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Freshwater Contamination (Proceedings of Rabat Symposium S4, April-May 1997). IAHS Publ. no.

243, 1997


Groundwater degradation in the northeastern part of Mafraq area, Jordan

Department of Geology, University of Jordan, Amman, Jordan

Strategic Environment and Water Resources Research Unit, Al-al Bayt University, Mafraq, Jordan

Abstract This study deals with water quality and salinization of the Upper Aquifer Complex in the northeastern part of the Mafraq area where, due to intensive agricultural activity and low annual rainfall, groundwater is intensively exploited for irrigation purposes. During the last two decades, more than 5000 water samples have been collected, and analyses for the major cations and anions have been undertaken by the Ministry of Water and Irrigation and the University of Jordan. Results reveal that the salinity of the water has increased from 300 uS cm"1 in most of the area under investigation during early seventies to more than 8000 uS cm'1 at certain localities. Increases of similar magnitude were also recognized for Na, Ca, Mg, K, CI, S0 4 and N0 3 . The increase in ion concentrations (except N0 3 ) is attributed to leaching of soils subject to intensive furrow irrigation. The increase in N0 3 concentration from 10 mg l"1 to 90 mg I"1 during the same period is believed to be due to the leaching of fertilisers (chemical and organic) which are intensively used in the area. In order to protect further degradation of groundwater quality, furrow irrigation has been replaced by the drip irrigation method in most of the area. In addition, a new water management program has been adopted very recently to ensure minimum water abstraction.

INTRODUCTION This study is concerned with the hydrochemical development of groundwater resources in the northeastern part of the Mafraq area in Jordan, which is a region of low annual rainfall (150-200 mm) and intensive agriculture where more than 600 wells have been drilled during the last two decades (Fig. 1). The area is underlain by the Upper Aquifer complex, which mainly comprises basaltic rocks of Tertiary age and silicified limestones of Upper Cretaceous age, has been utilized for its groundwater resources since the early 1970s. Increasing demand for in situ agricultural activities and for domestic purposes has led to the abstraction of large quantities of water (80 X 106 m3 year"1) since the mid 1970s. The safe yield of the area is estimated to be of the order of 28 x 106 m3 year"1 (El-Naser,' 1991; GTZWAJ, 1995). Water quality is deteriorating rapidly as a consequence of the exploitation of the groundwater reserves.


Omar Rimawi & Nadhir A. Al-Ansari


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Fig. 1 Map showing the location of the study area and groundwater contour map.

HYDROGEOLOGY The basalt aquifer and the Amman-Wadi Sir aquifer are the main aquifers of the study area, although the former is the major system. In the northern and eastern parts of the study area, a succession of six lava flows lies unconformably on the sedimentary rocks of the Late Cretaceous Balqa and Ajlun Group (Bender, 1968). The southern limit of the basalt aquifer is the Azraq basin while the eastern limit has not been defined at Safawi. The western limit of the aquifer reaches Mafraq and Wadi Dhuleil, while it extends to Jabel El Arab in Syria in the north. The transmissivity of the aquifer ranges between 2.3 X 10"5 and 1.2 m2 s"1. The basalt aquifer together with the Wadi Sir (A7) and Amman (B2) aquifers form a composite system within the western part of the study area. The transmissivity of this system ranges between 2.2 X 10"5 and 7 x 10"3 m2 s"1 with an average of 3.2 x 10"4m2 s"1. The water is transferred laterally or vertically from the basalt aquifer into the Amman-Wadi Sir aquifers. Similar conditions are noticed in the Dhuleil-Hallabat area (Rimawi, 1992; Abu Sharar & Rimawi, 1993). The groundwater contour map of the area (Fig. 1) shows two groundwater plateaux. The first lies in the southeastern part (between contours 525 and 520 m) while the second is located in the middle part of the study area (between contours 510 and 500 m). The general trend of flow in the former is from the east and west (groundwater recharge area) towards the north. The second plateau has a relatively

Groundwater degradation in the northeastern part ofMafraq area, Jordan


higher groundwater gradient than the first which reflects the occurrence of different hydraulic properties across the study area. Groundwater flows in two main directions from the second plateau, namely towards the northwest and the southwest. The latter direction is almost parallel to the groundwater flow lines from the Jabel El Arab area. The Amman-Wadi Sir aquifer system in the middle part of the study area is characterized by low permeability and specific capacity compared with the basalt aquifer in the eastern parts.

