep valley created by the wadi. Groundwater flowed from the Saq Sandstone to the alluvial aquifer and this seepage resulted in the creation of sabkhas that can be found in the vicinity of Al Bada’i where Saq sandstone dips below Hanadir shale. Eastward, the Saq water table rapidly becomes confined below the Hanadir shale. The main feature of the Saq water table in the Qassim area is the presence of a major depletion that stretches parallel to the outcrops and the basement border. The centre of this depletion is located north of Buraydah and the observed water-table elevation is below 500 m.a.s.l. The depletion results from the intensive pumping in the irrigated areas and water levels have dropped by more than 100 m since 1983. There is an eastward shift between the axis of the depleted zone and the centre of the main irrigated areas, which is mainly due to the natural eastward slope of the water table.

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The main northeast flow trend is thus completely disturbed by exploitation. West of Baq’a, groundwater flow seems less affected by the local irrigated areas that are less important than those around Buraydah. b) The western area of the Saq basin in Saudi Arabia hosts the largest outcrops of Saq Sandstone. The area south of Tayma represents the largest unconfined part of the Saq aquifer. The aquifer remains unconfined below the large basalt flow (Harrat) northwest of Al’Ula, and over a 40 km wide strip along the basement border west of Tabuk. The natural flow direction is generally northward, except in unconfined areas near the contact with the basement where it follows the dip towards the centre of the basin (Figure 13). One exception to this pattern is the Al’Ula region, where the Al’Ula valley drains the Saq aquifer in the opposite direction. Along the basement border some 100 km south of Tabuk, drainage is also directed outward from the Saq basin. This “leakage” is confirmed by the existence of springs in the valley draining towards the Red Sea. East of Tabuk the natural flow bends northwards in the direction of Busayta. It seems that the general water flow in the Saq aquifer in the northwestern part of the study area is directed towards the Wadi Sirhan graben, which thus forms the main natural outlet of the Saq system. In the wide-spread exposures south of Tayma and around the Nafud sand dunes, water levels in the Saq aquifer show a very low gradient: this area corresponds to a thicker (1,200 to 1,800 m) zone in the aquifer resulting in an increased transmissivity. Three depleted areas are noticeable in the western area. From south to north, Al’Ula is the first one. The depletion is natural because of aquifer drainage by the valley, but it has been accentuated by pumping in the past 20 years. Tayma is the second depleted area. This situation is new by comparison to the previous piezometric map drawn by BRGM in 1983. Tabuk has the largest depleted area of the western region, with a drawdown estimated at 100 m in the north of the irrigated area. In conclusion, the Saq water table is heavily affected by recent withdrawals. Compared to the 1983 situation, the historically artesian zones (mainly Tabuk and Buraydah) have disappeared giving place to large depleted areas. Even the remote areas in the north, where withdrawals are scarce, have lost a few tens of metres in water level. The only region not affected by drawdown until now is located southeast of Tayma, because of its upstream and remote position compared to the main irrigated areas. Piezometric time-series have a completely different shape depending on whether they are located in a confined or an unconfined part of the aquifer. Unconfined conditions are marked by a smooth behaviour in which seasonal fluctuations are barely visible. This is due to the storage properties of the aquifer that is not fully saturated. On the contrary, marked seasonal and shortterm fluctuations reflect confined conditions, where water levels react sharply over long distances to the variation in stress induced by pumping variations. Unconfined conditions represent about 20% of the Saq aquifer extension within the Saq study area, which is evaluated at about 377,000 km² within Saudi Arabia. However, considering that the exploitability is limited by aquifer depth, this ratio is assumed to reach 50%. Therefore, about half of the piezometric series reflect unconfined conditions in this aquifer. This is the case of, for instance, Al Mukharim well (Figure 14)

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Investigations for Updating the Groundwater Mathematical Model(s) of the Saq and Overlying Aquifers

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34° 32°

36°

38°

40°

42°

44°

46°

48° 32°

Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat

Water level elevation 2005 (m. amsl) Water level elevation 2005 (m. amsl)

(

measured WL measured WL measured WL measured WL measured WL measured WL estimated WL estimated WL estimated WL estimated WL estimated WL estimated WL contour line contour line contour line contour line contour line contour line probable contour line probable contour line probable contour line probable contour line probable contour line probable contour line

%

30°
688 688 688 688 688 688 743 743 743 743 743 743 763 763 763 763 763 763 773 773 773 773 773 773 755 755 755 755 755 755 691 691 691 691 691 691

(
685 685 685 685 685 685

667 667 667 667

Sakakah Sakakah Dawmat al Jandal Dawmat al Jandal
70 0 700 70 700 70 0 70

aquif er limit aquif er limit aquif er limit aquif er limit aquif er limit aquif er limit main irrigated areas main irrigated areas main irrigated areas main irrigated areas main irrigated areas main irrigated areas outcrops of Saq aquif er outcrops of Saq aquif er outcrops of Saq aquif er outcrops of Saq aquif er outcrops of Saq aquif er outcrops of Saq aquif er
m. amsl = metres above mean sea level m. amsl = metres above mean sea level m. amsl = metres above mean sea level m. amsl = metres above mean sea level m. amsl = metres above mean sea level m. amsl = metres above mean sea level

30°

900 90 0 90 90 0 90 90 800 0 800 0 800 0 800 800 800

28°

909 909 909 909 909 % %909 914 914 914 914 914 914

676 676 676 676 676 676 695 695 695 695 695 695

%

26°

0 60 0 60 0 00 600 600

N
0 50 100 kilometre 200

24° 34° 36° 38° 40° 42° 44° 46° 48°

Figure 13. Groundwater-head contour map for the year 2005 – Saq aquifer

770 700 770 000 00 0

55 5 5 5 50 5 50 5 0 0 0 0

%

0 00 00 50 65 655 65

0 00 0 000 99 90 990

0 0 8 85 850 85 85 8 8 85

800 800 800 800 800 0

700 700 7 00 700 7 0 0

709 709 709 709 709 709 763 763 763 763 763 763 775 775 775 775 775 775 912 912 912 912 912 912

% % % %% ( 739 % 739 739 739 ( (( 678Tabuk 739 Tabuk 739 678 678 678 653 678 653 678 653 777 777 653 653 653 777 777 777 ( 777 711 711 711 711 711 711
750 750 750 750 750

% %628 % 628 628 628 % 628 628

707 707 707 707 707 707

770 770 770 770 770 %770 790 790 790 790 790 790 786 786 786 786 786 786

( 812 812 812 812 812 812 784 784 784 784 784 784 % Tayma %782 % Tayma 782 782 782 782 ( ( 782 % 807 781 781 807 807 781 781 781 781 807 807 807 ( ( 792 792 792 792 792 792 ( 815 815 815 815 815 837 837 837 837 837 837 ( 815 831 831 831 831 831 831 800 800 800 ( 800 800 800 843 843 ( 843 843 793 843 793 843 793 780 780 780 780 780 ( 793( %780 ( %750 750 750 852 852 852 750 750 750 852 852 749 749 749 749 749 ( 852 839 ( 839 839 839 839 839 ( 749 ( AL Ula AL(Ula

%

781 781 781 781

Jubbah Jubbah
779 779 779 779 779 779 766 766 766 766 766 766

676 676 676 676 728 728 728 728 728 728

%(

((

%%

839 839 839 839 839 ( 839

743 743 743 754 743704 754 743704 754 743 754 754 754 704 704 704 704 % % 600 691 691 691 %608 600 691 691 691 608 600 608 600 713 713 713 608 600 578 508 608 600 578 508 608 713 713 713 578 508 578 508 578 508 578 508 728 700 % 728 728 728 700 728 700 728 700 493 493 493 493 493 493 601 601 601 % 601 601 601

( ( ((

637 637 637 637 637 670 670 670 670 670 670 %637 640 640 640 640 640 640 655 674 655 649 649 674 655 674 655 649 649 649 %674 668 %649 668 668 586 586 586 586 586 586 %668 508 508 508 508 508 508 612 612 612 612 612 612

0 650 650 650 650 650

750 75 75 0 750 750

( ( (( 698 698 698 698 698 698 610 610 610 610 610 610 ( ( ( 666 666 666 587 587 607 666 587 607 666 607 666 587 587 607 587 607 607 % (( 648 695 648 695 648 695 648 695 648 695 648 695 ( (( (
0 50 650 650 65 0 65 65

0 50 0 850 850 850 750 7 50 750 7 750 750

700 700 700 700 700 700

741 741 741 741 741 %741

650 650 650 650 650

((

Baq'a Baq'a

28°

Ha'il Ha'il

( ( ((( ( ( (( ( (

(

514 514 514 ( 514 514 514 ( ( % 619 648 619 648 619 648 619 648 619 648 ( 648 ( 619 498 498 498 498 498 498 610 610 ( (610 ( 579 579 579 579 ( 579 579 ( Buraydah Buraydah 680 680 680 % 532 680 680 680 522 522 522 522 532 ( 532 % 522 ( 599 522 618 (532(599( 618 532 599 618 532599 618 618 ( 599 618 599 612 612 ((((612 ( 551 Unayzah 612 612 638 638 638 551 (((621 612 ( 551 Unayzah 638 638 638 551 551 621 621 ( ( 619 551 621 (619 621 619 621 619 619 ( (619( 574 645 612 645 612 645 612 645 612 645 645 574 574 574 574 641 ( 641 641 641%% ( 574 641 641 644 662 644 662 644 662 644 662 644 662 644 662 613 613 % 613 613 613 % ( 613 655 655 655 655 655 655 ( 583 583 583 626 583 626 583 ( %583 626 626 626 ( 626 % % 672 672 672 672 672 673 673 673 % Sajir 673 673 673 ( 672 Sajir ( 686 686 686 ( ( 686 686 686 703 703 ( 703 703 703 ( 703 Ad Dawadimi Ad Dawadimi

(

Qibah Qibah
00 0 00 0 0 00 555 55 555 555

0 0 0 0 0 0 5 50 50 50 50 50

26°

0 0 0 0 0 0 500 500 500 50 50 50

24°

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Investigations for Updating the Groundwater Mathematical Model(s) of the Saq and Overlying Aquifers

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Depth (m) 68 70 72 74 76 78 80 82 m 84 86 88 90 92 94 96 10/12/1983 09/12/1985 09/12/1987 08/12/1989 08/12/1991 07/12/1993 07/12/1995 06/12/1997 06/12/1999 05/12/2001 05/12/2003

Figure 14. Piezometric series of the Al Mukharim well (1-Q-210-S / BU9210)

In the confined areas of the aquifer, the influence of seasonal pumping is clearly seen in the piezometric series. This is obviously emphasized when pumping wells are located nearby. Wells in the Qassim or Tabuk depressions illustrate this phenomenon. For instance, the observation well at Rawd al Uyun (Figure 15) shows alternate drawdown and recovery linked to the rate of pumping that developed in this area during the years 1983 to 1993, and decreased afterwards. A sharp drawdown starting in December alternates with a smoother increase of the water level from April to December as the aquifer recovers after irrigation.

Depth (m) 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 m 55 60 65 70 75 80 85 90 95 100 10/12/1983 09/12/1987 08/12/1991 07/12/1995 06/12/1999 05/12/2003

Figure 15. Piezometric series at Rawd al Uyun (1-Q-136-S / BU9136)

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2.3.5

Groundwater Levels in the Kahfah aquifer

In the western part of the Saq study area, natural flow is towards the north, whereas in the Qassim area groundwater flow is directed towards northeast. In 1983, in places such as the Ha’il or Tabuk irrigated zones, the Saq water level was higher than that of the Kahfah aquifer. Today, this situation has changed and the Saq water table is everywhere at a lower elevation. In the Qassim area, the natural groundwater flow has been disturbed by intensive pumping. Observations show a depleted area with a minimum elevation at 500 m.a.s.l. below Buraydah, which is roughly the same elevation as in the Saq aquifer and could indicate that equilibrium is reached between the two aquifers. This equilibrium may be due to the fact that many wells tap both layers, thus establishing a hydraulic contact between the two layers. However, the extension of the depleted area is slightly different compared to the depletion observed in the Saq aquifer, and outside the centre of the depression the water table in the Kahfah aquifer is generally 10 to 50 m above the Saq water table. The Kahfah water table is presently down to 100 m below the 1983 water level in the centre of the depletion, but this difference decreases when moving away from the Buraydah area. Water levels are similar to those observed in 1983 southeast of Baq’a. North of Ha’il, the present water table again appears to be lower than the 1983 levels. This pattern well reflects the distribution of irrigated areas, the highest drawdown taking place near the centre of irrigated areas. In the western part of the Saq study area, the irrigated zone near Tabuk coincides with a large depression in the water table. The water levels in the centre of the depression are below 650 m.a.s.l. Here, too, a large number of wells tap both aquifers and the influenced levels have the same shape. However, there is no equilibrium between the two aquifers. 2.3.6 Groundwater Levels in the Quwarah-Sarah aquifer

The Quwarah-Sarah aquifer is a complex system in which the aquifer properties may vary widely because of the presence of paleo-channels in the upper Zarqa and Sarah members. These units are glacial deposits unconformably overlying the Quwarah sandstone. Paleovalleys also incise the Ra’an shale that forms the base of the system and connects it with the underlying Kahfah and Saq formations. For this reason, the aquifer thickness is heterogeneous and “holes” exist at different spots, such as 40 km north of Tabuk. The formation is not found east and south of Unayzah. Under these circumstances it is very difficult to draw a piezometric map for this aquifer. An attempt is however presented, to show that the general flow direction follows the same trend as the underlying aquifers. The groundwater flow is directed northeast in the Tabuk-Tayma region and probably travels to the Wadi Sirhan graben. The gradient should be affected by the thickness variation of the reservoir. In the Qassim area, the flow is directed northeast as well. 2.3.7 Piezometry of the Tawil aquifer

More than 900 wells have been identified in the Tawil aquifer (previously known as Upper Tabuk, or TBK6), which is intensely exploited in the Busayta area west of Al Jawf, and in the Dawmat al Jandal area. Despite this important number of data, only around 35 points have been retained for the drawing of the map, because a huge number of wells are located in the same zone and provide the same data. The Tawil aquifer is present in the northern half of the study area. Large outcrops exist in the area between Tabuk and Busayta. In the northwest of the Saq study area, the flow direction in the Tawil aquifer is mainly towards Wadi Sirhan. East of longitude 40°E, flow is predominantly

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directed towards the north and northeast. Most of the groundwater flow originates from the Nafud area and much lesser flow originates from the outcrops in the west. Two different systems can be distinguished: west and east of Wadi Sirhan. West of Wadi Sirhan (Busayta area), it is clear from the observed water levels that drainage occurs along Wadi Sirhan. Water from the Tawil aquifer becomes vertically connected with geological units above it, i.e. with Mesozoic and Tertiary deposits. Towards the north, the Tawil Formation disappears and its groundwater flows in the Secondary-Tertiary-Quaternary (STQ) formations. This is confirmed by chemical parameters that show a dilution effect along the wadi, due to the mixing of fresh Tawil water with brackish Wadi Sirhan groundwater. West of Wadi Sirhan, the Tawil is a productive aquifer of good-quality water that is intensely exploited. The drawdown created by withdrawals is about 40 m in its centre. Remote areas south of Busayta are not yet affected by the depletion. East of Wadi Sirhan, the hydrogeology constitutes an independent system. Because of the steep dip towards the east, the Tawil aquifer is mainly tapped at Dawmat al Jandal. Water elevation is between 570 and 600 m.a.s.l. in most of the wells. 2.3.8 Groundwater levels in the Jauf, Jubah and Berwath aquifers

The Jauf Formation of Devonian age directly overlies the Tawil sandstone in the northeast of the Saq study area. Although outcrops occur west of Wadi Sirhan, it is not considered as a major aquifer because such outcrops are isolated. East of Wadi Sirhan, despite the scarcity of outcrops, the Jauf Formation is recognized in the Sakakah area as a local aquifer. However, only one unit of this formation, i.e. the Qasr Member, should be considered as a productive layer because it consists of limestone with good permeability. The Jubah sandstone (formerly known as Sakakah formation) is exposed near the city of Sakakah and extends towards the east and north. About 150 wells have been identified in the Jauf Formation, in which 135 water levels have been measured or estimated during the field inventory. However, 90% of the wells are located near Sakakah, in an area representing less than 3% of the Jauf aquifer extension. Information is lacking towards the north and the southeast. The Jauf contour lines drawn for 2005 show a depression centred on Sakakah, resulting from the important pumping in this area, and a northeast-ward drainage axis in the direction of Ar’ar. The shape of this axis, which is controlled by one point at Ar’ar, might be influenced by the scarcity of available data. Nevertheless, this axis was already interpreted in the same manner in 1983, although several aquifers where considered together at that time. As a matter of fact, the Jauf, Jubah and Berwath aquifers have locally similar water levels and could be in contact. The Jubah Formation, where tapped near Sakakah, perfectly matches the Jauf water levels. The Jubah and Berwath aquifers have similar water levels at Ar’ar (around 240 to 260 m.a.s.l. in elevation). The Jubah and Berwath at Ar’ar could be in contact with the “STQ” (Secondary-Tertiary-Quaternary) aquifer system as water heads are similar to those of the Cretaceous Wasia Formation that unconformably overlies Devonian and Carboniferous rocks. 2.3.9 Groundwater levels in the Khuff aquifer

The Khuff Formation extends northwest-ward, from the southeast boundary of the Saq study area up to the Iraqi border in the north; it is absent from Wadi Sirhan. Outcrops are limited in the Qassim area where they cover about 4000 km² between Sajir and Buraydah. Its lithology is different from the older aquifers as it consists mainly of limestone and dolomite with some

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Investigations for Updating the Groundwater Mathematical Model(s) of the Saq and Overlying Aquifers

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anhydrite layers. The Khuff is not a good aquifer as its quality is generally low (average EC is about 2400 µS/cm) and thus the number of wells tapping it is limited. Moreover, water levels could be measured or estimated in less than 20 wells. Contour lines drawn on the 2005 piezometric map should thus be taken as assumptions. The assumed contour lines, parallel to the aquifer limit, show an east-northeast flow direction. A depleted area appears 30 km north of Buraydah with minimum water-table elevations measured at 505 m.a.s.l. This water level is more or less the same as those observed in the Saq and Kahfah aquifers in this location. However, the Khuff aquifer is separated from these other productive layers by more than 300 m of Ash Shiqqah and Ra’an aquitard shales, and is independent. Actually, the depleted area is much smaller and, as elsewhere, the groundwater heads in the Khuff aquifer are roughly 100 m above the levels observed in the Saq. Compared to the 1983 situation, the present-day hydraulic heads are generally between 100 m and 200 m lower in the area south of Sajir. The 1983 map shows a northward flow in this region that no longer appears, with the highest point close to the village of Khuff. Since then, farming has developed in this area and many wells tap the Khuff aquifer. Moreover, because the Khuff unconformably overlies the older formations, there is a geological gap in the series at this location: the Saq is covered directly by Ash Shiqqah shale, which is the lowest unit of the Khuff Formation. It is likely that numerous wells that tap the Saq aquifer also tap the Khuff aquifer and create the observed depression. 2.3.10 Piezometry of the STQ aquifer system The STQ (Secondary-Tertiary-Quaternary) aquifer system considers layers from Late Cretaceous to Quaternary age. The system consists of a stack of geological units with different aquifer properties that unconformably overlies Paleozoic layers. The system is quite complex. Wells tapping the different Mesozoic to Quaternary formations are considered to represent the STQ aquifer system. Sand dunes, harrats and alluvial aquifers are however not considered as part of the STQ, as they constitute independent subsurface units. In the eastern system, flow is directed northeast. A steeper gradient is assumed near the western boundary of this system because the layers are thicker towards the east. The northern part of this system (Ar’ar region) is in contact with Jubah sandstone and the Berwath that has good aquifer properties in this area. The water depth in the STQ as well as in Jubah and Berwath is close to 300 mbgl, which corresponds to an elevation of about 250 m.a.s.l.. Because of the elevation of its bottom, it is probable that the aquifer complex becomes dry or unproductive west of the 40°E meridian. East of this meridian, the eastern dip of the Jubah and overlying formations favours groundwater flow in this direction. In the north, groundwater flows towards Wadi Sirhan where the water level is shallow. The presence of large sabkhas attests to the occurrence of a considerable evaporation zone. This groundwater flow is confirmed by groundwater quality. The STQ quality, which is fresh on the western border of Wadi Sirhan where the Cretaceous is in contact with the underlying Tawil aquifer, becomes salty in the valley.

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2.4

Groundwater quality

The main sources of water-quality data considered are: - Water analyses of the BRGM project finalized in 1985, entitled “Water, Agriculture and Soil Studies of the Saq and Overlying Aquifers” (SAQ-1), - Water analyses of samples collected during the present project (SAQ-2). Irrigated areas have increased considerably between these two project periods. In 1980, irrigated areas accounted for 70,000 ha; this had grown to about 330,000 ha in 1984, and now (2006) is evaluated at 740,000 ha (see Volume 6 of the present report). The related irrigationwater abstractions have had an impact on the quantity of available water resources (see Volume 9 - Hydrogeology and Volume 3 - Groundwater Mathematical Modelling). The possible impact of the use of agrochemicals on the groundwater resource is yet to be assessed. For the SAQ-1 and SAQ-2 projects, 1,980 and 301 wells were sampled respectively. The analyses performed concerned major ions and trace elements: 32,681 analyses were carried out during the SAQ-1 project and 4,800 during the SAQ-2 project. During the present project, these analyses included physico-chemical analyses including TDS, electrical conductivity, temperature, pH and oxygen-reduction potential. The chemical species analysed include: - Major ions: Ca, K, Mg, Na, Cl, SO4, HCO3, CO3, NO3; - Trace elements: NO2, NH4, PO4, F, SiO2, S, Fe, Ag, Al, As, Ba, Cd, Cr, Cu, Hg, Mn, Ni, Pb, Sb, Se, Zn; - Radioactive isotopes: Ra-226, Ra-228, Rn-222. The water samples were collected from aquifers in the following aquifer units, ranked from the most recent to oldest: Alluvium, STQ, Khuff, Berwath, Jubah, Jauf, Tawil, Sharawra, QuwarahSarah, Kahfah, Saq, and Basement. The main results are summarized below.

2.4.1

Comparison between the data collected during the SAQ-1 and SAQ-2 projects

The statistical distributions of major ion contents are very similar and no significant changes are identified between 1984 and 2006. The obtained results are identical concerning TDS. 2.4.2 Salinity distribution

TDS distribution is influenced by various factors (Figure 16): - Whether the aquifer is unconfined or confined: TDS is generally higher where the geological formations corresponding to the aquifer are exposed. This situation leads to a decrease of TDS versus depth (Figure 17). Such a trend is not common as groundwater enrichment in dissolved elements is generally linked to the length of the underground flow. The low TDS of the deep confined parts of aquifers is related to groundwater recharge that took place under more humid climatic conditions in the past. - The proximity of wadis subject to occasional floods and surface-water collection areas, reflected by high TDS values in adjacent unconfined aquifers.

