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Kuwait J. Sci. Eng. 31(1) pp.

149-174, 2004

Geological, Structural and Geochemical Aspects of the Main


Aquifer Systems in Kuwait

J.S. AL-SULAIMI* AND F.M. AL-RUWAIH**


* Kuwait Institute for Scientic Research, P.O. Box 24885, 13109 Safat, Kuwait.
** Kuwait University, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, P.O. Box
5969, Safat, 13060, Kuwait.

ABSTRACT
The paper summarizes the lithology, structure and the geometry of the main aquifer
systems in Kuwait (the Dammam Formation and the Kuwait Group) along with the
hydrochemical characteristics of the aquifers.
Kuwait lies between the Arabian Shield and Zagros fold belt at the periphery of the
Arabian platform. Structures associated with the Kuwait Arch noticeably control the
subsurface conguration of the Dammam Formations and, hence regulate the
distribution of the overlying Kuwait Group sediments. For the broad setting, the
paleogeography of the Eocene has been constructed.
The main lithologies of concern, both in the surface and subsurface, are the recent
and subrecent sediments. The Kuwait Group includes the Dibdibba Formation, and the
undierentiated Ghar and Fars Formations, as well as the Hasa Group comprising the
Dammam, Rus and Umm Er-Radhuma Formations.
Subsurface geological cross-sections were constructed for the Dammam Formation,
showing its structures, conguration, unconformity, and zones of uplift. Potential sites
of karst formation in the Dammam limestone have been identied in the cross-sections.
The structural study enables the reconstruction of the paleomorphostructural sections of
the Dammam Formation. The chemical investigation indicates that the Kuwait Group
aquifer is occupied by Na2SO4 and NaCl water types. In addition, the Kuwait Group
aquifer is supersaturated with respect to calcite and is undersaturated with respect to
halite, gypsum, anhydrite and dolomite. The Dammam Formation aquifer has Na2SO4,
CaSO4 and NaCl water types. Moreover, the Dammam Formation is supersaturated
with calcite and dolomite and is undersaturated with respect to halite, gypsum, and
anhydrite. The calculated mean values of the PCO2 of the Kuwait Group and the
Dammam Formation aquifers are 3.8 x 10-3 atm. and 2.99 x 10-3 atm. respectively, which
are signicantly above the PCO2 of the Earth's atmosphere. This may suggest a deep
closed environment.

Keywords: Dibdibba basin; Pre-Neogene unconformity; Dammam Formation;


Kuwait Group; Water types.

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J.S. Al-Sulaimi and F.M. Al-Ruwaih

INTRODUCTION
Four systems of aquifers have been identied in northeastern Arabia (Fig. 1).
They consist of sedimentary rocks that slope gently towards the northeast.
These systems are: (1) the Paleozoic - Triassic system, (2) the Cretaceous system,
(3) the Eocene system, and (4) the Neogene-Quaternary system. The aquifers
and aquitards described in this paper (Fig. 2) are of the Eocene Hasa Group and
the Quaternary Kuwait Group (Table 1).
Tertiary geological events in Kuwait inuenced the present lithology, depth,
thickness, and geometry of the major fresh water and brackish water aquifers in
Kuwait. Pre-Neogene (pre-Miocene) movement shaped the conguration of the
Paleocene - Eocene (Paleogene) rocks of the Hasa Group and determined the
geometry of the pre-Neogene unconformity surface, on which the Kuwait
Group was deposited. The Neogene plate motion of Arabia associated with Red
Sea rifting, uplift, and tilting resulted in the overall dip of the sediments to the
northeast. The movement provided a continental slope with resulting uvial
depositions during the Quaternary (Pleistocene and Holocene Epochs). The
aquifers in Kuwait discussed in this paper occur in the Dammam Formation
and the Kuwait Group. Their lithological characteristics and depth are
functions of geological sedimentation, deformation and erosion. Thus, a study
of the lithology, stratigraphy, structure, and regional geology of the area is
essential to understanding the hydrogeology of Kuwait. Moreover, salinity
distribution, water types, water genesis and the condition of saturation with
respect to most common minerals of the aquifers will be presented.
Thus, the purpose of this paper is to describe and discuss for the rst time those
aspects of the geology of Kuwait that are related to an assessment of the groundwater
resources of Kuwait. The scope of the paper is therefore conned to a broad outline of
the geology of Kuwait with emphasis on the stratigraphy and structure of the rocks
underlying Kuwait and the structural control on aquifer water quality. The
stratigraphy and structure form a framework in which the hydrostratigraphic units
occur. Sources of data used include available chemical analyses, geological and
geomorphological maps, and lithological and geophysical logs from boreholes and
reports. A simplied geological map of Kuwait is shown in Fig. 3.

SOURCES OF INFORMATION
Surcal geology
The surfacial geological studies utilized geological and geomorphological maps,
satellite images, and eld verications. These included:
- A geological map of Kuwait prepared by Hunting Geology and Geophysics (HGG
1981) for the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC). This is the most recent available map
and shows the distribution of rocks from Miocene to Holocene ages.

Fig1. 1. Geological cross-section of the Arabian Peninsula,


showing the tilted Precambrain basement to the west and the ridge - and - valley
topography of the Central Arabian Scarpland to the east (Chapman 1978).