HYDROCHEMISTRY The hydrochemical data used in this study comprises information abstracted from the open files of the Water Authority and samples collected recently by the authors. The chemical analysis of samples collected from more than 400 wells during the last two decades were checked by calculating the analytical error. All samples having more than 5% analytical error were excluded, and as a result only 5148 complete chemical analyses were available to the present study. The parameters analysed consisted of pH, EC, Ca, Mg, Na, K, CI, HC03, C0 3 , S04 and N0 3 . The chemical analysis data were subjected to descriptive statistical tests, and the results are presented in Table 1. Results were also plotted (Fig. 2) in the form of a Piper diagram (Piper, 1944) which allowed classification of the groundwaters, according to Langguth (1966), into the following types: (a) First type: alkaline water with bicarbonate as the dominant ion, (b) Second type: alkaline water with bicarbonate and chloride as the dominant ions, (c) Third type: alkaline water with an increased proportion of alkali earths and chloride and sulphate as the dominant ions, (d) Fourth type: alkaline water with chloride as the dominant ion. The first two water types correspond to fresh groundwater, which originates as contemporary recharge and sometimes as fresh water that percolates over short distances within the aquifer, or they represent unpolluted water (Rimawi, 1992). The third and fourth types correspond to fresh-brackish water of non-contemporary or
Table 1 Descriptive statistics of the analysed and calculated parameters based on 5148 samples. Parameter EC (uS cm"1) PH TDS (mg l'1) Ca (meq l"1) Mg (meq l'1) Na (meq l"1) K (meq l"1) CI (meq l"1) S0 4 (meq f ) C0 3 (meq l"1) HC0 3 (meq l"1) N0 3 (mg I"1) Minimum 0.31 6.41 195.2 0.39 0.29 0.4 0.01 0.26 0.03 0.00 0.29 0.00 Maximum 11.4 8.48 7771.8 33.6 38.0 73.0 2.2 96.55 33.5 0.39 8.95 98.0 Arithmetic mean 1.36 7.63 774.3 4.32 3.85 5.36 0.18 7.54 2.11 0.01 3.56 33.91 Standard deviation 1.11 0.33 644.4 3.19 4.04 5.19 0.13 9.26 2.62 0.05 1.58 24.71 Coefficient of variation 0.81 0.04 0.83 0.74 1.05 0.97 0.74 1.23 1.25 3.96 0.44 0.72


Omar Rimawi & Nadhir A. Al-Ansari

Fig. 2 Results of chemical analysis presented on a Piper diagram.

almost ancient recharge (Salameh & Rimawi, 1984), which ascends from deep aquifers along major faults, or originates through fresh water mixing with saline water that passes through evaporites (Rimawi & Udluft, 1985). The water chemistry data were investigated by cluster analysis using a computer program (Clusy, 1986). This technique involves the grouping together of similar entities together, g-mode clustering was used instead of the i?-mode as advocated by Ashley & Lloyd (1978). Ionic ratio characteristics of the seven clusters and their statistics are shown in Tables 2 and 3, respectively. Cluster I represents the original percolated water while cluster II is developed from this water by further dissociation or partial mixing with other water types of higher ionic concentrations. The high concentration of nitrates (40 mg l"1) indicates that cluster III water is polluted, and it is believed that the source is irrigation return flows. Water belonging to cluster IV is similar to that of cluster III apart from having a higher salinity. Water of clusters V, VI and VII are similar in general, but there are differences with respect to their salinities.