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Investigations for Updating the Groundwater Mathematical Model(s) of the Saq and Overlying Aquifers

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36°E

38°E

40°E

42°E

44°E

46°E

§

32°N

TDS > 1.200m g/l
Saq aquifer

Aquifer overlying Saq aquifer

) "

AL QURAYYAT
TDS < 1.200m g/l

) "

ARAR

Saq aquifer

Aquifer overlying Saq aquifer

) "
) "

major town

minor town

30°N

) "

Secondary road

Sand dunes

Sabkha / Wadi bed

) "

TABUK

28°N

) "

BAQ'A

) "

TAYMA

) "

HA'IL

) "

AL'ULA BURAYDAH UNAYZAH
26°N

Wadi Al Ula
26°N

) "

) " Wadi Ar Rumah

) "

SAJIR

0

100 Kilometres

200

) "

AD DUWADIMI

36°E

38°E

40°E

42°E

44°E

46°E

Figure 16. Distribution of groundwater salinity within the Saq study area
33

28°N

30°N

SAKAKA

Main road

32°N

i ad W an rh Si

Investigations for Updating the Groundwater Mathematical Model(s) of the Saq and Overlying Aquifers

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14 000

12 000

10 000

TDS in mg/l

8 000

6 000

4 000

2 000

0 0 500 1 000 Depth in m TDS TDS vs Depth envelope 1 500 2 000 2 500

Figure 17. TDS versus well depth within the Saq study area

2.4.3

Chemical facies

The general chemical facies are calcium-sulphate and sodium-chloride. However, three groups of water profiles are identified: - A sulphate-evaporitic group comprising only the Khuff aquifer. The origin of this facies cannot be linked to the Khuff Formation as it is essentially composed of limestone. It must be related to the lithologic facies of strata in the over- and underlying formations. - A mixed sulphate and (dominant) chloride group including STQ, Quwarah–Sarah, and Saq. - A mixed sulphate, chloride and bicarbonate group including Jubah–Jauf, Tawil, Kahfah, and Basement rocks. 2.4.4 Distribution of the magnesium versus chloride ratio

The distribution of the Mg/Cl ratio in the different aquifers pinpoints probable hydraulic connections between aquifers in areas where one or more intermediate layers are absent, due to major geological disconformities. Furthermore, a low Mg/Cl ratio combined with a high TDS indicates the occurrence of sporadic recharge under arid conditions to unconfined aquifers along wadis and in shallow groundwater zones. 2.4.5 Compliance of water quality with WHO guidelines

The major sources of non-compliance with WHO guidelines are boron, chloride, sodium, TDS, sulphate, and nitrate. The respective percentages of the groundwater samples exceeding the relative guideline values for these elements are 47, 45, 40, 35, 25, and 21% (Table 9). Excess values of lead, aluminium, cadmium, chrome, nickel, molybdenum, copper, and zinc concern a small percentage of samples (0-5 %). Non-compliance of pH values affects 3% of the samples. A total of 64 wells have been sampled for radioactive-isotope analysis. Water samples showing radioisotopes exceeding WHO guidelines are shown on Figure 18.

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Table 9. Species contents versus WHO guidelines and recommendations Species B Cl Na TDS Se SO4 NO3 Pb Al Cd Cr Fe FNi pH As Mn Mo Threshold 0.5 250 200 1200 10 500 50 10 200 3 50 3 1.5 20 6.5 < pH < 9.5 10 400 70 unit mg/l mg/l mg/l mg/l µg/l mg/l mg/l µg/l µg/l µg/l µg/l mg/l mg/l µg/l µg/l µg/l µg/l WHO Remarks Provisional guideline No health concern No health concern/Taste No health concern/Taste Guideline No health concern Guideline Guideline Recommendation Guideline Guideline No health concern Guideline Provisional guideline Optimum required Guideline Guideline Guideline Percentage of samples exceeding threshold 47% 45% 40% 35% 26% 25% 21% 5% 3% 2% 2% 4% 3% 3% 3% 2% 2% 1%

2.4.6

Possible impact of agriculture on water resource quality

Nitrate distribution generally follows TDS distribution, especially in the Alluvium, STQ, Khuff, and Saq aquifers. Nitrate content versus depth shows a significant decreasing trend, which is consistent with the general lack of nitrates in the confined parts of the aquifer. This could be because: - They are protected against direct infiltration of nitrates below agricultural areas by the overlying formations and/or, - De-nitrification under reducing chemical conditions decreases the nitrate content of the groundwater. The relationship nitrate vs. chloride is a good indicator of the origin of nitrates. Since both chloride and nitrate are important components of fertilizers these two elements should correlate in case of an agricultural origin of nitrates in groundwater. The absence of such a relationship in most collected samples suggests that the agricultural contribution of nitrate in groundwater is generally limited. The contribution of other natural origins of nitrates is probably more important. This condition is reinforced by the following observations: - The nitrate-content profiles constructed for the SAQ-1 and SAQ-2 projects are very similar, despite major agricultural development during the period 1984-2006, - The trace-element profile deduced from the collected samples is very similar to that characterizing the sandstone aquifer in general.

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36°E 38°E 40°E 42°E 44°E

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46°E

§

32°N

.
U total > 15 µg/l

#

) "

AL QURAYYAT ARAR

Ra 226 > 1 Bq/l ! Ra 228 > 0.1 Bq/l "

) "
an ir h
" SAKAKA

) "
) "

major town minor town Main road Secondary road

30°N

" "

"" ) "

Sand dunes

"

"

#

" !

" " ! "

) "

TABUK
" " ! " " " " ) " " " " ) "
28°N

" !
28°N

"

"

BAQ'A
" " " " ! " !

TAYMA

) "

HA'IL

) "

AL'ULA

"

" !

" ""

Wadi Al Ula
"
26°N

) "

BURAYDAH
" !
26°N

# UNAYZAH

#
Wadi Ar Rumah

) "! " "

#

"

"

#

"

) "

SAJIR

"
0 100 Kilometres 200

#

) "

AD DUWADIMI

36°E

38°E

40°E

42°E

44°E

46°E

Figure 18. Location of water samples with radioisotopes exceeding WHO guidelines within the Saq study area
36

30°N

Sabkha / Wadi bed

32°N

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These results tend to show that the present impact of agriculture on the groundwater quality is limited. Such a situation is not what would be expected considering the scale of agricultural development. This apparently favourable situation may be explained by the following considerations: - Agricultural-related pollution has reached only the shallow subsurface strata, which do not contain exploitable water resources and are thus not tapped by wells, - The accumulation of agrochemicals and related metabolites in the unsaturated zone is in connection with its thickness, the low amount of rainfall and the related very low infiltration. Such low infiltration is insufficient for drawing corresponding species down to the saturated rocks forming aquifers. Nevertheless, several isolated wells, even in the confined parts of the aquifers, show very high nitrate levels indicating point-source pollution. These sources of contamination are probably the agricultural wells themselves and due to improper handling of fertilizers and pesticides, such as connection with storage of agrochemical packages near the well heads, improper cementation of the well top casings, and/or connection of agrochemical tanks to discharge pipes without a check-valve. The noticeably decreasing trend of TDS vs. depth can be explained by the climatic variations during the last several thousand years. Along the limit of Basement outcrops, the groundwater corresponds to water that has infiltrated under increasingly arid conditions. Such conditions have favoured the evaporation of runoff and the deposition of salty deposits in soils such as duricrust, leading to an increase in the salinity of the water infiltrated down into the aquifers. Farther from the Basement outcrops, in the confined parts of the aquifer that are preserved from present runoff infiltration, it can be assumed that the corresponding water has infiltrated under more temperate conditions characterized by a lower mineral enrichment during infiltration.

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2.5

Groundwater recharge

Traditionally, groundwater recharge is assessed either by direct or by indirect methods. In the case of the Saq and overlying aquifers, this classic approach faces some practical difficulties due to the size of the aquifer system, the interaction between different aquifers and the very low rates of recharge. Meteorological data for the Saq study area are available from a large number of stations belonging to the networks of the Ministry of Water and Electricity (MoWE) and of the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME). Highest rainfall occurs in the Qassim region in the southeastern part of the study area. From here, the mean annual rainfall decreases towards the southeast (Riyadh region) as well as towards the northwest (Al Jawf region) and west (Tabuk region). The mean annual rainfall varies from 27 mm/a near Tabuk to 171 mm/a at Al Badai’. All stations show a similar seasonal pattern with a first peak during the months of March and April, almost no rainfall during June to August, followed by a second peak from October to January. The average number of days with rainfall is 14.5 days/a. The average number of rainy days in a year varies from 4.0 in Tabuk to 27.5 at Qassim airport. The highest rainfall received in a single day was 86.0 mm, also at Qassim airport. The average evapotranspiration (ETP) for the Saq study area fluctuates from nearly 100 mm/month in December and January to 300 mm/month in July. Average annual ETP for the Saq study area amounts to 2,376 mm/a. Using the monthly ETP values, average daily ETP values have been calculated for every month. Daily ETP varies between 3.1 mm/day in December to 9.6 mm/day in July. Drainage basins have been delineated using a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) with a 3” (arc seconds) resolution (~90 m). The largest part of the Saq study area falls within endoreic drainage basins. A separate unit is formed by the sand dunes of the Great Nafud and the strips of sand dunes stretching southeast-ward that cover one-fifth of the Saq study area. In these areas no continuous drainage systems have developed. Only a small amount of hydrological data is available for the Saq study area. Four runoff stations were set up in 1965/1966 (Parsons Basil, 1968), but few observations were made due to logistical difficulties. On a very broad basis, the observations during the period from 1965 to 1967 led to the conclusion that, on average, about 1.5% of the annual rainfall on the catchments capable of generating runoff (excluding sand-dune areas) actually occurred as runoff. During the Saq-1 project, nine hydrological stations were installed and equipped with automatic waterlevel recorders. Raingauges and automatic weather stations were installed in or near the catchments to obtain reliable rainfall measurements for correlation with runoff data. During the years 1982 and 1983 a total of 59 floods was monitored by these stations, and the total average runoff for all catchments was about 16% of the average rainfall recorded in these catchments, much higher than the estimate for the entire Saq study area made by Parsons Basil. Concentrations of the stable isotopes δD (2H) and δ18O were determined on rain and groundwater samples during the Saq-1 project. Results suggest that the aquifers were essentially “filled” during a less arid period. From tritium and 14C data it can be deduced that all recent waters are found at shallow depth. These data indicate that at least some recharge occurs under present-day conditions. Agricultural development during the past decades has triggered large-scale groundwater abstraction. Because such abstraction is unevenly distributed among the various aquifers, groundwater levels have dropped at different rates in different aquifers. In some areas this has resulted in reversing vertical hydraulic gradients. In the case of the Saq aquifer, a large share

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of the water pumped by the thousands of wells is water released from storage, which thus should be considered as groundwater mining. In this regard it is important to consider that large volumes of water are stored in the aquitards. Lowering of groundwater heads in an aquifer will trigger drainage of water released from storage in the adjacent aquitards (Figure 19). Groundwater recharge is a minor component of all those affecting the water balance of the aquifers in the Saq study area. Because some of these components cannot be assessed with precision, e.g. storage release by adjacent aquitards or deep groundwater flow leaving the area below a depth reachable by wells, the water balance cannot be used to directly determine groundwater recharge. Nevertheless, an attempt was made to estimate the average groundwater recharge on the Saq Sandstone outcrops south of Tayma, using the observed regional hydraulic gradient. Annual groundwater recharge has been assessed at 2.5 mm/a. From the different literature sources it can be concluded that, except for some smaller catchments, the overall groundwater recharge in the Saq study area does not exceed a few millimetres per year and certainly less than 5 mm/a at the scale of the project area. The geographical distribution of groundwater recharge has been studied by mapping geological, geomorphological and hydrological phenomena that are directly related to the process of groundwater recharge. Several geomorphological characteristics of the surface of the Saq study area have been mapped and classified according to their positive or negative impact on groundwater recharge. Subsequently, these indexed geomorphological parameters have been grouped on a map of the annual rainfall, to prepare a map showing the distribution of recharge potential. Considering the complexity of the water balance of the multi-layer aquifer system, the degree of interaction between the various aquifers and the relative importance of de-storage of water stored in aquifers and aquitards, it is felt that groundwater recharge can most accurately be quantified by a groundwater mathematical model simulating explicitly storage release from aquitards and covering the full extent of the aquifer system.

Figure 19. Schematic cross-section through the sedimentary cover of the Arabian Shield showing the different types of rainfall recharge and other components of the underground flow pattern.

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2.6

Irrigation-water abstraction

Calibration of the groundwater mathematical model relies on simulating the observed groundwater levels evolution recorded from 1982 to the present. These levels are influenced by groundwater abstraction, of which by far the most important within the study area is for irrigation. Reconstructing the groundwater-pumping series for irrigation and the spatial distribution of the pumping over the study area is a preliminary step in constructing the groundwater model. As no annual statistical data are available concerning the volumes of groundwater abstracted for irrigation, the time series can only be reconstructed through indirect methods. The approach that was used in this study is based on an assessment of the area under irrigation, combined with a determination of the amount of water used per hectare of irrigated land. Although regionby-region statistical data of the area under irrigation exist for different crops, they cannot be used directly. Firstly, the limits of the Saq study area do not match the administrative boundaries; the study area covers some administrative regions entirely and others only in part. Secondly, the groundwater model requires the geographical distribution of groundwater abstraction within a region. Finally, assessment by remote sensing is also used as a means of validating the statistical data. The assessment of the irrigation-pumping time series within the Saq study area for the period 1971-2003 was undertaken through the following steps: 1. Mapping and classification of irrigated areas using remote-sensing data. Assessing the crop areas from remote sensing was done for three reference periods within the past 20 years and was based on delineating irrigated fields on satellite images and identifying the crops grown on these fields through simultaneous processing of images for three seasons within the same year. Crop identification was based on a study of the related vegetation cycles, as well as on the spectral signature of each crop. 2. Construction of time series showing the year-to-year evolution of the irrigated area of the different crops through interpolation between the reference periods for which the irrigated areas had been mapped by remote sensing. Interpolation was based on the annual trends observed from statistical agricultural data. 3. Assessment of crop-related irrigation-pumping rates per hectare. The rates were assessed using extensive field data. 4. Regional and global assessment of the irrigation-pumping time series over the considered period. These data were then transferred to the model grid. The time variation of the irrigated areas within the Saq study area was assessed from satellite imagery processing for three periods, 1984, 1990-1991 and 2000-2002, that were linked by interpolation. The irrigated areas have grown considerably since the beginning of the 1980s: from 68,000 ha in 1980 to 775,700 ha in 1992 and 735,800 ha in 2003. Several crop types have been discriminated: cereals (mainly wheat and barley), alfalfa, vegetables, palm trees and other orchards (Figure 20). The irrigated-area variations are shown in Figure 21 and Figure 22. The collected data, originating from a Saq-2 project survey among the farms, from documents transmitted by farm companies, and from data retrieved from the water point inventory, enabled an assessment of the irrigation-water pumping per hectare per year for each crop type. The obtained pumping rates were applied to the corresponding crop areas so as to obtain an evolution of the groundwater withdrawal between 1971 and 2003. According to the results, the volume of irrigation water abstracted per year has risen from 890 Mm3 in 1980 to 7,950 Mm3 in 1992 and 8,430 Mm3 in 2003 (Figure 24, Figure 25 and Figure 25). The last figure corresponds to a water column of 1,145 mm.

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33222°° 3° 33222°° 3° 33222°° 3°

0 0

10 10

20 20
33000°° 3° 33000°° 3° 33000°° 3°

Kilometres

enlarged area
2° 22888°° 2° 22888°° 2° 22888°°

22666°° 2° 22666°° 2° 22666°° 2°

22444°° 2° 22444°° 2° 22444°° 2° 33555°° 3° 33555°° 3° 33555°° 3° 33777°° 3° 33777°° 3° 33777°° 3° 33999°° 3° 33999°° 3° 33999°° 3° 44111°° 4° 44111°° 4° 1° 44411°° 44333°° 4° 44333°° 4° 44333°° 4° 44555°° 4° 44555°° 4° 44555°° 4°

LEGEND

Crop classes wheat alfalfa palm trees maize/other vegetables orchards

43°E

Figure 20. Crop identification from satellite images

900 000

800 000

700 000

600 000 Crop area in ha

500 000

400 000

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0 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

Cereals

Maize

Fodder

Vegetables

Palm trees

Orchards

Figure 21. Crop-area variations derived from remote sensing and interpolation

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900 000

800 000

700 000

Tabuk Al Jawf

600 000 Irrigated area in ha Ha'il 500 000

400 000

300 000 Quassim 200 000

100 000 Riyadh 0 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002
2002

Riyadh

Quassim

Ha'il

Madinah

Tabuk

Al Jawf

North

Figure 22. Irrigated area per region derived from remote sensing and interpolation
10 000

9 000

8 000
3

Orchards Palm trees Vegetables

Irrigation water withdrawl in 10 m

+6

7 000

6 000

Fodder

5 000

4 000

Maize

3 000 Cereals

2 000

1 000

0 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2003

Cereals

Maize

Fodder

Vegetables

Palm trees

Orchards

Figure 23. Irrigation water abstraction per crop type over the Saq study area from 1971 to2003
10 000.000

9 000.000 Northern 8 000.000 Tabuk Al Jawf

7 000.000 Pumping in 10+6 m3/year

6 000.000 Hail 5 000.000 Madinah

4 000.000 Qassim

3 000.000

2 000.000

1 000.000

Riyadh

0.000 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

Riyadh

Qassim

Hail

Madinah

Tabuk

Al Jawf

Northern

Figure 24. Irrigation water abstraction per region over the Saq study area from 1971-2003

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36°E

38°E

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§
) "

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Northern Frontier
3 000
AL QURAYYAT

) "
) "

major town minor town Irrigated areas Sabkha / Wadi Bed

2 000 1 000 0 1971 1976 1981 1986 1991 1996 2001
ARAR

Provinces

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Al Jawf
30°N

) " ) " ) " ) " ) " ) "

Orchads Date Vegetable Fodder Maize Cereals
30°N

3000 2000 1000 0 1971 1976 1981 1986 1991 1996 2001

SAKAKA

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Ha'il
Tabuk
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TABUK

3000

2000 1000 0 1971 1976 1981 1986 1991 1996 2001
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3000

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Madinah
AL'ULA
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1000 0 1971 1976 1981 1986 1991 1996 2001
SAJIR
) "

0

100 Kilometres

200

) "
AD DUWADIMI

36°E

38°E

40°E

42°E

44°E

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Figure 25. Time variation of the irrigation-water abstraction in Mm3/a per region within the Saq study area

32°N

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These results are noticeably different from those obtained by other projects. They are, however, the only ones to be obtained through extensive enquiry and data collection at 445 farms representing 1,275 operating wells. This type of methodological approach is the only one apt to reflect the actual on-farm irrigation-water abstraction, as opposed to other processes based on parameters aimed at optimizing crop yields. The same remark can be made for the methodology that includes the use of a model calibrated on parameters derived from scientific approaches and that may not represent actual field conditions. The Saq project methodology enabled an assessment of actual present pumping rates and the construction of a pumping time series since the beginning of the 1970s to be integrated into the groundwater mathematical model for its calibration. The methodology developed by the Consortium for assessing the irrigation-water abstraction based on extensive field data is likely to provide groundwater-withdrawal series closer to the actual figures for abstraction than those derived from scientific approaches relying on experimental plots and pilot farms, or on theoretical calculations. For the purposes of the groundwater model, the pumping series in each grid cell was computed as follows. First, the crop areas for each year were plotted into the model grid. Then, for each cell and each year, every crop area was multiplied on a yearly basis by the corresponding pumping rate per hectare. The results were then added together to produce the yearly abstracted volumes in each cell of the model. In addition, it was necessary to determine the aquifer(s) tapped by each crop area. This operation was made in combining several types of data: aquifer(s) existing below the related area, name of the pumped aquifer declared by the farmer, well depth and screen depth collected during field inventory, local geological log, water temperature and chemical analyses. In the end, the process led to produce yearly series of groundwater volumes abstracted for irrigation, with withdrawal rates distributed in around 15 000 pumping cells of the groundwater model. These data are basic inputs for the transient state simulations.

2.7

Domestic and industrial groundwater use

Groundwater is a major source of potable water in many areas of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Thus, in terms of quantity and quality the state of groundwater is of vital importance. The main purpose of this section is to present assessments of the past and current domestic and industrial water demand in the study area, and to estimate the future domestic and industrial water demand in the short-, medium- and long terms. This part of the study investigates the present groundwater supply and to what extent the groundwater resources of the Saq and its overlying aquifers can meet the future water demand. 2.7.1 Population

The study area extends over seven administrative regions (i.e. provinces), namely Ar Riyadh, Al Qassim, Ha'il, Al Jawf, Al Madinah, Tabuk and the Northern Border. At a lower administrative levels there are 29 governorates (i.e. districts) and 296 administrative centres (i.e. municipalities), including municipalities supplied by groundwater from the Saq and overlying aquifers. Based on the 2004 census (1423/24 H), it is estimated that 2.67 million inhabitants live in the study area, or are supplied by the Saq and overlying aquifers (12% of the total population of the

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Kingdom of Saudi Arabia). About 44% of the population in the study area is concentrated in territorial parts of the Al Qassim and Ar Riyadh regions. With seven major urban centres, the urban population represents about 88% of the total population in the study area. The remaining 12% is rural population (i.e. areas with less than 5,000 inhabitants). Thus, the increasing domestic water demand mainly results from the increasing urban population and the improvement of living standards in urban areas. Based on conservative regional population-growth rates that are between 1.7% for the Northern Border and 3% for Ar Riyadh, it is projected that the total population in the study area will increase by about 60% to approximately 4.27 million inhabitants around 2030 (1449/50 H). 2.7.2 Industry

In general, there is little heavy industry in the study area. The present industrial activities are concentrated in the major urban centres such as Buraydah and Unayzah in the Al Qassim region. In order to assess the industrial-water demand in the study area, the number of employees per sub-sector activity is used as an explicative variable. In 2004, the total number of employees in the study area was estimated at approximately 44,842, distributed among ten industrial sub-sectors according to the ISIC (International Standard for Industrial Classification) system. Industrial activities in the study area are dominated by the agro-food industry (26% of total employees) followed by construction, manufacture of chemical products, manufacture of metal products, and machinery and equipment (20% each). These industrial sub-sectors also show the greatest past development, both in terms of number of new factories and number of employees. 2.7.3 Public groundwater supply in the study area

The groundwater used for domestic water supply in the study area largely originates from the Saq and its overlying aquifers. The Consortium has surveyed and digitized 552 productive wells (public and municipal) within the boundaries of the study area. Of these 552 wells, 186 belong to 17 well-fields supplying drinking water to the major urban centres. The remaining wells are mainly municipal wells located in very small urban centres and in rural municipalities. The present total abstraction from all municipal and public wells is estimated to be 361 Mm3/a, of which 343 Mm3/a is for domestic water supply. About 18 Mm3/a (62 wells) are used by the municipalities for other purposes (e.g. watering gardens). Total abstraction from the major urban well-fields accounts for about 180 Mm3/a (or 52% of total domestic water supply). The portion of water supply for domestic use varies considerably among the regions, depending on the number of people served and the population density. A major part of the total abstraction occurs in the Al Qassim region and is about 44% (152 Mm3/a), followed by the regions of Tabuk (18%), Ar Riyadh (14%) and Ha’il (11%). In the less-populated regions, public water supply represents less than 10% of total abstractions: 8% in Al Jawf, 5% in the Northern Border and less than 1% in the Al Madinah region (Table 10). Considering a conservative estimate of 25% of unaccounted-for water, the total domestic-water demand withdrawn from the Saq aquifer system would amount to 257 Mm3/a. It must be noted that surface water and desalinated seawater are not taken into account in the above computation. In addition to groundwater, small quantities of surface water and desalinated water are also used for satisfying the water demand in the study area. Desalinated water from the Jubail desalination plant is supplied to Buraydah.

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Table 10. Public groundwater abstraction in the study area and comparison with other uses
Domestic Industrial water water supply demand Mm3/a (1) Mm3/a (2) 47 152 37 2 61 27 17 343 6,2 7,3 0,8 0,5 1,5 0,9 0,1 17,2 Irrigation abstraction water Mm3/a 1242 2690 1500 95 990 1907 9 8433 Total groundwater abstraction Mm3/a 1295 2849 1538 97 1053 1934 26 8793 Domestic as % of total 3,6% 5,3% 2,4% 2,0% 5,8% 1,4% 65,1% 3,9%

Province

Population

Ar Riyadh (3) Al Qassim Ha'il Al Madinah Tabuk Al Jawf Northern Border total

291 855 889 215 368 294 46 843 511 130 361 676 196 820 2 665 833

(1) including other municipal water uses like watering of parks (2) in absence of precise figures on the industrial water abstractions the industrial water demand is given (3) including Afif and en-route villages & towns supplied from Ad Dawadimi wellfield

2.7.4

Present domestic-water demand

Two types of domestic water are distinguished for assessing the present domestic-water demand: a) urban-municipal water demand (domestic, commercial, institutional and municipal water uses) b) rural-domestic water demand. The demand for these two domestic water types is also differentiated in terms of whether the population is connected to the public water supply (‘connected’ population), or whether it is served by water tankers or self supplied by private wells (‘unconnected’ population). A review of the literature as well as the field investigations made it possible to define a domestic per-capita water use ranging from 105 l/c/d to 336 l/c/d. A very low per-capita water use is recorded in rural areas that are exclusively supplied by water tankers. High values are recorded in major urban centres such as Tabuk, Buraydah and Ar’ar. It is assumed that the per-capita water use is mainly influenced by the level of public water supply and water consumption habits. Thus, concerning the percentage of water coverage by public supply and per-capita water use for the two abovementioned categories of domestic water use, the following assumptions can be made: - 336 l/c/d for urban-municipal and ‘connected’ population (90% in major urban centres and 60% in the less-populated urban centres); - 250 l/c/d for urban-municipal and ‘unconnected’ population (10% in major urban centres and 40% in the less populated urban centres); - 155 l/c/d for rural and ‘connected’ population (30% of the rural population); - 105 l/c/d for rural and ‘unconnected’ population (60% of the rural population).

According to these assumptions and the distribution of the rural and urban populations in the study area, the total domestic water demand is estimated at 294 Mm3/a (Table 11). Urbanmunicipal water demand represents 95% (280 Mm3/a) of the total, and the rural-domestic water demand represents only 5% of total domestic water demand (13.4 Mm3/a).

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Table 11. Present domestic water demand in the study area Population (inh.) Region Rural Ar Riyadh Al Qassim Al Madinah Ha'il Tabuk Al Jawf Northern Border Total 81,922 100,909 14,559 42,271 23,787 35,603 9,126 308,175 Urban 209,933 788,306 32,284 326,023 487,343 326,073 187,694 2,357,655 Water demand (Mm3/a) Ruraldomestic 3.5 4.3 0.6 1.9 1.1 1.6 0.4 13.4 Urbanmunicipal 24.7 93.8 3.8 38.7 58.2 38.7 22.4 280.3 Total domestic water demand (Mm3/a) 28.2 98.1 4.5 40.5 59.3 40.2 22.8 293.6

It should be noted that the domestic water demand computed as such (294 Mm3/a) compares fairly well with the approximation given above (257 Mm3/a) computed from the total abstraction considering 25% of uncounted water. Indeed, the difference can easily be explained by the small uncertainties in the computation method, and especially by the fact that surface and desalinated water sources are not taken into consideration in the first estimate given above (257 Mm3/a). 2.7.5 Present industrial-water demand

The assessment of industrial-water demand is based on the number of employees as well as the water-use units (industrial-water use per employee). The data of ten industrial sub-sectors were taken into account, as well as a unit of industry-specific water use adapted to Saudi industries. The quantity of water used in the industrial sector is estimated at about 17 Mm3/a (Table 12).

Table 12. Present industrial-water demand in the study area Region Ar Riyadh Al Qassim Al Madinah Ha'il Tabuk Al Jawf Northern Border Total Total number of employees in industrial sector 9,651 16,966 2,133 4,151 5,249 4,579 2,114 44,842 Total industrial water demand Mm3/a 6.15 7.33 0.48 0.75 1.47 0.85 0.12 17.13

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2.7.6

Forecasting future domestic and industrial water demand

A forecast for the domestic and industrial water demand is developed for three scenarios, in the short, medium and long term: Baseline scenario assuming a continuation of current trends and plans in water management (e.g. increased connection to water supply); Low-growth scenario (with water conservation measures) containing a set of assumptions that leads to estimate a lower water use than is adopted in the predictive baseline scenario (groundwater modelling); High-growth scenario referring to a set of assumptions that leads to estimate a higher water demand than adopted in the baseline scenario.

-

-

The water-demand scenarios include assumptions on the population growth (or projected number of employees in an industrial sector) and on the trend of domestic and industrial wateruse units - per capita or per employee water use. The projected annual water demands in Mm3 for the years 2010, 2020 and 2030 are summarized in Table 13.

Table 13. Future domestic- and industrial-water demand in the Saq study area Scenarios/year Current situation 2004 Baseline scenario 2010 2020 2030 Low-growth scenario 2010 2020 2030 High-growth scenario 2010 2020 2030 Future water demand (Mm3/a) Domestic Industrial Total 294 342 418 486 327 370 396 369 511 672 17 25 50 100 24 29 41 66 131 266 311 368 468 585 351 400 438 435 642 939

Based on these assumptions, the total projected domestic and industrial water demand in the year 2030 is estimated at approximately 585 Mm3/a in the baseline scenario. This amount can vary between 438 Mm3/a (low-growth scenario) and 939 Mm3/a (high-growth scenario). In all scenarios, the projected industrial water demand has a higher growth rate than that of the projected domestic water demand.

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2.7.7

Recommendations

Several measures could increase the efficiency and sustainability of water-resource management in the Kingdom. A prerequisite for all such measures is the formulation of a national water strategy and action plan. The Ministry of Water and Electricity (MoWE) is already in the process of formulating a common national action plan involving all water sectors. The main objectives of this action plan are: - To create a regional Integrated Water Resources Planning and Management; - To build the institutional capacity necessary for implementing a common water strategy; - To formulate appropriate legislation, regulations and guidelines (water policy); - Consolidated by the 8th National Development Plan, the overall objectives are to conserve water resources and to rationalize water use in all sectors.

Based on the assessment of domestic and industrial water demand conducted in this study, the following measures are recommended: - Optimize data acquisition and data quality, since improved data are the most likely path to improving a reliable assessment of domestic water demand and projections. Regional Water Directorates may wish to consider actions that will improve the frequency and quality of data collection on water use. - Record data and information on industrial water use through extensive water audits in industrial companies. This report shows that the industrial water use will have a higher growth rate in the future. Particular efforts are needed to acquire sufficient information on this sector. - Enhance the control of water consumption through continuous metering of water use in urban areas. It is demonstrated that per-capita water use heavily influences the total urbanmunicipal domestic water demand. Rationalization of drinking-water use should be a key element in controlling domestic water demand. - Develop the urban and rural water-supply systems and reduce water losses in the water supply networks through adequate operation and maintenance programmes. - Improve coordination among the branches of the regional Water and Sewage authorities and other interested administrative institutions, such as municipalities and districts. - Encourage the use of treated wastewater for industrial purposes, where its return rates are the highest in all economic sectors. - Expand communication among local, private and public partners involved in the water sector so that the problem of water-resource scarcity and quality is at least partly solved through cooperation. - Promote public awareness on the importance of rationalizing water consumption, and help groups and communities to protect and conserve their local waters (specifically in rural areas).

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2.8
2.8.1

Groundwater mathematical modelling
Scope of work

Derived from the model developed in 1985 during the first Saq project, the 2006 model is an improved three-dimensional groundwater model. It is based on a revised geological model, new hydrogeological data, the present-day status of groundwater resources and abstraction, and an updated assessment of the water abstraction. Its wider extent and finer grid have been defined so as to include all natural features that influence groundwater flow on a regional scale, as well as for developing a very precise tool for realistic and accurate modelling of future development scenarios. The 2006 model was calibrated over the period from 1960 to 2005 and, in particular, over the last 20 years during which a monitoring network of 80 observation wells was in operation. 2.8.2 Conceptual groundwater model

The conceptual groundwater model has been defined according to the following guidelines: • As far as possible, extension of the modelled area to the actual boundaries of the hydrogeological system in order to avoid artificial boundary conditions. Where this rule cannot be applied because the aquifer system extends far outside the study area, remote boundaries have been defined at such large distances from the main abstraction areas that the latter can be assumed not to induce a perceptible impact. • Definition of a simplified, but representative, hydrogeological sequence. The objective was to reduce the 26 layers derived from the geological model to a stack of 7 to 15 layers with contrasted hydraulic properties. This was achieved through: - Identification of the formations that play main roles in the groundwater flow scheme because they are either major aquifers or major aquitards: - Grouping of the successive horizons that have similar hydraulic properties (pervious or impervious), in order to create an alternating sequence of aquifers and aquitards. As a result of such thorough geological and hydrogeological analyses: • Additional northwest and southeast extensions are included in the groundwater model; • Thirteen formations (seven aquifers separated by six aquitards) have been selected for their hydraulic contribution to groundwater flow (Plate 3). Tests run with 11- and 9-layer models showed that these could not satisfactorily simulate major groundwater features because the geological complexity was not well represented. 2.8.3 Groundwater model design and calibration

The spatial discretization in the horizontal plane was made with a regular grid of 2 x 2 km cells. The grid contains 458 rows (= 956 km), 507 columns (= 1,014 km) and 13 layers, in accordance with the conceptual groundwater model. This spatial discretization leads to 232,206 cells per layer. The total number of cells is 3,018,678, of which 1,468,922 are active. Figure 26 illustrates a 3D view of the modelling grid from which the southwestern corner has been removed to show the internal structure of the 13 layers. Two computer codes, both running with finite-difference algorithms, were used: MODFLOW 2000™ (USGS) with the GMS 6.0 pre- and post-processor, a groundwater modelling computer code already used at the MoWE for other models. MARTHE 6.7™, a BRGM computer code for groundwater modelling, used for its powerful calculation capacity and its very effective pre- and post-processing functions.
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Figure 26. 3D grid of the groundwater mathematical model

The numerical model was calibrated under both steady-state and transient flow conditions: • For the most part, steady-state conditions existed until 1960-1970, before significant agricultural and urban development took place. The groundwater situation described by Parsons Basil in 1968 can be assumed to have been close to the initial natural situation. It was mainly characterized by the existence of numerous artesian wells and large artesian areas. • A first transient period used for calibration, from 1960 to 1985, corresponds to the initial development of modern farms with irrigation pivots. The evolution of the groundwater table was not monitored during this period because there was no efficient piezometric network. However, an extensive well inventory carried out in 1982-84 showed that, even though many artesian wells still existed, major drawdown was already reported below the main irrigated areas. • A second transient period, from 1985 to 2005, is marked by the intensive development of modern irrigated areas. As the water used for irrigation is mainly tapped from aquifers, very large drawdowns have resulted from such pumping. Hydrographs from the MOWE monitoring network show that water-table decline now commonly exceeds 100 m and is as much as 150 m in the main irrigated areas: this provides very effective constraints for the model calibration.

2.8.4

Main results of the model calibration

The various adjustments and sensitivity analyses performed on horizontal and vertical hydraulic conductivity, recharge, specific yield and specific storage progressively led to the following results: - The horizontal and vertical hydraulic-conductivity values that can be assigned to the model layers are significantly constrained by the geometry of the aquifer system, i.e. by the hydrogeological structure (aquifer/aquitard sequence) and the ground elevation distribution. - The southwestern faults limiting the Wadi Sirhan graben probably act as vertical conductive planes that allow deep groundwater to seep to the surface (Figure 27).

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- It is most unlikely that any significant deep groundwater flow reaches the Dead Sea despite its low elevation of 420 m below sea level. The great rise of the basement, acting as a threshold along the eastern ridge of the Jordan Valley (Figure 27), most probably prevents any significant westward groundwater flow.
STQ Complex (major aquifer) Sudair (major aquitard) Khuff (aquifer) Ash Shiqqah-Unayzah-Berwath (aquitard) Jubah (aquifer) Jauf (minor aquitard) Tawil-Sharawra (aquifer) Qusaïba (major aquitard) Quwarah-Sarah (aquifer) Ra’an (aquitard) Khafah (aquifer) Hanadir (major aquitard) Saq (major aquifer)
34° 32° 36° 38° 40° 42° 44°

W

Wadi Sirhan graben

E

Dead sea

A Qurayyat l

30°

Sakakah Dawmat-al-Jandal

28°

Tabuk

Jubbah Baq'a Tayma H a'il Qibah

AU l la
26°

Buraydah U nayzah

Sajir N
0 50 100 kilometre 200

A Dawadimi d

24° 34° 36° 38° 40° 42° 44°

Figure 27. East-west cross section at the latitude of the Dead Sea - The groundwater-head contour map of Figure 28, which corresponds to steady-state hydraulic conditions simulated in the Saq aquifer in the initial natural state (i.e. in the absence of any pumping) shows that most of the northwestern streamlines converge on the southwest faults of the Wadi Sirhan graben. It is, therefore reasonable to assume that, in the natural state, groundwater flowing out of Saudi Arabia north of Tabuk flowed back to it through the graben system.
34° 32°
600

36°

38°

40°

42°

44°

46°

48° 32°

Simulated groundwater head distribution in the Saq aquifer for 1960 (m a.s.l.)
1 200 - 1 600 900 - 1 200 850 - 900 800 - 850 750 - 800 700 - 750 650 - 700 600 - 650 550 - 600 500 - 550 450 - 500 -420 - 450

Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat

N
600
0 60

30°

650

65 0

650

30°

700
750
800

700

Tabuk Tabuk

750

750

650

Sakakah Sakakah Daw mat al Jandal Daw mat al Jandal 70 0

900

28°

Jubbah Jubbah
800

28° Baq'a Baq'a Qibah Qibah
0 65

0 75

850

800

Tayma Tayma
0 85
800

00 850 9

Ha'il Ha'il

900

Main cities 26° Main irrigated areas
Boundary of the Saq Project

AL Ula AL Ula

Buraydah Buraydah Unayzah Unayzah
750

26°

Contour line

0

50

100 kilometre

200

700

Sajir Sajir

Model extent 24° 34°

Streamline
38° 40° 42°

Ad Daw adimi Ad Daw adimi 48°

24° 46°

36°

44°

Figure 28. Natural groundwater-head distribution and streamlines simulated in the Saq aquifer

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- As is usually reported for such arid climate conditions, the actual recharge is very low, from 0 to 5 mm/a, except in the Qassim area where the calibration shows that higher recharge values must be assigned, mainly in the wadi beds. - Under natural conditions, there was probably much evaporation in the Wadi Sirhan graben as well as in the other topographic depressions (Dawmat-al-Jandal, Sakakah, Wadi ar Rimah, etc.). This probably explains the existence of human settlements for thousands of years in these low areas. - As there is very little aquifer recharge, any significant abstraction is clearly groundwater mining, mainly by dewatering of water-saturated rock. - The groundwater-head contour maps simulated by the model in 1983 and 2005 are in total agreement with the maps made from field measurements done at these times. In particular, the model very accurately reproduces the large cones of depression measured in the irrigated perimeters of Tabuk, Qassim and Buraydah. - The groundwater-head time series simulated by the model fit very well with the observed time series in most of the observation wells. - The calibrated aquifer and aquitard properties are in good agreement with the values derived from field measurements and pumping tests, as well as with the standard values usually reported for similar formations. - The horizontal and vertical hydraulic-conductivity values assigned to the layers are significantly constrained by the geometry of the aquifer system, i.e. by the hydrogeological structure of aquifers and aquitards derived from the 3D geological model and by the groundelevation distribution. In particular the large thickness variations of the aquitards modulate the spatial distribution of exchanges between the aquifers and topographic depressions and rule the outflow distribution. All of these elements indicate that the 2006 groundwater mathematical model is an accurate, reliable and efficient tool for simulating the behaviour of the Saq and overlying aquifers during the last 50 years. It is therefore suitable for use as a predictive tool for supporting new development plans. Figure 29 illustrates the groundwater-head contour map simulated in the Saq aquifer for the year 2005. This map is in total agreement with the map drawn from field measurements at that time. In particular, it very accurately reproduces the large cones of depression that are observed below the extensive irrigated areas of the Tabuk and Qassim regions. Comparison of the streamlines simulated for the natural state (Figure 28) and for the year and 2005 (Figure 29) shows that they have been significantly modified by the large cones of depression already noticed in 1983 and which have gradually deepened since that time. In the Tabuk region, the streamlines that flowed under natural conditions towards the Wadi Sirhan graben are now drawn towards the cone of depression formed under the irrigated area; there are no longer any streamlines flowing north as there were under natural conditions. In the Wadi ar Rimah valley, the natural springs that create the sabkhas observed in the wadi bed had probably disappeared by the end of the 1970s due to the fact that the streamlines were now deviated towards the deep cone of depression under the city of Buraydah. There are no longer any streamlines flowing towards the northeast boundary of the model as there were under the initial natural conditions (Figure 28). The drawdown resulting from the huge volumes of water abstracted from the Saq aquifer between 1960 and 2005 is mapped on Figure 30. The cones of depression in the Tabuk and Qassim regions have a considerable extension and depth: 140 m in the Tabuk region, 170 m around Buraydah and 210 m east of Ad Dawadimi. They have more than doubled since 1983.

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34° 32°

36°

38°

40°

42°

44°

46°

48° 32°

Simulated groundwater head distribution in the Saq aquifer for 2005 (m a.s.l.)
Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al 1 200 - 1 600 900 - 1 200 850 - 900 800 - 850 750 - 800 700 - 750 650 - 700 600 - 650 550 - 600 500 - 550 450 - 500 -420 - 450

N
600

30°

30°

650

65 0

650

Sakakah Sakakah Daw mat al Jandal Daw mat al Jandal
650
70 0

700

Tabuk Tabuk Tabuk 28°
80 0

750

Jubbah Jubbah
800

28° Baq'a Baq'a Baq'a Ha'il Ha'il
700

Tayma Tayma Tayma
850
900

Qibah Qibah
0 60

50 550 0

Main cities 26° Main irrigated areas
Boundary of the Saq Project

AL Ula AL Ula

Buraydah Buraydah Unayzah Unayzah
550

26°

0 60

750

Contour line

0

50

100 kilometre

200

Sajir Sajir

Model extent 24° 34°

Streamline
38° 40° 42°

Ad Daw adimi Ad Daw adimi 48°

24° 46°

36°

44°

Figure 29. Simulated groundwater-head distribution and streamlines in the Saq aquifer for 2005

34° 32°

36°

38°

40°

42°

44°

46°

48° 32°

N

Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat

Simulated groundwater drawdown (m) in the Saq aquifer from 1960 to 2005
330 60 90 120 150 180 210 30 60 90 120 150 180 210 240

30° Sakakah Sakakah Daw mat al Jandal Daw mat al Jandal
30 60 90

30°

3

28°

Tabuk Tabuk

3
3

Jubbah Jubbah
30

28° Baq'a Baq'a
30
60

Tayma Tayma

Ha'il Ha'il
90
3

Qibah Qibah

60

Main cities 26° Main irrigated areas
Boundary of the Saq Project

AL Ula AL Ula

90

150

Buraydah Buraydah 120 Unayzah Unayzah

26°

30 3
60

Sajir Sajir

0

50

100

200

150 kilometre

Model extent 24° 34°

Contour line

Ad Daw adimi Ad Daw adimi 48°

24° 46°

36°

38°

40°

42°

44°

Figure 30. Simulated groundwater-head decline in the Saq aquifer from 1960 to 2005

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The large cultivated areas that have been developed since the 1990s around Busayta are largely irrigated by wells tapping the Tawil aquifer. The related high abstraction rate has created a cone of depression around 100 km in diameter (Figure 31), the low point of which is some 30-50 m below the initial water level (Figure 32).
34° 32° 44° 46°

36°

38°

40°

42°

Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat

Simulated groundwater head distributi in Tawil-Sharawra for 1960 (m a.s.l.)
450

500

N
60 0

60 0

500

30°
650

Sakakah Sakakah 600 mat al Jandal Daw mat al Jandal Daw
650

70 750 0

700

650

60 0

900 850 750 700 650 600 500 400 200 450 400

to 1 050 to 900 to 800 to 750 to 700 to 650 to 600 to 500 to 400 to 500 to 450

550

28°

Tabuk Tabuk

85 0

0 85 900

75 0

Jubbah Jubbah Tayma Tayma Ha'il Ha'il

Baq'a Baq'a Qibah Qibah

Main cities 26° Main irrigated areas
Boundary of the Saq Project

AL Ula AL Ula

Buraydah Buraydah Unayzah Unayzah

75 0

Contour line

0

50

100 kilometre

200

Sajir Sajir

Model extent 24° 34°

Streamline
36° 38° 40° 42°

Ad Daw adimi Ad Daw adimi

44°

46°

Figure 31. Simulated groundwater-head distribution and streamlines in the Tawil-Sharawra aquifer for 2005

34°
32°

36°

38°

40°

42°

44°

46°

48° 32°

N

Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat

Simulated groundwater drawdown (m) in the Tawil aquifer from 1960 to 2005
320 30 40 20 30 40 50 30° Sakakah Sakakah Daw mat al Jandal Daw mat al Jandal

30°

28°

Jubbah Jubbah Baq'a Baq'a Tayma Tayma Ha'il Ha'il Qibah Qibah

28°

Main cities 26° Main irrigated areas

AL Ula AL Ula

Buraydah Buraydah Unayzah Unayzah

26°

Sajir Sajir
Boundary of the Saq Project 0 50 100 kilometre 200

Model extent 24° 34°

Ad Daw adimi Ad Daw adimi 48°

24° 46°

36°

38°

40°

42°

44°

Figure 32. Simulated groundwater-head decline in the Tawil-Sharawra aquifer from 1960 to 2005

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2.8.5

Impact of groundwater abstraction on leakage between aquifers and aquitards

Figure 33 shows the distribution of vertical leakage between aquifers and aquitards in the modelled area, at three reference periods: natural conditions, start of the irrigation development (1983), and the present period. The following remarks can be made: • Natural conditions: this chart shows all leakage resulting from the Digital Elevation Model (DEM), the geological model integrated in the groundwater mathematical model, the vertical and horizontal distribution of hydraulic conductivity and storage coefficient, and the spatial distribution of recharge. Vertical leakage is distributed according two trends: - A major trend formed by upward flow from the deeper Saq aquifer to the shallowest STQ aquifer; - A second trend including downward flow, mainly from the STQ aquifer toward underlying layers. • For the 1983 period, this chart only shows the vertical leakage modified since the natural condition up to 2005. Red figures indicate the flow values which have been significantly modified from natural conditions. The leakage directions have not been modified, and as a consequence the two above-mentioned trends still exist. However, any upward leakage generally has decreased, especially that from the Saq aquifer in connection with the development of water abstraction from this aquifer. Jauf and Tawil aquifer exploitation led also to a reduction of the upward flow. However, this reduction is much less important than that from the Saq aquifer because of the lower abstraction rate. • 2005 period: as in the previous chart, vertical leakage variations since 1983 are shown in red. Red darts show the inversion of the flow direction during the same period. The major water withdrawal development has led to an inversion of leakage toward the Saq and Tawil aquifers where pumping increase has been the greatest: - Leakage from the Kahfah aquifer toward the Saq aquifer through the Hanadir aquitard has been reversed and reaches more than 500 Mm3/a, it being around 200 Mm3/a upward under natural conditions; - The Jauf aquifer now leaks toward the Tawil aquifer, - The direction of leakage between the STQ aquifer and the Tawil aquifer is also modified. In connection with the development of groundwater abstraction, the flow pattern within the aquifer system formed by the Saq and overlying geological formations, has been strongly modified. The general upward leakage has been modified through a new direction of the vertical leakage toward the most abstracted aquifers, mainly the Saq and Tawil aquifers.