Groundwater degradation in the northeastern part of Mafraq area, Jordan


DISCUSSION The high correlation coefficient of EC with CI content in all clusters (Table 4) indicates that chloride contributes relatively more to the salinity than other ions. Furthermore, the contribution of Na to groundwater salinity is generally less than that of Ca and Mg. It was also noticed that for the same specific EC values, Na concentration might vary. The high Na content in some samples is derived from cation exchange process between Ca-HC03 water and sodium rich zeolites within the basaltic aquifer. Sodium is usually released to the water, and calcium ions will be fixed by zeolites.

Table 2 Ionic ratio characteristics of different clusters identified in the database. Cluster number 1 II Characteristic features Ca > Mg > Na > K, HC0 3 > Cl > S0 4 > N0 3 (Ca + Mg)/(Na + K) > 1, (Na - C1)/S04 < 1, Na/Cl < 1 Na > Mg >Ca > K, Cl > HC0 3 > S0 4 > N0 3 (Ca + Mg)/(Na + K) < 1, (Na - C1)/S04 < 1, Na/Cl > 1 Na > Ca > Mg, Cl > HC0 3 > S0 4 (Ca + Mg)/(Na + K) > 1, (Cl - Na)/S04 < 1 Na > Ca > Mg > K, Cl > S0 4 > HC0 3 (Ca + Mg)/(Na + K) < 1, (Cl - Na)/Mg < 1 Na > Mg > Ca, Cl > S0 4 > HC0 3 (Ca + Mg)/(Na + K) < 1, (Cl - Na)/Mg > 1 Na > Mg > Ca, Cl > S0 4 > HC0 3 (Ca + Mg)/(Na + K) > 1, (Cl - Na)/Mg > 1 Na > Mg > Ca, Cl > S0 4 > HC0 3





Table 3 Average values of the chemical parameters for the different clusters. Cluster Parameter EC (uS cm"1) pH TDS (mg I"1) Ca (meq l'1) Mg (meq l"1) Na (meq l"1) K (meq l"1) Cl (meq l"1) S0 4 (meq f ) HC0 3 (meq 1') N0 3 (mg r 1 ) No. of samples 693 7.50 393 2.10 3.47 1.42 0.11 1.68 0.58 4.60 10.0 1591 724 7.89 425 1.59 1.66 3.73 0.14 3.07 1.18 2.68 17.0 1201 1308 7.56 729 2.95 4.46 5.37 0.17 6.60 1.74 4.03 41.7 1189 2053 7.58 1159 5.05 5.34 9.69 0.23 12.43 3.85 3.28 46.6 512 3094 7.70 1700 10.73 8.42 11.13 0.39 22.58 5.0 1.83 63.4 390 4413 7.62 2519 14.66 12.30 17.73 0.42 32.85 8.41 2.26 48.0 204 6919 7.46 4288 24.14 20.43 31.05 0.50 55.45 16.37 2.19 48.8 46



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Groundwater degradation in the northeastern part ofMafraq area, Jordan


Fig. 3 Results of chemical analysis presented on a Durov diagram.

The increase of salinity over the last two decades, whereby the conductivity has risen from a minimum of 300 uS cm"1 to almost 600 uS cm"1, reflects a the growth in the area of cultivated land and extensive irrigation , especially in the western and northeastern parts of the study area. The high N0 3 content and its rising concentration with salinity over time is due to the effect of water infiltrating back from irrigation. Water infiltrating through the soil will cause Ca and Mg ions to replace Na ions in low salinity water. Na is the major cation in the groundwater that is used for irrigation. Further deterioration of the groundwater and the increase of its salinity through inter-mixing with highly saline water originating as back infiltration from irrigation causes reverse exchange processes and leads to high salinity samples plotting within region 8 of the Durov diagram (Fig. 3) (Lloyd & Heathcote, 1985).