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Discharge 1 0 52 2 19 3 0 32 4 3 5 0 83 6 0 32 7 0 42 8 239 9 0 287 10 277 11 0 216 12 213 13 0 Saq Hanadir Kahfah Ra'an Quwarah 163 Qusaiba Tawil Jauf Jubah Berwath 5 46 24 Khuff 6 Sudair STQ

Natural conditions
106

31

17

67

11

12

3

53

50

5

24

11

3

2

11

Abstraction 1 79 44 2

Vertical leakages in 1983 - Vertical flows unchanged since natural conditions are not shown
STQ 17 Sudair 11 68

3

0

Khuff 40

4

Berwath 1 2 51

5

23 68

Jubah

6

87 22

Jauf

7

40 37 164

Tawil

8 237 9 26 273 10 262 11 41 123 12 82 13 1820

Qusaiba

28

Quwarah

Ra'an

Kahfah

Hanadir

Saq

Abstraction increase since 1983 1 1245 34 2

Vertical leakages in 2005 - Vertical flows unchanged since natural conditions are not shown
STQ 74 Sudair 8

3

151

Khuff 40

4

Berwath

5

-12 22

Jubah

57

6

64 23

Jauf 148 Tawil 7 109 Qusaiba 157 48

7

796

8

9

96 81

Quwarah

10 30 11 243 522 12 602 13 3627

Ra'an

Kahfah 3 Hanadir 5

2

Saq

Figure 33. Time variation of vertical leakage between aquifers and aquitards
(Vertical leakage and abstraction in Mm3/a)

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2.8.6

Conclusions

Despite real difficulties for its development due to the very large scale of the Saq Project and the complexity of the geological context, the 2006 groundwater mathematical model appears to be an effective tool for understanding the groundwater flow pattern in the Saq and overlying aquifers.

The keys reasons of its accuracy and representativeness can be summed up as follows: 1. The high quality of the geological background imported from a precise 3D geological model built with a powerful geological modeller. 2. The spatial extension of the modelled area to the actual - or remote - hydrogeological boundaries in order to avoid arbitrary boundary conditions that could distort results. 3. The definition of a realistic groundwater conceptual model involving a stack of 13 aquifers and aquitards. The choice of the vertical discretization, i.e. the number of layers to differentiate in the model, is clearly a strategic decision because an inadequate layering can definitely alter the representative value of the model. 4. An accurate reconstruction of agricultural abstraction time series in each cell of the groundwater model by means of a complex procedure involving remote-sensing analyses, statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture, field enquiries, database and GIS processing. 5. A long but effective calibration process verified by two sets of measured contour maps for the years 1983 and 2005, and 59 piezometric time series covering the 1983-2005 period.

The 2006 groundwater mathematical model is now accurately calibrated and provides an efficient and reliable decision support tool to enable the designing of a sound groundwaterresource management plan.

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3 PRESENT STATUS OF WATER RESOURCES
3.1 Balance between abstractions and groundwater recharge

The water resources of the Saq aquifer system are abstracted from eight superimposed aquifers which are, from bottom to top: Saq, Kahfah, Quwarah-Sarah, Tawil, Jauf, Jubah, Khuff, and STQ (Secondary-Tertiary-Quaternary complex). The Saq aquifer, the deepest one, is the only one to be present all over the study area. The extension of the overlying aquifers decreases when moving upward from the Saq to the Khuff aquifer. The STQ combines several aquifers and discontinuously covers most of the Saq study area. As a result, the aquifers that are predominantly exploited in a particular area will vary from one region to another. Figure 36 shows which aquifer is tapped by the wells used for irrigation. Present-day groundwater abstractions in the Saq study area amount to 8,740 Mm3/a out of which 8,430 Mm3/a are being utilised for irrigation. This estimate is consistent with the known hydrodynamic characteristics of the aquifers and the observed groundwater-head variations. Cereals and fodder are the predominant crops, together representing 80% of the agricultural water abstraction. Of the total volume of groundwater used 5,515 Mm3/a (≈ 63%) are being abstracted from the Saq Sandstone aquifer alone. At present, 96% of the groundwater abstraction in the Saq study area is used for irrigation (Figure 34). Domestic and industrial abstractions amount to about 310 Mm3/a, representing less than 4% of the total abstraction but this percentage is expected to double or triple within the next 25 years. Estimates of the renewable water resource in the Saq study area vary between 950 and 1100 Mm3/a over the entire Saq study area (= 2.5 to 3 mm/a × 378,000 km²), out of which no more than 350 Mm3/a recharge the Saq sandstone aquifer itself. Groundwater recharge compensates only 12% of the total annual groundwater abstraction all over the Saq study area (Figure 35). Thus, 88% of the present abstraction is withdrawn from non renewable groundwater. For the Saq Sandstone aquifer itself, the situation is still worse since only 6% of the current groundwater abstraction is renewable.

3,4% 0,2%

year 2004/2005
11,7%

year 2004/2005

domestic industrial agricultural

renewable nonrenewable

96,4%

88,3%

Figure 34. Groundwater abstractions in the Saq study area for different uses

Figure 35. Renewable groundwater resource in the Saq study area compared to the groundwater abstraction

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Table 14 summarizes the groundwater abstraction per province. It can be seen that abstraction is unevenly distributed over the study area. Table 14. Present-day groundwater abstraction per Province Total Domestic Industrial Irrigation population abstraction demand (*) abstraction 291,855 28.2 6.2 1,242.0 889,215 98.1 7.3 2,690.0 46,843 4.5 0.5 95.0 368,294 40.5 0.8 1,500.0 511,130 59.3 1.5 990.0 361,676 40.2 0.9 1,907.0 196,820 22.8 0.1 9.0 2,665,833 293.6 17.2 8,433.0 3.4% 0.2% 96.4% Total % of total 1,276.4 14.6% 2,795.4 32.0% 100.0 1.1% 1,541.3 17.6% 1,050.8 12.0% 1,948.1 22.3% 31.9 0.4% 8,743.8 100.00% 100.0%

Ar Riyadh Al Qassim Al Madinah Ha'il Tabuk Al Jawf Northern Border Total Percentage

(*) In the absence of precise figures on industrial abstraction, the industrial water demand is given

These abstractions, in combination with natural outflow of groundwater and limited groundwater recharge, lead to a depletion of the water stored in the aquifer system. Under the present conditions the depleted volume amounts to about 7,700 Mm3/a. Therefore, most of the abstracted water originates from de-storage of the water volume contained in the aquifer system. Under such conditions, abstraction results in large areas with depleted groundwater heads, corresponding to the different main irrigated areas. Figure 37 shows the water-head decrease between 1960 and 2005 for the Saq aquifer. The largest depleted area is located between Jubah and Baq’a and the eastern limit of the study area. Northwest from Buraydah, the drawdown exceeds 150 m and can even reach 220 m south of Sajir. Around Tabuk the maximum drawdown reaches 120 to 150 m. Near Sakakah, and between Sakakah and Al Qurayyat, drawdown can be as much as 60 m. Other depleted sectors are located in the vicinity of Tayma and Al’Ula. Elsewhere, the drawdown is generally less than 3 m. Given the fact that a large share of the abstracted groundwater originates from de-storage of water contained in the aquifer system (i.e. groundwater mining) and not from present-day groundwater recharge the question arises whether the depletion of groundwater levels that occurred during the past decades is reversible. The predictive scenarios simulated with the 2006 Mathematical Groundwater Model (see § 5.3) help to understand the hydrodynamic behaviour of the multi-layer Saq aquifer system. They strongly increase our global understanding of the dynamics of the system. Because of its extraordinary size, the Saq aquifer system has enormous spatial and temporal inertia. As a result, significant changes in groundwater abstraction affect the aquifers for decades over tens or even hundreds of kilometres. Due to the very low aquifer recharge, the drawdowns that have already been observed are for the most part irreversible because withdrawals are mining groundwater reserves. Even an almost total halting of all pumping would not result in recovery. We would only observe a readjustment (balancing) of hydraulic heads between zones that are more or less affected by abstraction. Model simulations (see Volume 2, Scenario 1 for further details) show that if all agricultural abstraction stopped, the water levels would continue to decline significantly over the next 10 years, at least, in areas where the aquifer is unconfined, whereas they would rise significantly, though without returning to initial levels, in areas where the aquifer is confined. These evolutions would be the result of hydraulic exchanges between zones with different drawdowns, groundwater flowing from less depleted zones to more depleted zones.

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32° 32° 32° 32° 32° 32°

Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar 0 0 0 0 10 0 10 0 10 10 0 Ki lo metre s Ki lo metre s Ki Ki lo m etre s 20 0 20 0 20 20 0

30° 30° 30° 30° 30° 30°

Sakaka h Sakaka h Sakaka Sakaka h

T ab uk T ab uk T ab uk T ab uk T ab uk T ab uk

28° 28° 28° 28° 28° 28°
Baq 'a Baq 'a Baq 'a Baq 'a Baq 'a Baq 'a T aym a T ayma T T aym a Ha'i lll Ha'i Ha'i Ha'i lll Ha'i Ha'i

Al ''''''Ul a Al Ul a Al Ul a Al Ul a Al Ul a Al Ul a Burayd ah Burayd ah Burayd ah Burayd ah Burayd ah Burayd ah

26° 26° 26° 26° 26° 26°

LEGEND
formation tapped Secondary_Tertiary_Quaternary (1068) Khuff (38) Unayzah (5) Berw ath (3) Jubah (31) Jauf (130) Taw il (877) Quw arah_Sarah (39) Kahfah (134) Saq (2066)

Una yza h Una yza h Una yza h Una yza h Una yza h Una yza h

Other features
major tow n minor tow n highw ay main road secondary road Saq study area
Ad Duwa damii Ad Duwa dami Ad Duwa dam Ad Duwa dami Ad Duwa dami As Saj iiirr As Saj r As Saj As Saj iiirr As Saj r As Saj

24° 24° 24° 24° 24° 24° 35° 35° 35° 35° 35° 35° 37° 37° 37° 37° 37° 37° 39° 39° 39° 39° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 43° 43° 43° 43° 45° 45° 45° 45° 45° 45°

Figure 36. Location of wells used for irrigation with tapped aquifer
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32° 32° 32° 32° 32° 32°

drawdown (m)
period 1960 - 2005 .
Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar 0 0 0 0 0 0 10 0 10 0 10 0 10 0 10 0 10 0 Ki lo m etre s Ki lo metre s Ki lo m etre s Ki lo metre s Ki lo m etre s Ki lo m etre s 20 0 20 0 20 0 20 0 20 0 20 0

330 60 90 120 150 180 -

30 60 90 120 150 180 210

30° 30° 30° 30° 30° 30°

Sakaka h Sakaka h Sakaka h Sakaka h Sakaka h Sakaka h

30 60 90
T ab uk T ab uk T ab uk T ab uk T ab uk T ab uk

3

28° 28° 28° 28° 28° 28°

3
3
T aym a T aym a T aym a T aym a T aym a T aym a

30
Ha'i Ha'i Ha'i lll Ha'i Ha'i lll Ha'i

Baq 'a Baq 'a Baq 'a Baq Baq 'a Baq 'a

60

30

60

90

3

150

Al Ul a Al Ul a Al ''''''Ul a Al Ul a Al Ul a Al Ul a

26° 26° 26° 26° 26° 26°

LEGEND
w ater supply w ell tapping Saq aquifer

120

Burayd ah Burayd ah Burayd ah Burayd ah Burayd ah Burayd ah Una yza h Una yza h Una yza h Una Una yza h Una yza h

Other features
major tow n minor tow n boundary of Saq area

Ad Duwa dam Ad Duwa dami Ad Duwa dam ii Ad Duwa dami Ad Duwa dam ii Ad Duwa dam

24° 24° 24° 24° 24° 24° 35° 35° 35° 35° 35° 35° 37° 37° 37° 37° 37° 37° 39° 39° 39° 39° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 43° 43° 43° 43° 45° 45° 45° 45°

Figure 37. Simulated groundwater-head depletion in the Saq aquifer and location of water-supply wells (decline in metres from 1960 to 2005)
63

90
As Saj r As Saj As Saj iiirr As Saj As Saj iiirr As Saj r

3

30

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3.2

Influence of the water-table decline on water-supply wells

From the order-of-magnitude difference between irrigation-water and water-supply abstractions for domestic and industrial use (Table 14) it can be deducted that the water-table decline observed in the Saq study area is mainly due to agricultural development. This section assesses the impact of the water-table decline on wells and well-fields used for water supply. Among the 5,060 inventoried wells for which the tapped aquifer could be identified, 447 wells are in use for domestic water supply. Their locations are shown on Figure 38. Among them, 260 tap the Saq aquifer and the remaining 187 wells tap one of the 10 identified overlying aquifers: STQ, Khuff, Unayzah, Berwath, Jubah, Jauf, Tawil and Sharawrah, Quwarah-Sarah, and Kahfah aquifer, depending on the sector within the study area. Comparison with Figure 36 shows that a minority of these wells is located outside the major irrigated areas, as is the case for the water-supply wells tapping the STQ aquifer near the northeastern border of the Saq study area, or those tapping the Saq aquifer south of Tayma. Most water-supply wells are located within the irrigated areas: − in the Buraydah area: the Quwarah-Sarah and Kahfah aquifers; − along the Qassim and Riyadh border: the STQ aquifer where the Saq aquifer is absent; − in the As Sajir Area: the Khuff aquifer; − north of Tayma: the Quwarah-Sarah aquifer; − in the Tabuk area: the Kahfah aquifer; − in the Sakakah area: the Jubah, Jauf, and Tawil aquifers; − along Wadi Sirhan: the STQ aquifer.

Consequently, most of the drinking water wells are located in areas where a significant watertable decline of the Saq aquifer occurred since 1960, in connection with the agricultural development. A few wells are sited between Tayma, Al’Ula and Ha’il, where the water-table decline is still less than 3 m. Figure 39 shows the frequency distribution of the water-table decline that occurred near the 260 water-supply wells tapping the Saq aquifer (blue line). These values reflect the drop of the static water level in the area around the well but not of the dynamic levels due to pumping in the well itself. It can be observed that for 50% of these water-supply wells the simulated watertable decline in the well exceeds 73 m (median decline value). For 10% of these wells, the decline exceeds even 185 m and the maximum simulated water-table decline reaches 200 m. In only about 10% of water-supply wells tapping the Saq aquifer, the regional water-level decline is less than 10 m. The most influenced wells are located in the Qassim and Ha’il regions where water abstraction for agriculture historically is the oldest and most important within the study area. The lesser impact on water-supply wells, noted in the Tabuk and Jawf regions, is linked to a lesser scale of abstraction that moreover has started more recently.

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32° 32° 32° 32° 32° 32°

Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar 0 0 0 0 0 0 10 0 10 0 10 0 10 0 10 0 10 0 Ki lo metre s Ki lo m etre s Ki lo m etre s Ki lo metre s Ki lo m etre s Ki lo m etre s 20 0 20 0 20 0 20 0 20 0 20 0

30° 30° 30° 30°

Sakaka h Sakaka h Sakaka h Sakaka h Sakaka h Sakaka h

T ab uk T ab uk T ab uk T ab uk T ab uk T ab uk

28° 28° 28° 28° 28° 28°
Baq 'a Baq 'a Baq Baq 'a T aym a T ayma T aym a T ayma T aym a T aym a Ha'i lll Ha'i Ha'i Ha'i

Al Ul a Al Ul a Al ''''''Ul a Al Ul a Al Ul a Al Ul a Burayd ah Burayd ah Burayd ah Burayd ah Burayd ah Burayd ah

26° 26° 26° 26° 26° 26°

LEGEND
formation tapped Secondary_Tertiary_Quaternary (88) Khuff (17) Unayzah (1) Berw ath (6) Jubah (18) Jauf (13) Taw il (15) Quw arah_Sarah (6) Kahfah (19) Saq (260) Basement (4)

Una yza h Una yza h Una yza h Una yza h Una yza h Una yza h

Other features
major tow n minor tow n highw ay main road secondary road Saq study area
Ad Duwa dam i i Duwa dam Ad Duwa dami Ad Duwa dami Ad Duwa dam i i Duwa dam As Saj iiirr As Saj r As Saj As Saj iiirr As Saj r As Saj

24° 24° 24° 24° 24° 24° 35° 35° 35° 35° 35° 35° 37° 37° 37° 37° 39° 39° 39° 39° 39° 39° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 43° 43° 43° 43° 43° 43° 45° 45° 45° 45° 45° 45°

Figure 38. Location of wells used for domestic water supply with tapped aquifer
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250
STQ Khuff Jubah Jauf Tawil/Sharawra Quwarah/Sarah Kahfah Saq

200

drawdown in vicinity of well (m)

150

wells tapping Saq aquifer

100

50
wells tapping other aquifers

0 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% percentage of wells

Figure 39. Simulated groundwater-head decline between 1960 and 2005 in inventoried water-supply wells. Percentages are given for two groups of wells: those tapping the Saq aquifer and all remaining wells
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3.3

Existing groundwater reserve

The previous two sections underline the existing imbalance between groundwater abstractions and groundwater recharge and its impact on water supply wells and well-fields. This imbalance results in a continuing decline of the water levels of the main aquifers in large parts of the study area. The groundwater mathematical model has been used to evaluate the status of the groundwater reserves. The volumes of groundwater stored in the various aquifer formations of the Saq multi-layer system are enormous. However, the fact that the maximum discharge head of the pumps equipping most water wells used for irrigation does not exceed 1000 ft (≈ 300 m) significantly limits the volumes that are actually exploitable. Indeed, it means that most of the exploitable groundwater is located in the upper layers of the aquifers. Considering the difference between the dynamic water level in a well during the irrigation season and the average static groundwater level in the region, the exploitable groundwater reserve is limited to the water present in the aquifers up to a depth of 250 m bgl (see Volume 2 for further details). The model simulations (scenario 10) show that 25% of the exploitable reserves in the Saq aquifer and 4% of those of the Tawil aquifer had already been abstracted in 2005. By 2055, these percentages will have increased considerably, to 62% of exploitable reserves in the Saq aquifer and 20% of those in the Tawil. The groundwater-reserve exploitation percentages given above correspond to average values calculated for the overall Saq and Tawil aquifers. In detail, however, there is a strong spatial disparity between exploited areas, based on their geographic location and pumping density. For instance, in the Qassim area, that has been intensively irrigated for quite a long period, the reserve-exploitation figure for the Saq aquifer in 2005 was 29%, a value that should increase to 71% in 2055. In the most heavily pumped areas, around Buraydah and Unayzah and between Ad Dawadimi and Sajir, the reserve-exploitation percentages are even higher, around 30% in 2005 and 85% in 2055. It should also be kept in mind that the flowrates extracted from the Saq aquifer will reduce very strongly long before the exploitable reserves are exhausted. Model simulations show that the volumes tapped from the Saq aquifer will begin significantly to diminish around 2010-2015 and by 2055 will have dropped by 30% to 60% on average. In the Qassim area, the reduction in flowrates will reach 45% to 70% by 2055 and in the most intensely pumped areas, especially around Buraydah, Unayzah and east of Ad Dawadimi, such reductions may reach 50% to 80%.

The water-table decline affecting water-supply wells tapping the other aquifers is also shown in Figure 39. Among these wells, those most affected show an 80-m drop of the static water level. The aquifers witnessing a drop of more than 50 m are: − the Kahfah aquifer in the Tabuk and Buraydah areas, − the Quwarah-Sarah aquifer near Buraydah, − the Khuff aquifer near Sajir, − a few wells tapping the Tawil aquifer near Dawmat al Jandal, and − the STQ aquifer east of Buraydah. To a lesser extent, the Jauf aquifer near Sakakah and the STQ aquifer in the Busayta area are also concerned. All these aquifers are stressed by irrigation pumping or, in the case of the Kahfah aquifer, by downward leakage induced by pumping from the underlying Saq aquifer.

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In 60% of the wells tapping the aquifers overlying the Saq aquifer, little or no decline in water levels (less than 10 m) has been observed between 1960 and 2005. These wells are all located in areas with little or no agricultural activity. In conclusion, it appears that the aquifers overlying the Saq aquifer are more preserved from the general water-table decline. However, even in these aquifers the influence of irrigation abstraction is significant in the Buraydah and Tabuk sectors. The same situation is locally observed in the Al Jawf region in wells tapping the Tawil and Jauf aquifers.

3.4

Impact of abstraction on groundwater quality

As far as major ions and trace elements are concerned, no significant changes in groundwater quality have been identified since 1985 despite the strong development of pumping for agriculture uses. This result has been obtained by considering each species separately, as well as the total dissolved content. The same comparison is not possible for radioactive isotopes such as Ra-226, Ra-228 and Rn-222, as they were not measured during the former 1985 project. Rn-222 is a gas and forms a qualitative constraint for groundwater use as its degassing occurs when the water is brought to surface. This is not the case of the radium isotopes. The present distribution of these isotopes shows a constant link with water-table decline as high contents are linked to major water-abstraction areas. Hypotheses on their origin have been set forth in connection with the natural presence of such isotopes in clay lenses or in rocks like the Hanadir shale. The increase of vertical leakage toward strongly pumped aquifers probably led to leaching of the radium included in the shale into these aquifers. Presently, the depth over which such a contamination occurs is not known.

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4 CONSTRAINTS ON GROUNDWATER USE
Based on the analysis of the present groundwater situation in the Saq study area, a number of constraints can be identified when considering future use of groundwater in the area.

4.1

Aquifer exploitability

Volume 9 of this report presents the lateral and vertical extension of each aquifer of the Saq aquifer system. With the exception of the Saq aquifer, none of the aquifers is present below the entire study area. But even where an aquifer is present at depth, this does not mean that it can be easily pumped. There are physical and economical limits that have to be considered when planning future groundwater use. These limits are enumerated below. Depth to top of aquifer. Figure 12 shows the extension of the Saq aquifer and the location of wells tapping this layer. The figure also indicates the depth to the top of the aquifer. In areas where the aquifer formation is exposed, the drilling of wells is easy but the resource is also most vulnerable. Salinity levels in the Saq aquifer are also higher in outcrop areas, especially near the main wadi channels. Areas where the aquifer is confined provide a better groundwater protection and, for the Saq, in generally lower salinity levels. In areas where the top of the aquifer is situated below 1,000 m depth, drilling into the aquifer becomes costly for many private users but no main technical obstacle exists to tap aquifers at such a depth. Once the aquifer is situated at a depth below 2,500 m it can be considered as inaccessible to standard water wells. The depth range from 1,000 to 2,500 m represents in fact an interesting target area for drinking water wells because few private wells exploit the aquifer at such a depth. Thickness of aquifer. Depending on the thickness of the aquifer its exploitation becomes more or less interesting. In case of unconfined aquifers the wetted thickness of the aquifer has to be considered. Thin aquifers are more vulnerable to the interruption of production due to overexploitation because, in the absence of any significant groundwater recharge, groundwater levels will inevitably drop and dynamic levels will reach more rapidly the bottom of the aquifer. Permeability. The hydraulic permeability, in combination with aquifer thickness, is a measure for the aquifer productivity and determines the drawdown resulting from future groundwater abstractions. Therefore, high permeability levels have a positive impact on the lifetime of projected exploitations.

4.2

Declining groundwater levels

As shown on Figure 23, the groundwater pumping for irrigation has increased tremendously between 1980 and 2003. Since agricultural abstractions make up 96% of the total groundwater draft (Table 14), it can be safely said that the overall groundwater abstraction has increased. Figure 24 shows that the evolution of groundwater pumping has not been the same for all regions. Such large-scale pumping has resulted in declining groundwater levels in some aquifers and in some parts of the study area. Due to the uneven distribution of abstractions among regions and among aquifers, the evolution of groundwater levels is equally variable. Figure 37 presents the groundwater-head depletion in the Saq aquifer from 1960 to 2005, showing that the depletion is not homogeneously distributed. Similar differences can be observed in the overlying aquifers. Due to different periods of agricultural development, the groundwater-head decline has not followed the same pattern over time in different regions. Figure 40, Figure 41 and Figure 42 show the evolution of groundwater levels in piezometers in, respectively, the Qassim, Tabuk and Al Jawf regions (location of wells is shown on Plate 5 and Plate 6).

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Figure 40. Evolution of groundwater head in two observation wells in the Qassim region

Figure 41. Evolution of groundwater head in two observation wells in the Tabuk region

Figure 42. Evolution of groundwater head in two observation wells in the Al Jawf region

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Depending on the aquifer characteristics and the distance of the observation well to the main irrigated areas, the decline is more or less steep. Also, the decline in the Qassim region has started in the early 1980s, in the Tabuk region in the mid-1980s and in the Al Jawf region in the early 1990s. In the absence of a change in groundwater abstraction patterns, the groundwater-head decline will continue. Figure 46 shows the projected decline of groundwater levels in the Saq aquifer from 2005 to 2055 in case the present pumping rates are maintained. It can be observed that in this case groundwater levels west of Buraydah and Unayzah will drop by an additional 60 to 100 m. Even if groundwater abstraction would be stopped, the levels would continue to drop in areas around the present-day depressions, due to the large scale of the aquifer system and the delay in adjustment of groundwater levels to outside stresses. A major decline in water levels makes exploitation of groundwater resources more difficult, more costly and sometimes impossible. When assessing the feasibility of constructing a new wellfield, the projected groundwater decline in the region should be considered in addition to the drawdown caused by the well-field itself. The most dramatic consequences resulting from groundwater-level decline are the drying up of the aquifer when dynamic levels reach the bottom of the aquifer layer. Other, less dramatic, consequences can be the need for drilling new wells when the dynamic level drops below the deepest possible depth for installing a pump, for example when a reduction in diameter of the well is encountered. But even if the decline does not reach such extremes, the groundwater exploitation becomes more difficult due to reduced yield and increased pump and energy costs for lifting the water. For these reasons, the projected regional groundwater-level decline should be considered as a constraint in planning future development scenarios. When considering future groundwater abstraction for domestic water supply, the selection of sites for new well-fields should consider not only the already observed decline, but also the projected decline for the period 2005-2055. Although different scenarios can be envisaged and future measures might be adopted that lower the pressure on the groundwater resources, it appears to be realistic to consider a baseline scenario that maintains the actual pumping rates. Based on the simulated groundwater decline, areas can be identified that are the least disturbed by existing abstraction, with a groundwater decline of less than 10 m, and those areas that are most affected with a decline of more than 50 m.

4.3

Water quality problems

When considering WHO guidelines, some chemical elements dissolved in groundwater form a constraint for water supply. Boron has only been measured during the previous Saq project (1985). Its content exceeds the WHO guideline of 0.5 mg/l in 46% of the 2,719 samples. In the Alluvium, STQ and Khuff aquifers, this percentage ranges between 71 and 86%; it is 50% in the Kahfah, Quwarah-Sarah and Jubah-Jauf aquifers, 42% in the basement, 37% in the Saq and 19% in the Tawil (Figure 43). High boron levels are mostly encountered in groundwater with high salinity levels, as in Wadi Sirhan and Wadi ar Rimah, but also in the Khuff and STQ in eastern Qassim. These percentages found in a significant number of samples can be considered as representative of the distribution of this species within the groundwater of the study area. Therefore, boron is to be considered as a major constraint in the use of groundwater for water supply, in almost all the drilled areas.

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100% 90% 80% N° of samples exceeding 0.5 mg/l 70% 60% 50% 40% 28 30% 244 20% 10% 0% Alluvium STQ Khuff Jubah-Jauf Tawil QuwarahSarah Kahfah Saq Basement 68 235 1408 105 19 333 103

Aquifers (Total number of samples)

Figure 43. Occurrence of samples with a boron content exceeding WHO guidelines Selenium has been measured during the present project in 58 samples collected from wells. The results can be considered as indicative: 26% of the collected samples show a content exceeding the WHO guideline of 10 µg/l. The sampled aquifers were Jubah-Jauf, TawilSharawra, Kahfah, Saq and alluvium overlying the Shield. Samples exceeding the guideline were found in the Kahfah aquifer in the Qassim region, in the Saq aquifer in the Qassim region, and in the basement in the Qassim and Ha’il regions. About half of the 21 samples collected in the Saq aquifer in the Qassim region have a selenium content exceeding the guideline. Selenium does not seem to be as common in groundwater as boron, but not all aquifers have been sampled. Presently no general link can be identified between nitrate-content distribution in groundwater and agriculture. The findings of the present project seem to confirm previously published results: 21% of the 2,736 collected samples have nitrate contents over the maximum of 50 mg/l. This percentage reaches 59% in the Khuff aquifer, 38% in the alluvium, 27% in the basement, 25% in the Saq aquifer, 14% in the STQ and Quwarah-Sarah aquifers, 12% in the Kahfah, 6% in the Jubah and Jauf aquifers, and 3% in the Tawil. The status of aquifers – i.e. confined or unconfined – and the depth of the well are important factors influencing the nitrate-content distribution. Most of the highest contents are observed in wells tapping unconfined aquifers at depths less than 150 m. Besides this general trend, local contamination is characterized by: - Much higher values than in the wells located in the same area in unconfined aquifers; - Significant values in confined aquifers. Such contamination can be attributed to different causes, such as: - Inappropriate completion of well heads and improper surface cementation, as well as storage of used agrochemical packaging in the vicinity of the well; - Absence of check valves preventing the fertilizer to flow back into the well through the discharge pipe; - Wells without casing or adequate cementation; when pumping, downward leakage can occur from an overlying unconfined aquifer down to the main aquifer. Such wells can be a threat for nearby urban water-supply wells.

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When considering future groundwater abstraction, quality constraints should be considered. Areas with high TDS, or boron or nitrate levels above the WHO guidelines do not have to be excluded when installing new water-supply wells, but adequate treatment should be included in the installation budget. For the selection of sites, favourable areas can be identified where none of the guideline values are exceeded. Further distinction can be made between areas where only one guideline value is exceeded and those where several such thresholds are exceeded.

4.4

Presence of radioelements

The most alarming impact of groundwater abstraction on groundwater quality, however, is related to the presence of radio-nuclides. Figure 18 shows the location of wells with radioisotope levels exceeding WHO guidelines. It can be observed that high levels of radioelements exist in the different parts of the study area. As the presence of radioelements in groundwater depends on the presence of radioelements in the geological formations, and on hydrogeological and hydrogeochemical conditions allowing these elements to be mobilized in the water contained in these formations, the problem of the groundwater radioactive contamination observed in the Saq study area is complex and probably widespread. It must be studied as soon as possible because of its potential critical consequences. Among the different radioactive isotopes analysed, radon (Rn-222) does not form a major constraint for groundwater use if the water is used after degassing of radon. The presence of uranium in groundwater can be a problem when exploiting unconfined parts of some aquifers, because uranium can be mobilized in water under oxidizing conditions. Uranium levels exceeding the WHO guidance level of 15 µg/l were found in wells tapping unconfined parts of the Saq aquifer in the Qassim and Tabuk regions, or in alluvium in contact with the Arabian Shield rocks. Uranium levels below the guidance value were also encountered in unconfined parts of Kahfah aquifer and in Wadi Sirhan and the Sakakah region. The most common radioelements are the radium isotopes Ra-226 and Ra-228. Levels exceeding the guidance value are only encountered in confined parts of some aquifers. High Ra-226 values are found in the Saq and Kahfah aquifers in parts of the Qassim and Tabuk regions. High Ra-228 values are even more widespread and occur in the Saq and Kahfah aquifers in the Qassim, Ha’il, Tayma and Tabuk regions. Since the presence of radioelements depends on a specific combination of geological and hydrogeological conditions, the measured concentrations may vary considerably among wells tapping the same aquifer. Radioelements present in groundwater may originate from the basement rock, from shale layers like the Hanadir and Ra’an members in the Qasim Formation, but also from specific horizons rich in radionuclides within the Saq and Kahfah sandstones or within phosphates bearing formations. The radioelements are present in these layers since the time of deposition of the sediments that make up these formations, and are retained by the rock particles of these formations. Under reducing hydrochemical conditions, radium isotopes can be mobilized from the solid phase into the pore water enclosed in these horizons and subsequently be drained out of these formations. Water is thus the essential vector in the mobilization process. The hydraulic permeability of shale layers is very low and under natural (undisturbed) conditions the flow from shale layers to aquifer layers is small. However, once the pressure in the aquifer layers drops as a result of groundwater abstraction, the water trapped in shale layers may be mobilized. The level of radioactive isotopes present in groundwater may thus vary with time. Even though the mechanisms of radionuclide mobilization need further study, a steep water-level decline seems to induce a gradual radionuclide contamination of several aquifers, including the Saq,
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ultimately rendering the groundwater unfit for both human consumption and agricultural use. The top map of Figure 44 shows the groundwater decline of the Saq aquifer in the Qassim region from 1960 to 2005 and the total radium level measured in wells. Areas that have witnessed a steep groundwater decline show the highest radionuclide activities, often exceeding WHO guidance levels. As such groundwater quality deterioration is mostly irreversible, it is imperative to drastically reduce abstraction in the main agricultural areas so as to avoid any steep decline of the groundwater levels. The bottom graph of Figure 44 shows the total radium content (Ra-226 + Ra-228) of groundwater samples of the Saq and Kahfah aquifers in the Qassim and Ha’il regions, against the total drawdown observed in the vicinity of the sampled well. Not surprisingly, high radium levels are found in wells tapping the confined part of the aquifers and it can be noted that radium levels increase with increasing drawdown. According to this analysis radioelement levels in groundwater may increase as long as dynamic levels will not have been stabilized. After such stabilization, radioelement levels in groundwater may continue to increase till the stabilization of pressure between aquifer and aquitard. After this second stabilization, the radioelement levels would possibly begin to decrease. The potential presence of radioelements is thus a constraint when considering future groundwater abstraction from aquifers that are delimited by, or include, layers containing radioelements. Based on present-day knowledge of the study area, the aquifers showing the highest percentage of wells with radioelement levels exceeding guidance values are the Saq, Kahfah, and alluvium on top of Shield rocks. A few wells tapping the Quwarah, Tawil, Jauf and Jubah aquifers show also a presence of Ra-228. In the Saq and Kahfah aquifers in particular, the level of radioelements may increase with time once groundwater levels drop significantly due to aquifer exploitation. Present-day knowledge does not allow to delineate precisely the lateral and vertical extent of aquifer layers that may become contaminated by radioelements, or to determine which maximum drawdown value may still be acceptable. It can, however, be safely assumed that avoiding a steep drawdown in the Saq and Kahfah aquifers in areas where new groundwater abstraction is envisaged reduces the risk of mobilizing radioelements and contaminating parts of these aquifers that at present are not yet contaminated. When planning future groundwater development, different groundwater zones can be identified with respect to the risk of radioelement contamination: • Aquifers already showing radioelement levels exceeding the guideline values; • Aquifers where radioelements are below the guideline values, but which have witnessed a sharp decline in groundwater levels; • Aquifers where radioelements are below the guideline values and little or no decline of groundwater levels has occurred.

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10 confined 9 unconfined envelope 8 Total radium content (Bq/l)

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1

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Figure 44. Total radium content of Saq groundwater vs. water-level decline over the period 1960 – 2005 (Qassim and Ha’il regions)

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5
5.1

STRATEGIES IN GROUNDWATER MANAGEMENT
Possible lines of action

Guidelines for the safety of water supply can be deduced from the constraints discussed above. Quantitative aspects and qualitative aspects are reviewed below. 5.1.1 Quantitative aspects

In the Saq study area, water tables show a general declining trend in connection with the limited recharge and the amount of water abstracted mainly for irrigation. Therefore the guidelines for the siting of new water-supply wells and well-fields should include: - Minimize interference from irrigation wells, either through avoiding the vicinity of such wells or through exploiting aquifers where irrigation-water abstraction is moderate. - Minimize the interference between water-supply wells within a well-field, through observing an adequate well spacing. - Take into consideration cross-border interference, which may occur in the northern part of the study area. 5.1.2 Qualitative aspects

The most common types of contamination observed are linked to the trace elements boron and selenium, nitrate, and radio-isotopes. Most of the observed nitrate contents seem to be of natural origin, the highest contents occurring in unconfined aquifers or sectors of aquifers. However, in the corresponding areas contents decrease with depth. Such a condition seems to be encountered in all aquifers. However, the presence in groundwater of nitrate from agrochemicals can also be detected through the presence of abnormal contents in wells tapping confined aquifers. Such contamination occurs through the wells themselves as explained above. Such hot spots are easily identifiable in confined aquifers, which normally contain little or no nitrate. Such contamination can also exist in unconfined aquifers, but here it will be overshadowed by the natural nitrate content. This condition should help to avoid locating water-supply wells tapping such contaminated aquifers between irrigation well or in the vicinity of irrigated perimeters. Radium is a major constraint for water supply. The exact origin and physical mechanisms controlling such contamination are not completely understood. However, the present project results points at a relationship between major drawdown and high radium content. Therefore, a general guideline to minimize this risk is to avoid drilling water-supply wells in parts of an aquifer already affected by significant water-table decline, or which will be affected by such a phenomenon. As a consequence, water-supply wells for population in agricultural areas should, wherever possible, tap aquifers located above the aquifer mainly pumped for irrigation. Such a condition can be fairly easily met, as irrigation wells mostly pump water from highly productive aquifers because of the required amounts of water. Less favourable hydrodynamic conditions would not be a major constraint for water-supply abstraction. Reducing a potential water-table decline caused by a water-supply well-field is also to be considered. The design of such a well-field should include a well spacing that minimizes the interference between wells.

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5.2

Short-term versus long-term approach

Based on the constraints described in the previous sections, future groundwater-development scenarios can be defined and tested with the groundwater mathematical model. These scenarios include both the implementation of new water-supply projects as well as the implementation of policies influencing existing groundwater abstraction, either directly or indirectly. Some actions can easily be incorporated in water supply projects implemented by the MoWE. Other actions require participation by other government agencies or authorities, and might even require policy changes or new laws. These actions require more time to be implemented. For this reason, possible actions are divided into “short-term” and “long-term”. 5.2.1 Short- to medium-term approach

A number of “short-term” and “medium-term” actions can be envisaged, aiming at extending the life-time of existing well-fields and water-supply wells: • Construction of new well-fields in “safe” areas of the Saq aquifer; • Construction of new well-fields in the Tawil, Jauf and Jubah aquifers; • Strategic study on the mobilization of radioelements; • Promotion of waste-water re-use in all cities; • Definition of protection zones around well-fields, and the reduction and ultimate stopping of agricultural activity in these areas; • Definition of protection zones where no groundwater development can take place for agricultural or industrial use, and reservation of these zones for water-supply projects. Examples of such an area can be the Nafud desert (Plate 1) or parts of the Saq outcrops south of Tayma. 5.2.2 Long-term approach

Other actions require policy changes and cannot be implemented on a short-term basis. These actions may, however, have the most significant impact on the situation of the groundwater resources of the Saq study area: • Prevent the development of new agricultural areas outside existing areas; • Declare the Saq and possibly the Tawil as strategic aquifers with priority for water supply; • Promote water-reduction measures in agriculture; • Introduce water meters for all private wells.

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5.3
5.3.1

Modelling Scenarios
Scope of predictive modelling scenarios

Volume 2 of the report presents eleven predictive scenarios simulated with the groundwater mathematical model in order to evaluate the foreseeable impact over the next 50 years of new groundwater-abstraction projects. 1. Scenarios 1 and 10 aimed to enhance the understanding and evaluation of the groundwater potential in the Saq multi-layer system and have been presented in Chapter 3 of this report. The other modelling scenarios, evaluating each the impact of some specific groundwater management action, are described below. 2. Scenario 2, considered as the baseline scenario, simulates the continuation of agricultural pumping at the current rate along with a continuous and steady 2.46% annual increase of domestic and industrial abstraction. The objective is to calculate the groundwater-head decline that would theoretically occur between now and 2055. 3. Scenario 3 simulates the same evolution as the baseline Scenario 2 for agricultural, domestic and industrial abstraction until 2055. Against this background, it compares the effects of different development plans north of Tabuk, with new domestic water-supply and irrigation well-fields both in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. 4. Scenario 4 is similar to Scenario 2, but is more realistic because it takes into account the maximum discharge head of the pumps commonly used for groundwater abstraction. This additional operation is made with the “cut-off depth” function, a dynamic optimization of the pumping rates. These are automatically adjusted so that the water table complies with a minimum water-level constraint attributed to one, several or all of the grid cells in one, several or all of the aquifers. Seven different cut-off depths are simulated, one every 25 m between 150 and 300 mbgl. Furthermore, Scenario 4 takes into account the three correction factors that separate the drawdown simulated by the groundwater model from the actual drawdown in the pumping wells. 5. As Scenario 2 shows that the water level declines, which already affect vast areas in the Saq and Tawil aquifers, will continue to spread and will, over the medium-term, reach all of the Saq Project area, Scenario 5 identifies the sectors that are the most favourable for the siting of new well fields to supply drinking water to major urban areas. 6. In order to reduce drawdowns around domestic wells, Scenario 6 simulates the impact of an immediate 50% reduction in agricultural abstraction in zones of restricted pumping around domestic wells. Three widths are simulated for these protection zones. In the model, they occupy the width of one, two, or three grid cells around each domestic well, i.e. they cover equivalent circles of 2.5, 4.1 and 5.6 km radii. 7. Scenario 7, like Scenario 2, simulates a continuous and steady 2.46% annual increase in domestic and industrial pumping from 2005 to 2055. Agricultural abstraction, however, does not remain constant over the entire period. It is assumed to be stable from 2005 to 2011, then to progressively decrease 50% from 2012 to 2022, at a steady -9.3% per year. Thereafter, it remains steady at the new rate until 2055. 8. Scenario 8 simulates the same basic evolution as Scenario 2 for agricultural, domestic and industrial abstraction. Against this background, four different cropping patterns are evaluated, all leading to significant reductions in agricultural abstraction. The first three test the effects of massive abstraction reduction through: i) replacement of alfalfa crops by wheat, ii) suppression of alfalfa crops and the laying fallow of the corresponding surfaces; iii) wheat crops stopped with no substitution by any culture. The fourth pattern, defined by

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the MOA, corresponds to a progressive change in farming practices, varying according to provinces and crops. 9. Scenario 9 simulates the impact on the regional groundwater levels of additional abstraction in view of the future mining of phosphate near the town of Hazm Al-Jalamid in the northern part of the Saq Project area. Here, further groundwater abstractions of up to 10.4 Mm3/year will be required. 10. Scenario 10 estimates the groundwater reserves in the Saq aquifer system. As already mentioned, its results have been presented in Chapter 3 and particularly in section 3.3. 11. Scenario 11 aims at defining the conditions of agricultural demand that could reduce the water-table decline over the next decades with the objective of preserving as sustainable a groundwater exploitation as possible in terms of both quantity and quality. 5.3.2 Main results of the predictive scenarios

The 11 predictive scenarios simulated with the 2006 Mathematical Groundwater Model are very complementary since each highlights a particular aspect of the hydrodynamic behaviour of the multi-layer Saq aquifer system. As a synthesis, the information provided by these various scenarios can be summarized as follows. Scenario 2 simulates a continuation of agricultural abstraction at 2003 rates and a steady annual 2.46% increase in domestic and industrial abstraction. The resulting drawdowns are between 50 and 150 m in the Saq and Kahfah aquifers over the next 50 years, from 2005 to 2055 (see Figure 45 and Figure 46). These drawdowns will be in addition to those already observed in the aquifers since 1960, which reached 135 m in the Tabuk area and 215 m in the Qassim region. The cumulative drawdowns in the Saq and Kahfah aquifers between 1960 and 2055 could therefore exceed 300 m in the Qassim region by 2055.