Omar Rimawi & Nadhir A. Al-Ansari

Table 5 Percentage of percolated water required to convert the water chemistry of one cluster to another based on an EC of 19 520 uS cm"1 and a CI content of 130.56 meq l"1 for percolated water. Cluster change III I-III I-IV I-V I-VI I-VII IMII II-IV II-V II-VI II-VII III-IV III-V III-VI III-VII IV-V IV-VI IV-VII V-VI V-VII VI-VII CI 1.47 3.82 8.34 16.22 24.15 41.72 7.34 2.77 15.3 23.32 41.09 4.7 12.89 21.14 39.41 8.59 17.24 36.42 9.46 30.44 23.17 EC 0.16 3.27 7.22 12.7 19.74 33.07 7.07 3.11 12.56 19.61 32.96 4.09 9.75 17.03 30.81 5.9 13.49 27.86 8.06 23.33 16.61

The highly saline water produced through the above process is of Ca-Cl type. By taking into account the correlation between EC and CI for different water types, and the average EC and CI concentrations for different water clusters and for percolating soil water, the mixing percentages of percolated water and of groundwater needed to convert one water cluster into another may be calculated (Table 5). Because CI is considered to be a conservative ion, the data obtained using this parameter is believed to be more reliable than that derived from EC. The latter parameter reflects the concentration of other ions which are affected by many geochemical processes. Changes in the ratios of divalent and monovalent ions may cause fluctuations of EC values even for waters of similar salinity (Mathess, 1973). REFERENCES
Abu Sharar, T. & Rimawi, O. (1993) Water chemistry of the Dhuleil aquifer (Jordan) as influenced by long term pumping. /. Hydrol. 149, 49-66. Ashley, R. B. & Lloyd, J. W. (1978) An example of the use of factor and cluster analysis in groundwater chemistry interpretation. J. Hydrol. 39, 355-364. Bender, F. (1968) Gologie von Jordanian, Beitraege Zur Regionalen Gologie, Region. Geol. d. Erde 7. Gebrueder Brontrager, Berlin. Clusy, A. (1986) Clusteranalyse System Computer Program for Cluster Analysis. PIC Gmbh, Munich. El-Naser, H. (1991) Groundwater resources of the deep aquifer systems in NW-Jordan. Hydrogeological and hydrochemical Quasi 3-dimensional modelling. In: Forschuagsergebrisse aus dem Bereich Hydrogeologie and Umwelt, 1-144, Heft 3, Wuerzburg. GTZ-WAJ (1995) Groundwater Resources of Northern Jordan, vols 1, 2 and 3, Project no. 89. 2105.8. Langguth, H. R. (1966) Grundwater Verhaeltnisse in Bereich des Velberter Sattels der Ministry fur Ernahrang, Landwirtskuhopft and Forsten. NRW, Duesseldorf.

Groundwater degradation in the northeastern part ofMafraq area, Jordan


Lloyd, J. W. & Heathcote, I. A. (1985) Natural Inorganic Hydrochemistry in Relation to Groundwater. Clarendon Press, Oxford. Mathess, G. (1973) Die Beschaffenheit des Grundwaters. Lehrb. 2, Hydrogeologie, Bd. 2. Gebrueder Bramraeger, Berlin. Piper, A. M. (1944) A graphic procedure in geochemical interpretation of water analysis. Trans AGU 25, 914-928. Rimawi, O. (1992) Salinization and deterioration of the groundwater resources in Dhuleil-Hallabat Area/Jordan. Dirasat 19B, 131-176. Rimawi, O. & Udluft, P. (1985) Natural water groups and the origin of the shallow aquifer complex in Azraq depression. Geol. Jb. Reihe C38, 17-38. Salameh, E. & Rimawi, 0. (1984) Isotopic analyses and hydrochemistry of the thermal springs along the eastern side of the Jordan Dead sea Wadi Araba Rift valley. J. Hydrol. 73, 129-145.