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Figure 45. Simulated decline in the Saq aquifer from 2005 to 2055 (Scenario 2)

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700 680 660 640 620 600 Groundwater Head (m) 580

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Figure 46. Piezometric evolutions in the Saq aquifer simulated in Al Qassim area (Scenario 2) (Location of observation wells is shown on Plate 5 and Plate 6) In the Tawil aquifer, heavily pumped for irrigating the large agricultural areas around Busayta, the water level will drop by 20 to 50 m over the coming 25 years and then by a further 20 to 50 m over the following 25 years. The global decline will consequently reach 40 to 100 m over the next 50 years (Figure 47) in addition to the 10 to 40 m already observed from 1960 to 2005. Plate 7 to Plate 15 show the water-table depths (below ground level) simulated for the Saq and Tawil aquifers in 2005, 2030 and 2055 in the areas of Qassim, Tabuk and Busayta.
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Figure 47. Simulated decline in the Tawil aquifer from 2005 to 2055 (Scenario 2)

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These very high drawdowns are, however, very unlikely to occur because they exceed the maximum discharge head of the pumps commonly used in boreholes for pumping water. In practice, as the water levels decline under the effect of abstraction, the pumping rates will decrease steadily due to the drop in efficiency and/or the dewatering of the pumps. This phenomenon was simulated in Scenario 4 for cut-off depths every 25 m between 150 and 300 mbgl. A cut-off depth of 250 mbgl is probably the most realistic for taking into account the technical characteristics of pumps and corrections that must be made to drawdowns simulated by the model (i.e. head losses in boreholes, scale factor between borehole diameters and model grid-cell size, variations in the water level induced by seasonal agricultural abstraction). The results of Scenario 4 (see Figure 48) show that with a cut-off depth of 250 m, the global current agricultural abstraction rates can be maintained almost constant up until 2025, after which they will decrease steadily. For the total agricultural abstraction from the various aquifers of the Saq multi-layer system, the volumes pumped annually will decline by approximately the following proportions: -10% in 2037, -20% in 2049, -25% in 2055.

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Figure 48. Optimized abstraction vs cut-off depth in the aquifer system taken as a whole (Scenario 4) In the Riyadh, Al Qassim and Hai'l provinces where drawdowns are already high in the Saq aquifer itself, the volumes pumped annually will decrease more rapidly, with reductions of around -10% every 7 years, beginning in 2015 for the province of Riyadh and in 2025 for the provinces of Al Qassim (see Figure 49) and Hai’l. By 2055, these flowrate reduction percentages will have reached 50% in the province of Riyadh, 45% in Al Qassim and 30% in Hai’l. With a 200 mbgl cut-off depth those percentages would rise to 80%, 70% and 60% respectively and reduction in abstraction rates would begin 10 to 15 years before. On the other hand, the drops in discharge will be less pronounced in the Tabuk area, where the decrease should not exceed 4% by 2055, or 37% with a 200 mbgl cut-off depth. These predictions do not take into account any new well field projects. Any pumping done in new well fields would have to be compensated for by an equivalent reduction in agricultural abstraction. Despite the 40 to 100 m simulated decline over the next 50 years, adding to the 10 to 40 m already observed from 1960 to 2005, the Tawil aquifer should not be affected by a reduction of
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agricultural abstraction before 2055. We must, however, be cautious on this point because the formations overlying the Tawil aquifer are far from homogeneous and we cannot rule out the existence of low permeability layers acting as impervious barriers that would lead the exploitable pumping rates in the Tawil aquifer to decrease faster than simulated by the model.

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Figure 49. Optimized abstraction vs cut-off depth in the Saq aquifer and Al Qassim province (Scenario 4) Although agricultural abstraction is concentrated mostly around Qassim, Tabuk, Al Busayta and Dawmat-al-Jandal, its magnitude is such that the drawdowns extend over tens of kilometres, already affect a large part of the Saq and Kahfah aquifers, and will eventually spread to the entire project area. It is therefore urgent to prepare for the future, either by regulating pumping around domestic water wells or by preserving favourable sectors for the siting of future well fields for the drinking water supply of urban areas. In this perspective, Scenario 6 simulates an immediate 50% reduction in agricultural abstraction in circular protection zones centred on the 548 domestic and industrial wells currently identified. The three protection radii simulated in this scenario—2.5, 4.1 and 5.6 km—induce, respectively, 3.2%, 6.8% and 11.1% reductions in the total agricultural abstraction from the entire project area. The simulation results show that these protection zones are only significantly beneficial if their radius is at least 4 km and if all the neighbouring wells also promptly and simultaneously participate in such protective measures. In addition, Scenario 5 enables us to identify the zones that seem to be the most favourable for the siting of new domestic well fields. Three criteria were used to determine these areas: 1) the depth of the water level simulated for 2055, 2) the depth of the top of the aquifer, and 3) the simulated residual saturated thickness of the aquifer in 2055. A multi-element analysis done on these three variables led us to define 5 classes of decreasing suitability for the siting of new well fields: good, acceptable, difficult, very difficult and not feasible. The corresponding maps (see Figure 50 and Figure 51) show that potentially favourable sites do exist in the Saq and Tawil aquifers but they are not numerous. They should consequently be preserved as soon as possible. To validate the suitability of these sites, however, in-situ investigations are essential.

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Bes t location for new DWS wellfields in the Saq aquifer
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Figure 50. Zoning of the Saq aquifer for the siting of new domestic well fields (Scenario 5)

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Figure 51. Zoning of the Tawil aquifer for the siting of new domestic well fields (Scenario 5)

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Two projects to develop new well fields were evaluated using the Saq multi-layer model. One concerns increasing the domestic water supply in the Tabuk area (Scenario 3, Figure 52) and the other exploiting phosphate mines near the town of Hazm Al-Jalamid (Scenario 9).

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Simulated decline (m) 2015-2055 with two new wellfields: KSA (15 km from border) and Jordan (12 km from border)
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Figure 52. Simulated drawdown in the Saq aquifer from 2005 to 2055 with current pumping rates and new well-fields in Saudi Arabia and Jordan (Scenario 3 - Simulation 1) The various simulations done show that the 2006 groundwater mathematical model is a very good tool for answering questions posed by such projects, both because it offers an extensive view of the hydrogeological environment all over the Saq Project area and because its fine grid enables a detailed analysis of project specificities. For example, for the study for a new well field near Tabuk, the model is able to simulate hydraulic interferences of all of the major wells within a radius of several tens of kilometres—both in KSA and Jordan—and to precisely test the hydraulic impact of a possible geological discontinuity NW of Tabuk (similar to the impermeable barrier created by the Kharawi Dyke in Jordan). Although the design and sizing of well fields should be finalized with more detailed numerical models, analytical or grid-based, the multi-layer Saq model supplies most of the answers concerning hydraulics posed by such projects, notably in terms of spatio-temporal interferences with other developments, current or future, in the same aquifer or in the surrounding formations. The synthesis graphs resulting from the sensitivity analysis done on the cut-off depths indicate the medium-term decreases in discharge that will occur in the various provinces if agricultural abstraction is not voluntarily and rapidly decreased compared to 2003 rates. On the other hand, these decreases are good indicators of the reductions in agricultural abstraction that must be attained in order to limit drawdowns, with resulting diminution in pumping efficiency and potential putting out of operation of an increasing number of wells. By comparing these target values with the percentages of reduced abstraction induced by various modified farming practice programmes, we can rapidly identify the best programmes and anticipate their hydraulic effectiveness.

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Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the progressive 50% reduction in agricultural abstraction between 2012 and 2022 simulated in Scenario 7 leads to a significant decrease in predicted drawdowns in the Saq and Tawil aquifers. Likewise, of the four cropping patterns simulated in Scenario 8, schemes 8-2 to 8-4 (8-2: alfalfa crops stopped and corresponding surfaces lay fallow; 8-3: wheat crops stopped and not replaced; 8-4: cropping pattern defined by the MOA) are shown to be more effective than scheme 8-1 (alfalfa crops replaced by wheat crops) for reducing predicted 2005-2055 drawdowns. This clear difference stems directly from the reductions in pumping induced by each of the schemes 8-1 to 8-4: 18%, 29%, 48% and 41%, respectively. Figure 53 and Figure 54 show reduction in agricultural abstractions and resulting improvement of groundwater decline for Scenario 8-4. Results of other scenarios are described in Volume 2 of the report.

10 000 9 000 Orchards 8 000 Irrigation water withdrawl in 10 +6m3 Palm trees 7 000 6 000 5 000 4 000 3 000 2 000 Cereals 1 000 0 1971 1973 1975 1977 1979 1981 1983 1985 1987 1989 1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011 2013 2015 2017
48° 32°
Reduction of the Saq simulated drawdown (m) in 2055 resulting from the decrease of crops areas

Vegetables Fodder

Maize

Cereals

Maize

Fodder

Vegetables

Palm trees

Orchards

Figure 53. Global abstraction per crop from 1971 to 2005 and projection up to 2020 (Scenario 8-4)
34° 32° 44° 46°

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Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat

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Tayma Tayma

Qibah Qibah

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Main cities 26° Main irrigated perimeter
Boundary of the Saq Project

AL Ula AL Ula

Buraydah Buraydah 40 40 Unayzah Unayzah
30 30

2019
28° 26° 24° 48°

Model extent 24° 34° 36° 38° 40° 42°

Figure 54. Reduction of the 2055 Saq simulated drawdown with Scenario 8-4 (MOA plan)
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tic o the Hyp ur e ct stru

0 0 0 70 70

60 6 6 6 60 6 6 6

60

Sajir Sajir 0 50 100 kilometre Ad Daw adimi Ad Daw adimi 200

Contour line

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In conclusion, to be effective, modifications in farming practices must be implemented as rapidly as possible and result in at least a 30% reduction in agricultural abstraction. 5.3.3 Simulation of “reasonable” groundwater exploitation conditions

Scenario 11 aims at determining the conditions of “reasonable exploitation” in each aquifer and each abstracted area. The simulations consist in a dynamic optimization of the discharge rate in each tapped borehole so as to avoid the dynamic drawdown or dynamic water-table depth exceeding 200 m, 250 m or 300 m in wells. The first limitation factor, based on a “cut-off drawdown” below the 1960 natural water-table, aims at limiting the water-quality degradation resulting from an excessive water-table decline. The second limitation factor, based on “cut-off depth” below ground level, aims at avoiding a progressive diminution in pumping efficiency leading to a final closure of operation of an increasing number of wells where the maximum pumping head would be exceeded. Together with the additional constraint that a “reasonable exploitation” should ensure compliance over the next 50 years between the total groundwater demand and the aquifer production, the results of the different simulations lead to recommend preventive reductions in agricultural abstraction for the 15 most irrigated areas delineated on Figure 55.

34° 32°

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Al Quray y at Al Quray at Al Quray y at Al Quray at Al Quray y at Al Quray y at

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Busayta area Tabuk northern area

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Sakakah area

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Busayta eastern area

Sakakah Sakakah Sakakah Sakakah Dawmat-al-Jandal Dawmat-al-Jandal Dawmat-al-Jandal Dawmat-al-Jandal Dawmat-al-Jandal Dawmat-al-Jandal

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Tabuk Tabuk Tabuk Tabuk Tabuk Tabuk

Tabuk southern area

Jubbah Jubbah Jubbah Jubbah Tay ma Tay Tay ma Tay Tay ma Tay ma

Hai'l area Baq'a Baq'a Baq'a Baq'a Baq'a Baq'a Hai'l southern area Qibah Qibah Qibah Qibah

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Ha'il Ha'il Ha'il Ha'il Ha'il Ha'il

Al ula area

Main cities 26°
Irrigated areas Irrigated areas Irrigated areas Irrigated areas Irrigated areas Irrigated areas inv entoried in 2005 inv in 2005 inv entoried in 2005 inv in 2005 inv entoried in 2005 inv entoried in 2005

AL Ula AL Ula AL Ula AL Ula AL Ula AL Ula Qassim central area Qassim southern area 0 50 100 kilometre
Limits of most affected areas

Qassim northern area Buray dah dah Buray dah dah Buray dah Buray dah Unay zah Unay zah Unay zah Unay zah Unay zah Unay zah

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Sajir Sajir Sajir Sajir Sajir Sajir

Boundary of the Saq study area M odel e xte nt 24° 34° 36° 38°

200 Riyadh area Ad Dawadimi Ad Dawadimi Ad Dawadimi Ad Dawadimi Ad Dawadimi Ad Dawadimi

24° 40° 42° 44° 46°

Figure 55. Irrigated areas within the Saq study area and limits of the most affected areas Figure 56 compares the main simulated results obtained for the Qassim central area with a 50% reduction in agricultural demand and those obtained with no reduction (Baseline scenario). Both simulations respect a 250 m dynamic drawdown cut-off in the wells. The black dotted line represents the steadily increasing domestic water demand (DWS) and the horizontal dashed line corresponds to constant agricultural demand at the 2005 rate. The thick black line
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represents total demand with the baseline scenario, which is the sum of the two previous components. The dashed line parallel to it shows total demand with a 50% reduction in agricultural demand from 2010 onwards.
Qassim central area - Aquifer production vs. demand for a max. 250 m drawdown in wells
2500

Demand and aquifer production rates (Mm3/a)

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Reduction in agricultural demand from 2010 onwards

Total dem and w ith 50% reduction in agricultural dem and

Total dem and for the baseline scenario

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0% 2005 Agricultural dem and

1000

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500
DWS dem and Baseline scenario

- 50 %

0 2005 2015 2025 2035 2045 2055

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Figure 56. Qassim central area – Baseline scenario and agricultural abstraction reduced by 50% The blue and red lines show the temporal evolution of the yield released by the Saq aquifer to comply with a 250 m maximum dynamic drawdown below the natural water-table in the wells, with and without reduction in agricultural demand. The left black circle shows that the Saq aquifer production (red line) closely matches total demand (black line) in 2005 and up to 2015 for the Baseline scenario. This reflects the fact that the 2005 dynamic drawdown was less than 250 m in the wells of the Qassim central area. However, the black and red curves progressively draw apart because total demand will steadily increase whilst the Saq aquifer production will decrease in order to respect the dynamic drawdown cut-off condition fixed at 250 m. The other black circle shows that with a 50% reduction in agricultural demand the yield released by the Saq aquifer matches total demand up to 2031. The yellow area corresponds to the volume of groundwater that will not be immediately abstracted from the Saq aquifer with a 50% reduction in agricultural demand occurring in 2010. This saved volume will nevertheless be released later on by the Saq aquifer –this is indicated by the blue area, whose size is equal to that of the yellow area and which shows that the release will occur gradually from 2037 to later than 2105. The blue circles mark the intersections of the DWS demand with the yield provided by the Saq aquifer: • With the Baseline scenario and a maximum dynamic drawdown of 250 m in the wells, the Saq aquifer production will equal the DWS demand by the year 2065. After this date, due to the very important depletion caused by excessive agricultural abstraction over several decades, the Saq aquifer will not be able to produce the groundwater yield required by the DWS demand and simultaneously comply with a maximum 250 m dynamic drawdown in the wells. In concrete terms, even a progressive reduction in agricultural abstraction starting in

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2015 and leading to a total stoppage by 2065 will not avoid the dynamic level in the wells falling beyond 250 m below the natural water-table after 2065. • With 50% and 75% reductions in agricultural demand, the critical date is postponed to 2073 and 2081 respectively (Figure 57). This confirms the point that groundwater sustainability in the Qassim central area cannot significantly be prolonged without a drastic reduction in agricultural demand. • Postponing the date when the Saq aquifer production equals the DWS demand implies that part of the groundwater reserves saved by a reduction in agricultural abstraction will be used for DWS abstraction rather than for irrigation. In other words, in the conflict of interests between irrigation and DWS, the latter will be advantaged by a reduction of agricultural abstraction. Figure 57 synthesizes the results obtained in the Qassim central area with 0%, 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% reductions in agricultural abstraction.
Qassim central area - Aquifer production vs. demand for a max. 250 m drawdown in wells
2500

Demand and aquifer production rates (Mm3/a)

2000

Reduction in agricultural demand from 2010 onwards

Total dem and for the baseline scenario

1500

0%

2005 Agricultural dem and

1000

- 25 % DWS dem and - 50 %

500
- 75 % - 100 %

0 2005 2015 2025 2035 2045 2055 2065 2075 2085 2095 2105

Figure 57. Qassim central area – Baseline scenario and reduced agricultural abstraction scenarios Groundwater abstraction sustainability can be defined as the length of time during which total demand does not exceed aquifer production. On Figure 57 this equality is reflected by the parallel curves of total-demand curve (full black line) and simulated aquifer-production for the five agricultural-demand scenarios (coloured lines). As the risk of radionuclides contamination seems to correlate with the water-table drawdown, we strongly advise that dynamic drawdown does not exceed 250 m below the initial natural condition. In fact, until the reasons for radioactive groundwater contamination are clarified, it would even be preferable not to exceed a 200 m dynamic drawdown cut-off in the wells. Furthermore, we suggest considering a 50-year duration as a minimum for groundwater abstraction sustainability. To respect these recommendations requires a reduction in agricultural abstraction that can ensure compliance up to 2055 in terms of total demand and aquifer production for a maximum 250 m, and preferably 200 m, dynamic drawdown in the wells.

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A practical guideline for defining a suitable percentage reduction in agricultural demand consists in using graphs like Figure 57 for identifying the minimum reduction ratio for which the coloured line remains parallel to the full black line up to at least 2055. For the Qassim central area, this ratio is 75%. A similar analysis for the different irrigated areas delimited on Figure 55 leads to the requirements listed in Table 15 where: • The two left-hand columns of figures indicate the percentages of immediate reduction in agricultural demand that are required to avoid the maximum dynamic drawdown in wells exceeding 200 m (left column) or 250 m (left central column) below the initial natural watertable. • The third column of figures gives the reduction ratios for a maximum 300 m cut-off depth below ground level. • The right-hand column indicates the recommended percentage reduction in agricultural abstraction, deriving from the three previous columns.

Table 15. Immediate reduction required in agricultural groundwater demand to ensure a reasonable use of groundwater resources Immediate reduction required in agricultural abstraction vs. various cut-off criteria on dynamic water-table in pumping wells Maximum dynamic drawdown below the natural water-table = 200 m Riyadh area Qassim southern area Qassim central area Qassim northern area Hai’l southern area Hai’l area Al Ula Tabuk southern area Tabuk northern area Busayta area Busayta eastern area Tubarjal area Al Qurayyat area Dawmat-al-Jandal area Sakakah area 60% 65% 100% 85% 50% 15% 50% 50% 40% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% = 250 m 25% 25% 75% 60% 25% 0% 25% 10% 10% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% Recommended Maximum percentage dynamic water reduction in table depth below agricultural the ground level abstraction = 300 m 65% 15% 50% 45% 35% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 50% 50% 75% 75% 50% 25% 50% 50% 50% 25% 25% 25% 25% 25% 25%

Irrigated area (see location on Figure 55)

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6 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
6.1
6.1.1

Conclusions
On the water use

The present-day groundwater abstractions in the Saq study area are evaluated at about 8740 Mm3/a. By far the largest share of these abstractions is used for irrigation. The abstractions for domestic water supply and industrial use represent together less than 4% of the total groundwater use. Starting from 1980 the irrigated area increased rapidly to reach a peak with 776,000 ha in 1992, 80% of this area being grown with cereals and 10% with fodder. From 1992 to 1997 the total irrigated area was reduced significantly due to a 50% reduction in area grown by cereals, even though the irrigated area of other crops continued to expand. Since 1997 the area grown with cereals expands again, like for the other crops, to reach a total area under irrigation of 736,000 ha in 2003, the shares of cereals and fodder being respectively 66% and 18%. The total agricultural water consumption followed a slightly different pattern. Even though the total irrigated area in 2003 is 5% lower than in 1992 the overall water consumption has increased by 7% to reach 8430 Mm3/a. This increase is due to the fact that the irrigation water requirement per hectare for cereals (about 8,000 m3/ha/a) is much less than for fodder (about 21,500 m3/ha/a). At present cereals and fodder represent respectively 47% and 33% of the agricultural water consumption in Saq study area. The groundwater abstraction is unevenly distributed. Qassim province accounts for 32.0% of the total abstractions in the Saq study area, Al Jawf province for 22.3%, followed by Ha’il, Riyadh and Tabuk provinces with respectively 17.6%, 14.6% and 12.0%. Parts of Madinah and Northern Border provinces located within Saq study area represent together only 1.5% of the total water abstraction. In general the irrigation practices are fairly efficient, with most small-scale farms watering the crops at rates below the optimum irrigation water requirements.

6.1.2

On the aquifers

The water resources of the Saq aquifer system are abstracted from eight superimposed aquifers which are, from bottom to top: Saq, Kahfah, Quwarah-Sarah, Tawil, Jauf, Jubah, Khuff, and STQ (Secondary-Tertiary-Quaternary) aquifers. The STQ combines several aquifers that are important groundwater reservoirs outside the Saq study area but that are only discontinuously present within the Saq study area. The Saq aquifer, the deepest one, is the only one to be present all over the study area. The extension of the overlying aquifers decreases when moving upward from the Saq to the Khuff aquifer. As a result, the aquifers that are predominantly exploited in a particular area will vary from one region to another. The two main aquifers exploited are Saq and Tawil, representing respectively 65% and 10% of the groundwater abstractions in the Saq study area. Saq aquifer is the main exploited aquifer in the southern and western parts of the study area whereas Tawil aquifer is the main exploited aquifer in the North. The deep aquifers of Saq study area were mainly replenished during periods with a more humid climate, thousands of years ago. Under the present climate natural groundwater recharge is

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limited. Estimates of the renewable water resource in Saq study area vary between 950 and 1100 Mm3/a. This volume equals an average rainfall infiltration of about 3 mm/a over the entire Saq study area. According to these values the groundwater recharge compensates only about 12% of the total annual groundwater abstractions. Thus, 88% of the present abstractions represent groundwater mining.

6.1.3

On the water levels

Groundwater levels of all aquifers in the Saq study area are declining where they are exploited, but not everywhere to the same degree. The steepest decline of water levels is observed in the Saq aquifer. Since the start of largescale groundwater abstractions some 30 years ago, water levels in Qassim region have dropped more than 100 m in a broad zone, 350 km long and up to 100 km wide, stretching from Sajir in the South till Baq’a in the North. In a 1000 km² area N and E of Burayda and in a small pocket E of Ad Dawadimi the waterlevel decline exceeds 175 m with a maximum value of 215 m. In Tabuk area the observed waterlevel decline in an area 75 km long and 25 km wide is between 100 and 135 m. These two very large cones of depression continue to expand. In Tawil aquifer the steepest decline is observed in Busayta and Dawmat al Jandal areas. Since large-scale groundwater abstractions started only at the end of the eighties the decline is still less than 40 m in most of these areas except for some small pockets. In the lesser exploited aquifers steep declines can also be observed. In Kahfah aquifer groundwater levels have dropped more than 90 m near Tabuk and more than 120 m in central Qassim area. These drops in water level result partly from the adjustment to falling pressures in the underlying Saq aquifer. In Jauf and Jubah aquifers a water level decline between 30 and 45 m has occurred in comparatively small areas in Busayta and Sakaka areas for the former and only in Sakaka area for the latter. Khuff aquifer shows moderately declining levels in a large area in eastern Qassim. Steep decline of water levels of more than 100 m has been observed in pockets N and S of Sajir. In the overlying aquifers of Secondary, Tertiary and Quaternary age (STQ complex) important declines occur locally. The existing water supply wells are affected by the declining water levels. In 50% of the water supply wells tapping Saq aquifer the water-table decline over the past 30 years exceeds 73 m. For 10% of these wells, the decline exceeds even 185 m and the maximum simulated watertable decline reaches 200 m. In only about 10% of water-supply wells tapping the Saq aquifer, the regional water-level decline is less than 10 m. The most influenced wells are located in the Qassim and Ha’il regions where water abstraction for agriculture historically is the oldest and most important within the study area.

6.1.4

On the groundwater quality

The most important aquifers from a quantitative point of view, Saq and Tawil, are also the aquifers which show in most areas the lowest salinity levels. In the unconfined part of the Saq aquifer in Qassim region TDS generally ranges from 1,200 to 5,000 mg/l. However, the TDS decreases towards the confined part of the aquifer located to the northeast, where it ranges from 500 to 1,200 mg/l. TDS values can even reach values below 500 mg/l, such as in the Sarir and Baq’a sectors. Considering groundwater flow direction and average velocity it can be concluded that this deeper groundwater in the confined part of the aquifer, showing lower TDS values, has
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infiltrated under climatic conditions different from those presently prevailing. These climatic conditions were characterized by higher rainfall and lower evaporation losses of runoff water leading to lower salinity of recharge waters. In the Tabuk region most of the sampled wells tapping Saq aquifer show TDS less than 1,200 mg/l or even less than 500 mg/l. In the Tayma sector, the majority of the wells tapping the Saq aquifer show a TDS below 500 mg/l. The TDS values of aquifers overlying the Saq mainly range from 1,200 to 5,000 mg/l. In Tabuk region, wells drilled down to the Kahfah formation show a TDS ranging from 500 to 5,000 mg/l. In the northern part of the study area, in the Jubah, Jauf and STQ aquifers, the TDS values range from 500 to 1200 mg/l. Wells tapping the Tawil aquifer generally show a TDS less than 500 mg/l. Neogene deposits in Wadi Sirhan show TDS values between 1,200 and 5,000 mg/l. As far as major ions and trace elements are concerned, no significant changes in groundwater quality have been identified since 1985 despite the strong rise in groundwater abstractions. In parts of Qassim area witnessing a steep groundwater decline, about 20% of the wells show evidence of mixing of good quality water of Saq aquifer with poor quality water of the overlying Kahfah aquifer. This phenomenon most likely reflects the mixing of water in wells tapping both aquifers rather than transfer of water between the two aquifers. High levels of radioelements are limited to the western and central part of the study area. Among the different radioactive isotopes analysed, radon (Rn-222) does not form a major constraint for groundwater use if the water is used after degassing of radon. Uranium levels exceeding the WHO guidance level of 15 µg/l were found in wells tapping unconfined parts of the Saq aquifer in the Qassim and Tabuk regions, and in alluvium in contact with the Arabian Shield rocks. Uranium levels below the guidance value were also encountered in unconfined parts of Kahfah aquifer and in Wadi Sirhan and the Sakakah region. The most common radioelements are the radium isotopes Ra-226 and Ra-228. Levels exceeding the guidance value are only encountered in confined parts of some aquifers. High Ra-226 values are found in the Saq and Kahfah aquifers in parts of the Qassim and Tabuk regions. High Ra-228 values are even more widespread and occur in the Saq and Kahfah aquifers in the Qassim, Ha’il, Tayma and Tabuk regions. A few wells tapping the Quwarah, Tawil, Jauf and Jubah aquifers also show a presence of Ra-228. Since the presence of radioelements in groundwater depends on a specific combination of geological, hydrogeological conditions as well as the well-design, the measured concentrations may vary considerably among wells tapping the same aquifer in the same area. Radioelements present in groundwater may originate from the basement rock, from shale layers like the Hanadir and Ra’an members in the Qasim Formation, but also from specific horizons rich in radionuclides within the Saq and Kahfah sandstones or within phosphates bearing formations. Even though the mechanisms of radionuclide mobilization need further study, a steep waterlevel decline seems to induce a gradual radionuclide contamination of several aquifers, including the Saq, ultimately rendering the groundwater unfit for both human consumption and agricultural use. It can be noted that the strongest total radium contents are found in highly depleted areas where groundwater abstraction started long ago, supporting the hypothesis that radioelements contents encountered in groundwater most probably increase when drawdowns increase. As such groundwater quality deterioration is mostly irreversible, it is imperative to drastically reduce abstraction in the main agricultural areas so as to avoid any steep decline of the groundwater levels resulting in critical groundwater quality deterioration.

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6.1.5

On the exploitable reserves

Considering the existing imbalance between abstractions and recharge it is only a matter of time before the exploitable groundwater resources in Saq will be exhausted. Even though the volume of water stored in the underground of the Saq study area is tremendous, for technical and economic reasons, only a small part of the water stored in an underground reservoir can be abstracted by drilling and pumping. Water wells are rarely more than 2000 m deep and the lift capacity of pumps generally does not allow to abstract water below a dynamic water level of about 300 mbgl. As a result, the major share of the abstractable reserves is limited to the top of the aquifers, in the outcrops and the adjacent confined areas. Model calculations show that at present 25% of the total volume of groundwater reserves of Saq aquifer, exploitable under acceptable economic conditions, has already been utilised. For Tawil aquifer this percentage is 4%. In case of continued pumping the groundwater reserve of Saq aquifer will have been exploited for 62% within 50 years from now. However, the actual situation is more critical because existing groundwater abstractions are unevenly distributed over the Saq study area. When considering the exploitable reserves in those areas where groundwater is presently being abstracted the reserves will have been utilised for about 71% in 2055. Model simulations show that under such conditions the required discharges can no longer be met, resulting in a severe water crisis disrupting irrigation and urban water supply.

6.1.6

On future trends

Because of its extraordinary size, the Saq aquifer system has enormous spatial and temporal inertia. As a result, significant changes in groundwater abstraction affect the aquifers for decades over tens or even hundreds of kilometres. If all agricultural abstraction would be stopped, the water levels would continue to decline significantly over the next 10 years in large parts of the area where the aquifer is unconfined, whereas they would rise significantly, though without returning to initial levels, in areas where the aquifer is confined. These evolutions would be the result of hydraulic exchanges between zones with different drawdowns, groundwater flowing horizontally from less depleted zones to more depleted zones and vertically from less depleted aquifer to more depleted aquifer. In case of a continuation of agricultural abstraction at present-day rates and a steady annual 2.46% increase in domestic and industrial abstraction the resulting drawdowns are between 50 and 150 m in the Saq and Kahfah aquifers over the next 50 years. These drawdowns will be in addition to those already observed in the aquifers since 1960, which were 135 m in the Tabuk area and up to 215 m in the Qassim region. The cumulative drawdowns in the Saq and Kahfah aquifers between 1960 and 2055 could therefore exceed 300 m in the Qassim region. Of the present water supply wells tapping Saq aquifer 52% will be out of operation because static water level will have dropped beyond the standard operating conditions of pumps. These very high drawdowns are, however, very unlikely to occur because many agricultural pumps will cease to function before these high drawdowns are reached. Assuming a cut-off depth of 250 m, the current agricultural abstraction rates can be maintained almost constant until 2025, but after this date they will decrease steadily. For the total agricultural abstraction from the entire Saq aquifer system, the volumes pumped annually will decline by approximately the following proportions: -10% in 2037, -20% in 2049, -25% in 2055.
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In the Riyadh, Al Qassim and Hai'l provinces where drawdowns are already high, the volumes pumped annually will decrease more rapidly, with reductions of around -10% every 7 years, beginning in 2015 for the province of Riyadh and in 2025 for the provinces of Al Qassim and d’Hai’l. On the other hand, the drops in discharge will be less pronounced in the Tabuk area, where the decrease should not exceed 4% by 2055. These predictions do not take into account any new well field projects. In the Tawil aquifer, heavily pumped for irrigation of large agricultural perimeters in Busayta, the water level will also drop between 40 and 100 m, depending on the area, during the next 50 years. This decline will add to the 10 to 40 m already observed from 1960 to 2005 but the Tawil aquifer should not be affected by a reduction of agricultural abstraction before 2055. We must, however, be cautious on this point because the formations overlying the Tawil aquifer are far from homogeneous and we cannot rule out the existence of low permeability layers acting as impervious barriers that would lead the exploitable pumping rates in the Tawil aquifer to decrease faster than simulated by the model. In order to reduce the negative impact of declining groundwater levels on water supply wells the effectiveness of protection zones around such wells has been evaluated. In case protection zones are created around water supply wells they need to have a minimum radius of 4 km to become effective and all the neighbouring wells have to promptly and simultaneously participate in such protective measures. Assuming a 50% reduction of abstractions within such protection zones they would induce a 6.8% reduction in the total agricultural abstraction from the entire project area. In case such protection perimeters would be installed the percentage of existing water supply wells tapping Saq aquifer that would be put out of production between now and the year 2055, due to falling water levels, would be limited to 36%, compared to 52% in case no protection zones would be installed. Multi-criteria analysis considering required drilling depth, projected depth to water table and saturated thickness in 2055 was used to identify the most favourable zones for the siting of new well fields. This approach shows that potentially favourable sites do exist but they are not numerous. They should consequently be preserved as soon as possible. To validate the suitability of these sites, however, in-situ investigations are essential. Optimum areas for siting of new wellfields can be found for the Saq aquifer in small pockets NW and SE of Tabuk, a large area S and SE of Tayma, S and SW of Jubah, and small pockets near Baq’a and in the western part of Qassim region. For Tawil aquifer optimum areas are located SW of Dawmat al Jandal and below the southern and eastern limit of the Nafud desert. In case of a 50% reduction in agricultural abstraction between 2012 and 2022 the waterlevels in Saq and Tawil aquifers would still continue to decline, but at a much lesser rate than in case of continued pumping at the present rate. Likewise, different changes in cropping pattern have been evaluated on their impact on declining water levels. The positive impact of these scenarios is directly correlated to the reduction in pumping rates they induce. Implementing the changes in cropping pattern as planned by the MoA (scenario 8-4) results in a reduction of irrigation abstractions of 41%. This would reduce the additional drawdown in Saq aquifer in 2055 in Qassim region from 155 to 85 m. The percentage of water supply wells tapping Saq aquifer that would be put out of production due to falling water tables would be 26%, instead of 52% in case of continuing at present pumping rates. In case of continued pumping at present rates the theoretical exploitable reserves of Saq and Tawil aquifers will have been utilised for respectively 41% and 8% by the year 2055. However, under acceptable economic conditions the volume of exploitable reserves will be much lower. It is estimated that respectively 82% and 16% of the actual exploitable reserves of Saq and Tawil aquifer will have been utilised by the year 2055.

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6.2
6.2.1

Recommendations
To enhance the life-time of water supply infrastructures

Based on the conclusions of the Saq project a number of recommendations can be formulated: Although agricultural abstraction is concentrated mostly around Qassim, Tabuk, Al Busayta and Dawmat-al-Jandal, its magnitude is such that the drawdowns extend over tens of kilometres, already affect a large part of the Saq and Kahfah aquifers, and will eventually spread to the entire project area. It is therefore urgent to prepare for the future: by regulating pumping around existing domestic water wells and by installing protection areas in which the number of private wells would ultimately decrease, and by declaring a ban on private wells in protection zones formed by the favourable sectors for the siting of future well fields for the drinking water supply of urban areas, listed in the previous section.

In order to increase the life-time of urban water supply projects the design of new wells to be drilled in areas most affected by declining water levels should enable the installation of pumps at greater depth and budgets should be adjusted to include high-lift pumps. Deepening of irrigation wells should be disencouraged as should be the use of high-lift pumps for agricultural purposes. In critical areas like Qassim and Riyadh regions water supply from desalination can be envisaged to reduce the pressure on aquifers in the most affected areas. Desalination may also be an option for isolated water deficient areas like Turayf, although transfer of groundwater from adjacent regions can be an alternative. The area of greater Burayda is one of such critical areas for which supply from desalination plants may be enhanced in absence of reduction of agricultural water demand. From a quantitative point of view desalination is not required within a visible time-span for Tabuk and Al Jawf regions.

6.2.2

To achieve reductions in groundwater abstractions

Unless important reductions in groundwater abstractions are realised, the water supply wells and wellfields will be severely affected by declining water levels. The effects will become visible within 15 years and 52% of presently existing water supply wells tapping Saq aquifer and 18% of the wells tapping other aquifers will have been put out of operation in 2055. Since agricultural abstractions represent 96% of the total abstractions the major share of required reductions in groundwater abstractions have to come from changing irrigation practices. To maintain the existing urban water supply wells operational up to a 50 year horizon modifications in farming practices must be implemented as rapidly as possible and result in at least a 30% reduction in agricultural abstractions at the scale of Saq study area. The results of the different simulations undertaken to determine the conditions of “reasonable exploitation” in each aquifer and each abstracted area lead to recommend the following preventive reductions in agricultural abstraction for the 15 most irrigated areas (see Figure 55): • In the two most affected areas, the Qassim central and northern areas, very drastic reductions in agricultural demand (around 75%) are immediately required to avoid further steep groundwater decline along with increased water quality degradation. • In six other areas (i.e. the Riyadh, Qassim southern, Hai’l southern, Al Ula, Tabuk southern and Tabuk northern areas), the 10 to 25% required reduction in agricultural demand to match a 250 m dynamic drawdown is probably easily attainable.
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Nevertheless, higher percentages of reduction, up to 50%, would be preferable to reduce further increase of the groundwater radioactive contamination. • The situation is not so critical in other agricultural areas and a 10% reduction in agricultural demand should allow a 250 m dynamic cut-off drawdown to be met. However, higher percentages of reduction-around 25%-would be preferable to improve groundwater sustainability and limit water-quality degradation. The changes in cropping pattern projected by the MoA up to the year 2020 will enable this reduction at the scale of the Saq study area (41% reduction). However, this plan can not avoid serious decline in Qassim and Riyadh regions. To illustrate the order of magnitude of required reductions, stopping the irrigation of all fodder within Saq study area would nearly provide the minimum required reduction in abstractions (29%). Stopping the irrigation of all wheat in Saq study area would be more beneficial with a reduction of 48% of the total level of abstractions. Reduction of agricultural abstractions should concentrate on Saq and Tawil aquifers which are, because of their potential and of their good water quality, the most strategic aquifers for the water supply. Even though the general practice is to water crops at rates below the optimum irrigation water requirements, reduction in agricultural abstractions can be achieved by improvements in irrigation practices, equipment and efficiency. To implement plans aiming to achieve reduction in irrigation abstractions proper monitoring is required. The installation of water meters would positively contribute to the effectiveness of any water economy measures. However, improvements in irrigation efficiency alone are not sufficient to ensure the sustainability of the water supply infrastructure beyond a 50 year horizon. Reduction of the number of irrigation wells remains a necessity. Other water conservation measures should be taken as well, even though such measures on their own will not be sufficient to achieve the required reduction in groundwater abstractions. A positive measure will be the promotion of waste-water re-use in all cities. A possible application is the watering of green areas in cities but some types of agriculture are also suited for reuse of treated waste water. To reduce the pressure on aquifers artificial groundwater recharge is being implemented in a number of countries. Unfortunately, given the generally unfavourable topographic (flat), climatic (low rainfall, high evaporation) and hydrogeological conditions (deep groundwater table) for artificial groundwater recharge of the aquifers within the Saq study area, such measures can not have a significant impact on the water balance of the aquifer system where tremendous volumes of groundwater are being exploited. Nevertheless, artificial recharge can be beneficial in areas with shallow aquifers and limited water demand. Such conditions are more likely to be encountered in the Arabian Shield. From a general point of view specific regulations have to be developed to preserve water and locally ensure a balanced use of the groundwater resources. As an example, Annex 1 provides an overview of the legal instruments that have been set if France to ensure a sustainable use of groundwater. Such instruments have mainly led to a shared use of groundwater by allotting each user (mainly manufacturers, farmers and municipalities in charge of drinking-water supply) a maximum authorized bulk volume to abstract.

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6.2.3

To improve the quality of available water

The design and then completion of newly and future drilled private wells should be checked to avoid tapping of multiple aquifers that is a cause for mixing of waters of fresh and brackish aquifers, and that partially explains the groundwater radioactive contamination. The installation of no-return valves in irrigation wells can help to avoid pollution of wells by backflush water rich in fertilizer or pesticides. To reduce the risk of contamination by radioelements before drilling of water-supply wells the risk of contamination should be analysed. Different groundwater zones can be identified with respect to the risk of radioelement contamination: Aquifers already showing radioelement levels exceeding the guideline values; Aquifers where radioelements are below the guideline values, but which have witnessed a sharp decline in groundwater levels; Aquifers where radioelements are below the guideline values and little or no decline of groundwater levels has occurred.

Drilling should be avoided, whenever possible, in zones with increased risk. Until the exact mechanisms for the mobilisation of radioelements in groundwaters are understood the welldesign should make provisions for plain casing and cementation of all shale layers as well as the major shale beds within aquifers crossed. In addition, the casing should expand several meters into the aquifers. A strategic study on the presence and mobilisation of radioelements in groundwaters should be conducted as soon as possible because of the critical impacts of such a contamination. This study should classify the area and aquifers according to the risk for radioactive contamination, contribute to the understanding of the mechanisms of mobilisation of radioelements and provide drilling and well-design recommendations that reduce the concentration of radioelements in pumped water. Measures should also be taken to reduce the local water-table decline caused by a well-field. The design of the wells and the spacing of the wells should be optimised to minimize the drawdown. Adequate water treatment should be included in water supply projects in areas with high level of radioelements. Safe disposal of the dry waste of the treatment plant should be part of the project planning. In areas severely affected by the presence of radioelements desalination and transfer of seawater can provide an alternative to groundwater supply but cost-effectiveness should be compared to local treatment of contaminated groundwater.

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References
BRGM, BRL (1985). Water, agriculture and soil studies of Saq and overlying aquifers, Final report: -Volume 2: Water studies. Lloyd, J.W. (2003). Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Assessment of the current water resources management situation. Phase I – Volume 1: main report. Annex A: hydrogeology and groundwater resources. Water Sector Strategy and Action Plan. Parsons Basil (1968). Agricultural and water resources. The great Nafud sedimentary basin, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Ministry of Agriculture and Water. Sharaf, M.A. & Hussein, M.T. (1996) - Groundwater Quality in the Saq Aquifer, Saudi Arabia Hydrological Sciences – Journal des Sciences Hydrologiques, 41 (5) October 1996, pp.683696.

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Annex 1 Legal instruments to ensure a sustainable use of groundwater resources in France

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Groundwater abstractions in France: Legal instruments to ensure a sustainable use of groundwater resources

Each year, some 34 billion m3 of fresh water are abstracted in France to meet the needs of human activities (drinking-water supply, industry, agriculture, energy). Excluding the energy sector that accounts for 19 billion m3 alone, mainly drawn from rivers, the proportion of water abstracted from aquifers is 44%. This overall figure seems very low in comparison with the 100 billion m3 of recharge into aquifers each year. However, the breakdown of this figure varies not only by sector but also between regions. For some aquifers, the rate of abstraction is so high that their water table has declined steadily for many years. Therefore, legal instruments have been set to preserve groundwater and locally ensure a balanced use of this vulnerable resource. Such instruments have mainly led to a shared use of groundwater by allotting each user (mainly manufacturers, farmers and municipalities in charge of drinking-water supply) a maximum authorized bulk volume to abstract. The main available legal instruments are the European Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC (WFD), the 2006 French water law (2006-1772) and law n°64-1245 related to water distribution and the fight against pollution. The content of these texts and the support they bring to the quantitative management of groundwater are summarized hereafter.

1. THE 1964 FRENCH LAW
The French system for water management was created in 1964 with the publication of law 641245 on “water schemes and distribution and the fight against pollution”. The four main items of this law, which have inspired the European WFD, are as follows: • Establishing taxes for water damage (abstraction and input); • Grants for cleanup works; • Creation of six Water Agencies responsible for collecting taxes and sharing grants; • Creation of six Basin Committees made up of different bodies, among which water users and local elected representatives. These committees are associated to any decision about water policy. Each year they receive a presentation of all the actions planned by the Water Agency (fighting pollution, managing water resources, etc.). Today, this consultation concept still continues and is even reinforced by the WFD, which requires Member States to inform and involve the public in any actions taken to monitor and preserve water resources (including groundwater). The main originality of this law is its geographic scale. Water management is conducted taking the river catchment limits into account and not administrative limits. The recent water law has modified and completed this law. Further details are given below.

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2. THE FRENCH WATER LAW AND ITS LOCAL IMPLEMENTATION
The first water law was published in 1992 to complete the 1964 text. At the end of 2006 this law was revised, to take, among others, the WFD requirements into account. The new law (n°20061772) has reinforced existing rules for groundwater management and set up new measures for ensuring a balanced and fair use of waters (including groundwater). The main measures this law contains are as follows: • Promoting a collective management of groundwater abstracted for agricultural needs by delineating limits in which abstraction authorizations are delivered to one single body representing all users; • Requiring taxes from the persons or bodies using groundwater. Such taxes exist since 1964, but the recent water law has simplified the procedure and ensures a fairer distribution. Taxes are calculated taking the following factors into account: o the use of the groundwater (drinking-water supply, industry, agriculture or power-plant cooling); o the state of resource (is the present use of the resource sustainable or not?); • Fixing priorities in terms of usage (drinking-water supply, industry, agriculture or powerplant cooling) and defining for each aquifer the authorized bulk to be abstracted for each use; • Making the installation of water meters mandatory; • Creating safeguard perimeters for quality and quantity.

In the field of groundwater abstraction and management, this law reinforces the principle of declaration/authorization. Whatever the use of the groundwater (drinking-water supply, industry, agriculture, power-plant cooling) and even if no particular stress has been observed, two types of common rules are defined: • Rules for characterizing the abstraction: the conditions, the functioning (place, volume to be abstracted to ensure a long-term use of the resource, pumping periods) must be described and are submitted for authorization by the administration; • Rules for monitoring the abstraction and for how the data must be organized and delivered: obligation of having a water meter, definition of the terms of maintenance, data recording, data flow to the authorities.

In 1994, because some water resources were regularly facing important droughts during the low-water seasons, specific rules were drawn up for some waters presenting “water stress”. A decree was published to declare a list of surface-water catchments as “Zone de repartition des eaux” – ZRE (Area of water sharing). In 2003, this decree was updated and extended to groundwaters, and a list of aquifers suffering a significant water-table decline was defined. These aquifers are shown on the following map (see Figure 1).

In aquifers classified as “ZRE”, not only the declaration thresholds but also the authorized abstraction volumes were reduced. Bulk volumes are defined for each user.

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3. ANOTHER

TOOL

FOR

THE

SEASONAL

MANAGEMENT

OF

GROUNDWATERS:

DROUGHT ORDERS

The texts quoted above mainly deal with the long-term management of groundwater. But since the 2003 droughts, the Ministry has taken some measures for ensuring a seasonal management of water resources. Local representatives are therefore required to take measures in case a water table declines below an “alarm threshold”, which was previously defined using existing long-term data and knowledge about the relationships between groundwaters and surface waters. Depending on how far this threshold is exceeded, several types of measures are taken and several users are concerned, from the private use of water for swimming pools or golf watering, to industrial and commercial activities. Such measures, however, are not applicable for drinking-water supply.

Carboniferous limestone aquifer of the Lille-Roubaix-Tourcoing area Confined parts of the Albian and Neocomian Part of the confined Lower Triassic sandstones aquifer

Bajocian and Bathonian limestones aquifer

Lutetian limestones and sandstones aquifer of Noirmoutiers Island Unconfined and confined parts of the Cenomanian aquifer

South Dijon aquifer

Deep aquifers of the Eocene, Oligocene, and Cretaceous

Pliocene aquifer of the Roussillon area All Reunion Island aquifers

Figure 58: French aquifers classified as “ZRE” in 2003, i.e. requiring lower abstraction volumes and a better management of the different uses (French Ministry for the Ecology and the Sustainable Development)

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Annex 2 Plates

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Plate 1. Location map of the Saq study area
36° 32° 40° 44° 32°
"
AL QURAYYAT

38°

42°

§
30°
"
Tabuk
TABUK

Northern Border " ARAR

ad W
Al Jawf

Enlarged area

iS i rh an
"
SAKAKA

30°

Legend
" #
Hail Major town Minor town Road

28°
#

#
TAYMA

BAQ'A

28°

An Nefud (sand dunes) Province (Min. of Planning) Limit of Saq study area

"

HA'IL

Al Madinah # AL'ULA

Al Qassim

"

BURAYDAH UNAYZAH

26°

d Wa

r iA

Ru

h ma

"

26°
SAJIR

#

Riyadh

0

50

100 Kilometres

200

"

AD DUWADIMI

36° 24°

38°

40°

42°

44° 24°

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Plate 2. Geological map of the Saq study area
36° 32° 38° 40° 42° 44° 32°
Ttm Tsh TQb Ttj

Legend
Qs, Sabkhah deposits Qes, Sand Dune

§
30°
Dt Oss Qal

Qal, Alluvial deposit Qsg, Sand and gravel deposit Qdc, Calcareous duricrust Ql, Lacustrine deposits

Ttj Ka

TQb, Harrat Hbj, Harrat al Jadir Ttj, Jalamid Formation

Qal

30°
Ttm Dt Dj Ss Qes Sq Dt

Ttm, Mira Formation Tsh, Sirhan Formation Ka, Aruma Formation Kw, Wasia Formation BX, Zabirah bauxite Kb, Biyadh Formation Jj, Jubaila Limestone Jh, Hanifa Formation Jtw, Tuwaiq mountain limestone Jdu, Dhruma Formation

28°

Oqk Oss TQb CS Oss Qal Qdc

Qdc

28°

Jmu, Marrat Formation Trm, Minjur Formation Trj, Jilh Formation Trs, Sudair Shale TrPk, Khuff Formation Dju, Jubah Formation

OCq Oss CS

Trj

Dj, Jauf Formation Dt, Tawil Formation Ss, Sharawra Formation Sq, Qusaiba Formation

26°
Enlarged area
TrPk Oss
0 50 100 Kilometres 200

26°

Su, Uqlah Formation SOs, Zarqa Formation, Sarah Formation Oqq, Qasim Formation (Quwarah Member) Oqr, Qasim Formation (Ra'an Member) Oqk, Qasim Formation (Kahfah Member) Oqh, Qasim Formation (Hanadir Member) Oss, Saq Sandstone CS, Siq Sandstone

36°

38°

40°

42°

44°

OCq, Quweira Sandstone

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Plate 3. Lithostratigraphical and hydrogeological units of the Saq study area
SAQ Project - Geological and hydrogeological logs
AGE
Quaternary Alluvium

UNITS

Geological thickness log range (1) Layer No 26 25 < 200 m < 560 m

2006 Groundwater Model (13 layers) Hydrogeological log
Miocene to Present (sand, sandstones, basalts - shallow aquifers) Pliocene (sand dunes)

Layer no

Neogene to Quaternary

Quaternary Gravel Nafuds (Plio-Quat. eolian) Harrats (III-Quat. basalts) Continental Neogene Sandstone
Pre-Neogene unconformity

Paleogene

Mira - Umm Wu'al Formation Lina Mb. + Umm Er Radhuma Limestone / Belga Series / Jalamid Fm.
Hiatus

24

< 600 m

Neogene (alluvial and gravel deposits - aquifer) Maastrichtian to Eocene (limestones and marls - aquifer)

23

Aruma Shales & Limestones / Belga Series

< 1200 m

Late Cretaceous Pre-Aruma unconformity
Wasia Sandstone
Pre-Wasia unconformity

22

< 850 m

Early Cretaceous Biyadh Sandstone
Pre-Biyadh unconformity

Cretaceous (sandstones, shales & limestones - aquifer)

1

Hith Anhydrite

Late Jurassic

Arab Anhydrite Jubaila Limestone Hanifa Formation Tuwaiq Mountain Limestone Dhruma Formation (Limestone & Shales)
Hiatus

21

< 100 m Jurassic (limestones, shales & sandstones - aquifer) STQ (Secondary, Tertiary, Quaternary) (=CPEM of the 1985 model)

Mid Jurassic

Dhruma Formation (variable)

20

< 1700 m

Early Jurassic

Marrat Limestone and Shale
Hiatus

Minjur Sandstone

Trias (clastics - aquifer) 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 < 350 m < 450 m < 700 m < 350 m < 550 m < 1500 m < 1600 m < 1200 m < 1600 m < 1800 m < 400 m < 250 m < 450 m < 400 m Sudair Shales (major aquitard) Khuff Limestones (aquifer) Ash Shiqqah Mb. (clastics - aquitard) + Unayzah Sandstone (aquifer) + Berwath (sandstones & silts - aquitard) Jubah (sandstones - aquifer) (= JSKK of the 1985 model) Jauf Limestones & Sandstones (horizontal aquifer - vertical aquitard) Tawil Sandstones (aquifer) + Sharawra Sandstones (minor aquifer) (= TBK6 of the 1985 model) Qusaiba Shales (major aquitard) Quwarah - Sarah Sandstones (aquifer) (=TBK4 of the 1985 model) Ra'an Shales (aquitard) Kahfah Sandstones (aquifer) (=TBK2 1985) Hanadir Shales (major aquitard) Saq Sandstones (major aquifer) Infracambrian formations Precambrian Basement 5 6 4 2 3

Triassic

Jihl Limestones and Shales Sudair Shale Khuff Limestones Khuff clastics : Ash Shiqqah
Pre-Khuff unconformity

Late Permian Early Permian Carboniferous

Unayzah Sandstone
Pre-Unayzah unconformity

Berwath (sandstone & silts)
Pre-Berwath unconformity

Jubah Sandstone

Devonian

Jauf Limestones and Sandstones Tawil Sandstone
Pre-Tawil unconformity

12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Silurian

Sharawra Sandstone Qusaiba Shale Zarqa + Sarah Formation (sandstones)
Pre-glacial unconformity

Ordovician

Qasim 4 : Quwarah Sandstone Qasim 3 : Ra'an Shale Qasim 2 : Kahfah Sandstone Qasim 1 : Hanadir Shale Saq Sandstone Burj Limestone Siq Sandstone
Pre-Saq unconformity

CambroOrdovician

< 3200 m

Infra Cambrian

Pre-Cambrian

Precambrian basement

(1) The thickness range indicated in the table corresponds to the maximum thickness encountered within the project area as derived from the geological model. The formation thickness encountered at the outcrop is in most cases largely inferior to the maximum thickness found towards the centre of the sedimentary basin.

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Plate 4. Aquifers tapped by inventoried wells

32° 32°
LEGEND
formation tapped Secondary_Tertiary_Quaternary (1185) Khuff (57) Unayzah (7) Berw ath (9) Jubah (55) Jauf (149) Taw il (908) Sharaw ra (29) Quw arah_Sarah (52) Kahfah (171) Saq (2434) Basement (4)

Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat

Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar Ar'Ar

0 0

100 100 Kilometres Kilometres

200 200

30° 30°
Sakaka h Sakaka h Sakaka Sakaka h

Other features
major tow n minor tow n highw ay main road secondary road Saq study area

T ab uk T ab uk T ab uk T ab uk T ab uk T ab uk

28° 28°
Baq 'a Baq 'a Baq 'a Baq Baq 'a Baq 'a T ayma T aym a T aym a T ayma T aym a T aym a Ha'i lll Ha'i Ha'i Ha'i lll Ha'i Ha'i

Al Ul a Al Ul a Al ''''''Ul a Al Ul a Al Ul a Al Ul a Burayd ah Burayd ah Burayd ah Burayd ah Burayd ah Burayd ah

26° 26°

Una yza h Una yza h Una yza h Una yza h Una yza h Una yza h

As Saj As Saj As Saj iiirrr As Saj As Saj iiirrr As Saj

Ad Duwa dami i Ad Duwa dami Ad Duwa dam Ad Duwa dami i Ad Duwa dami Ad Duwa dam

24° 24° 35° 35° 37° 37° 39° 39° 41° 41° 43° 43° 45° 45°

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Plate 5. Observation wells used for model calibration of the Northern and Western areas
34° 36° 38°
Al Qurayyat
32°

40°

34° 32° N

36°

38°

40°

42°

44°

46°

N

48°

Al Qurayyat Al Qurayyat
30°

1NW088C 1NW091M

30°

Aquifer monitored STQ Jubah Jawf Tawil-Sharawra Kahfah Saq
Kh a Dy ke

1NW089M

1NW139E 1-SK-624-T 1NW090E

Bus ayta Al Jawf
1-NW-143-JW 1NW094SK 46

28 °

28°

26° Main irrigated areas Boundary of the Saq Project Model extent 24° 34° 36° 38° 40° 42° 44° 46°

26°

30°
0 50 10 0 k i l o m e tre 20 0

24° 48°

1NW146T

1NW093T

1SKT612SK

Sakakah Sakakah

30°

ra wi

1T099S 1T098S

Dawmat al Jandal 1NW145 1-NW-092-T 1-NW-092-T

1T097S 1T073T

1T077T 1T074S

Aquifers outcrops Jubah Jawf Tawil Sharawra Quwarah-Sarah Kahfah Saq

3

Northern Tabuk

PZ2

3

28°
Southern Tabuk

1T072S

0

50

100 kilometre

200
AL Ula AL Ula

34°

36°

3

1T052S F6

Eas tern Tabuk
1T058S

1T078T

Tabuk Tabuk
1T3053S 1T075S

1T070T

Jubba Jubba

28°

Tayma
1T062S

Tayma - Al Ula
1H060S

1T076S 1T063S

38°

40°

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Plate 6. Observation wells used for model calibration of the Qassim area
40°
Jubbah Jubbah

42°

44° Aquifer monitored 28°

28°

1H041S

Baq'a Baq'a
1H056S

Northern Qassim
1H053T

Saq Kahfah Qibah

Wa Ha di il

Ha'il Ha'il

1Q138S

6 South

E10 0S

1Q164S 1Q135S 1Q210S

Northern Central Qassim

Aquifers Outcrops Khuff Jawf Tawil Quwarah-Sarah Kahfah Saq

At W Th ad ur i m us

1Q205T 1Q136S

Central Qassim Buraydah 1Q203T Buraydah

1Q163S

1Q134S 1Q159S

Unayzah Unayzah
1Q139S

26°
Southern Central Qassim

26°
34° 32° N 44° 46° 48° 32°

1Q158S 1Q157S

36°

38°

40°

42°

30°

30°

i ad h W ima R Ar

1Q098S 1Q098S

1Q099S 1Q137S 1Q099S 1S060S

28°

28°

i ad a W ish R Ar

1S065S 1S065S 1Q100S

Sajir Sajir

Southern Qassim
1S051S 1S070S 1QBP013S 1QBP013S 1Q162S

26° Main irrigated areas
Bo u n d a ry o f th e Sa q Pr o j e c t

26°

0
24° 36° 38° 44° 46° 48° 40° 42°

50

100 kilometre

200

1S086S

Model extent 24° 34°

Ad Dawadimi di Ad Dawadimi h a W ima lQ A

40°

42°

44°

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Plate 7. Simulated depth of the groundwater table in the Saq aquifer in 2005 in Qassim central area
43° 27°30' 43°30' 44° Qibah 44°30'

#

#
Ash Shinan

Shary

Enlarged area

#

27°

#

Khusaybah

Legend
Domestic water supply well

# "

Small town Medium town Major town Road

#
26°30'

Uyun Al Jiwa'

Limit of Saq study area Irrigated areas

Simulated depth to groundwater
Buraydah

#

Ash Shimasiyah

table (in mbgl) in 2030 for Saq aquifer
≤0 0 < - ≤ 50 50 < - ≤ 100
Exploitation possible

" #

Al Bukayriyah

100 < - ≤ 150 150 < - ≤ 200

Riyad Al Khabra'

Al Badai'

Unayzah

200 < - ≤ 250 250 < - ≤ 300 300 < - ≤ 350

Exploitation critical Exploitation extremely critical

"

26°

§

"

Ar Rass

"

Al Midhnab

> 350

0

15

30 Kilometres

60

118

Investigations for Updating the Groundwater Mathematical Model(s) of the Saq and Overlying Aquifers

Volume 1 Main Report

Plate 8. Simulated depth of the groundwater table in the Saq aquifer in 2030 in Qassim central area in the case of constant agricultural pumping at 2005 rates
43° 27°30' 43°30' 44° Qibah 44°30'

#

#
Ash Shinan

Shary

Enlarged area

#

27°

#

Khusaybah

Legend
Domestic water supply well

# "

Small town Medium town Major town Road

#
26°30'

Uyun Al Jiwa'

Limit of Saq study area Irrigated areas

Simulated depth to groundwater
Buraydah

#

Ash Shimasiyah

table (in mbgl) in 2030 for Saq aquifer
≤0 0 < - ≤ 50 50 < - ≤ 100
Exploitation possible

" #

Al Bukayriyah

100 < - ≤ 150 150 < - ≤ 200

Riyad Al Khabra'

Al Badai'

Unayzah

200 < - ≤ 250 250 < - ≤ 300 300 < - ≤ 350

Exploitation critical Exploitation extremely critical

"

26°

§

"

Ar Rass

"

Al Midhnab

> 350

0

15

30 Kilometres

60

119

Investigations for Updating the Groundwater Mathematical Model(s) of the Saq and Overlying Aquifers

Volume 1 Main Report

Plate 9. Simulated depth of the groundwater table in the Saq aquifer in 2055 in Qassim central area in the case of constant agricultural pumping at 2005 rates
43° 27°30' 43°30' 44° Qibah 44°30'

#

#
Ash Shinan

Shary

Enlarged area

#

27°

#

Khusaybah

Legend
Domestic water supply well

# "

Small town Medium town Major town Road

#
26°30'

Uyun Al Jiwa'

Limit of Saq study area Irrigated areas

Simulated depth to groundwater
Buraydah

#

Ash Shimasiyah

table (in mbgl) in 2055 for Saq aquifer
≤0 0 < - ≤ 50 50 < - ≤ 100
Exploitation possible

" #

Al Bukayriyah

100 < - ≤ 150 150 < - ≤ 200

Riyad Al Khabra'

Al Badai'

Unayzah

200 < - ≤ 250 250 < - ≤ 300 300 < - ≤ 350

Exploitation critical Exploitation extremely critical

"

26°

§

"

Ar Rass

"

Al Midhnab

> 350

0

15

30 Kilometres

60

120

Investigations for Updating the Groundwater Mathematical Model(s) of the Saq and Overlying Aquifers

Volume 1 Main Report

Plate 10. Simulated depth of the groundwater table in the Saq aquifer in 2005 in Tabuk area
36°

36°30' Halat 'Ammar

37°

#

Enlarged area

29°

#

Al 'Uyaynah

#

Bi'r Ibn Hirmas

Legend
Domestic water supply well

#

Small town Major town Road Limit of Saq study area Irrigated areas

28°30'

Simulated depth to groundwater table (in mbgl) in 2005 for Saq aquifer
≤0 0 < - ≤ 50

Tabuk

50 < - ≤ 100 100 < - ≤ 150 150 < - ≤ 200

Exploitation possible

200 < - ≤ 250 Exploitation critical 250 < - ≤ 300 Exploitation

§

300 < - ≤ 350 > 350

extremely critical

28°

0

10

20 Kilometres

40

121

Investigations for Updating the Groundwater Mathematical Model(s) of the Saq and Overlying Aquifers

Volume 1 Main Report

Plate 11. Simulated depth of the groundwater table in the Saq aquifer in 2030 in Tabuk area in the case of constant agricultural pumping at 2005 rates
36°

36°30' Halat 'Ammar

37°

#

Enlarged area

29°

#

Al 'Uyaynah

#

Bi'r Ibn Hirmas

Legend
Domestic water supply well

#

Small town Major town Road Limit of Saq study area Irrigated areas

28°30'

Simulated depth to groundwater table (in mbgl) in 2030 for Saq aquifer
≤0 0 < - ≤ 50

Tabuk

50 < - ≤ 100 100 < - ≤ 150 150 < - ≤ 200

Exploitation possible

200 < - ≤ 250 Exploitation critical 250 < - ≤ 300 Exploitation

§

300 < - ≤ 350 > 350

extremely critical

28°

0

10

20 Kilometres

40

122

Investigations for Updating the Groundwater Mathematical Model(s) of the Saq and Overlying Aquifers

Volume 1 Main Report

Plate 12. Simulated depth of the groundwater table in the Saq aquifer in 2055 in Tabuk area in the case of constant agricultural pumping at 2005 rates
36°

36°30' Halat 'Ammar

37°

#

Enlarged area

29°

#

Al 'Uyaynah

#

Bi'r Ibn Hirmas

Legend
Domestic water supply well

#

Small town Major town Road Limit of Saq study area Irrigated areas

28°30'

Simulated depth to groundwater table (in mbgl) in 2055 for Saq aquifer
≤0 0 < - ≤ 50

Tabuk

50 < - ≤ 100 100 < - ≤ 150 150 < - ≤ 200

Exploitation possible

200 < - ≤ 250 Exploitation critical 250 < - ≤ 300 Exploitation

§

300 < - ≤ 350 > 350

extremely critical

28°

0

10

20 Kilometres

40

123

Investigations for Updating the Groundwater Mathematical Model(s) of the Saq and Overlying Aquifers

Volume 1 Main Report

Plate 13. Simulated depth of the groundwater table in the Tawil aquifer in 2005 in Busayta area

§
30°30'

38°

38°30'

39°

#

Al Isawiyah

Enlarged area

"

Tubarjal

Legend
Domestic water supply well

#

Al Nabk Abu Qasr

# "

Small town Medium town Road Limit of Saq study area Irrigated areas

Simulated depth to groundwater table (in mbgl) in 2005 for Tawil aquifer ≤0 0 < - ≤ 50 50 < - ≤ 100 100 < - ≤ 150

30°

Exploitation possible

#

Mayqu'

150 < - ≤ 200 200 < - ≤ 250 Exploitation critical 250 < - ≤ 300 300 < - ≤ 350 > 350

Exploitation extremely critical

0

10

20 Kilometres

40

124

Investigations for Updating the Groundwater Mathematical Model(s) of the Saq and Overlying Aquifers

Volume 1 Main Report

Plate 14. Simulated depth of the groundwater table in the Tawil aquifer in 2030 in Busayta area (most probable scenario)

§
30°30'

38°

38°30'

39°

#

Al Isawiyah

Enlarged area

"

Tubarjal

Legend: Most probable scenario
Domestic water supply well

#

Al Nabk Abu Qasr

# "

Small town Medium town Road Limit of Saq study area Irrigated areas

Simulated depth to groundwater table (in mbgl) in 2030 for Tawil aquifer ≤0 0 < - ≤ 50 50 < - ≤ 100 100 < - ≤ 150

30°

Exploitation possible

#

Mayqu'

150 < - ≤ 200 200 < - ≤ 250 Exploitation critical 250 < - ≤ 300 300 < - ≤ 350 > 350

Exploitation extremely critical

0

10

20 Kilometres

40

125

Investigations for Updating the Groundwater Mathematical Model(s) of the Saq and Overlying Aquifers

Volume 1 Main Report

Plate 15. Simulated depth of the groundwater table in the Tawil aquifer in 2055 in Busayta area (most probable scenario)

§
30°30'

38°

38°30'

39°

#

Al Isawiyah

Enlarged area

"

Tubarjal

Legend: Most probable scenario
Domestic water supply well

#

Al Nabk Abu Qasr

# "

Small town Medium town Road Limit of Saq study area Irrigated areas

Simulated depth to groundwater table (in mbgl) in 2055 for Tawil aquifer ≤0 0 < - ≤ 50 50 < - ≤ 100 100 < - ≤ 150

30°

Exploitation possible

#

Mayqu'

150 < - ≤ 200 200 < - ≤ 250 Exploitation critical 250 < - ≤ 300 300 < - ≤ 350 > 350

Exploitation extremely critical

0

10

20 Kilometres

40

126

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