Geological, Structural and Geochemical Aspects of the Main Aquifer Systems in Kuwait

151

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J.S. Al-Sulaimi and F.M. Al-Ruwaih

Fig. 2. Stratigraphy and hydrogeological subdivision of the aquifer system in Kuwait


(after Mukhopadhyay et al. 1996).

C
E
N
O
Z
O
I
C

Era

T
E
R
T
I
A
R
Y

P
A
L
E
O
G
E
N
E

N
E
O
G
E
N
E

Quaternary

Paleocene

Eocene

Oligocene

Hasa Group

Umm ErRadhuma
Formation

Marly limestone, dolomite, and some anhydrite.

Anhydrite evaporites, limestone and some marl.

Rus
Formation

Southern Kuwait
Undierentiated; interbedded
sand and clayee sand with
subordinate clay, sanstone and
soft white nodular limestone.
Silicied limestone at top and numulitic shale at base.

Interbedded well sorted sand and


clayey sand with subordinate clay;
prominent fawn cross-bedded
sandstone layers with gypsum and
carbonate cement.

Dammam
Formation

Lower
Member of
Fars and
Ghar
Formations

Northern Kuwait
Interbedded well sorted sand and
sandstone, silty sand and sandstone
with clay and clayey sand, and minor
thin-bedded fossiliferous limestone in
the east, prominent soft white calcareous
sandstone in the west.

Upper
Member
of Fars
Formations

Fars
and Ghar
Formations

Coarse-grained poorly sorted sandstone with carbonate cement


and scattered pebbles.

Lower
Member

Miocene

Coarse-grained pebbly sand with thin intercalations of clayey


sand and clay; pebble and cobble gravel and conglomerate.

Dibdibba
Formation
Upper Member

Kuwait
Group

Sand, mud, calcareous


sandstone

Pliocene

Coastal deposits:

Sand, gravel

Lithology

Pleistocene

Lithostratigraphy
Formation
Member
Inland Deposits:

Group

Holocene

Geochronology (Time)
Period
Epoch

Table 1. Stratigraphic Classication of the Surface and Near Surface Deposits in Kuwait (adapted from HGG 1981).

Geological, Structural and Geochemical Aspects of the Main Aquifer Systems in Kuwait

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J.S. Al-Sulaimi and F.M. Al-Ruwaih

- A surface sediment distribution map prepared by Kuwait Institute for


Scientic Research (KISR)(1980) using processed satellite images as a
geographic database. This map was used to interpret the geomorphology and
to study Quaternary age sediments.
- Geological maps of Saudi Arabia and southern Iraq. These were used in the
interpretation of geology, stratigraphy and structure.
- Field work, though limited, to investigate specic features of the Kuwait Group
lithology at Jal Az-Zor escarpment and the unconformable surface between the
Dammam Formation and Kuwait Group at Al-Ahmadi Quarry area (Fig. 3).
- Available literature and open - le KISR reports on the surfacial geology of
Kuwait and eastern Arabian peninsula.

Fig. 3. Simplied surface geological map of Kuwait (after HGG 1981).

Geological, Structural and Geochemical Aspects of the Main Aquifer Systems in Kuwait

155

Subsurface geology
The subsurface geology and structure of lithostratigraphic units in Kuwait were
constructed in relation to the structure and tectonic pattern, recognized in the
Arabian peninsula.
The materials used for this study included the following:
- A structural contour map for the top of the Dammam Formation, i.e., the
pre-Neogene unconformity surface. This was prepared from dierent sources,
the most important of which was the conguration of the top of the
Dammam Formation prepared by Ministry of Electricity and Water (MEW)
(1987). The subsurface conguration map of the Dammam Formation for
northern Saudi Arabia was added from an open-le data supplied by the
Bureau de Recherches Geologiques et Minieres (BRGM).
- A structural contour map for the top of the Rus Formation at the scale of
1:100,000 derived from KOC seismic data.
- A revised interpretation of seismic data included in Compagine Generale de
Geophysique (CGG) reports (1968).
- Generalized lithostratigraphic sections for Kuwait interpreted from available
geophysical logs.
- Available geomorphological and topographical maps.
- Published data and maps on the tectonic setting, stratigraphy, lithofacies,
paleogeography, and sedimentation of the Arabian peninsula and Kuwait,
particularly those complied by Khalaf et al. (1989) and Amer et al. (1989).

Geophysical information
The interpretation of the west Shagaya seismic survey carried out in 1968 by
CGG was revised using input from a two-way travel time (TWT) map and other
data available in CGG reports.
The main conclusion derived from the reinterpretation of the geophysical
surveys is that no major tectonic feature could be detected. Undulations
observed on the TWT map were probably the result of erosion.

REGIONAL GEOLOGICAL SETTING


The State of Kuwait lies at the northeastern edge of the Arabian peninsula at
the head of the Arabian Gulf (Fig. 4) and is situated within three main
physiographic regions. To the south and southwest, there is the sequence of the
sedimentary rocks of the Arabian platform overlying the Precambrian Arabian

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J.S. Al-Sulaimi and F.M. Al-Ruwaih

Fig. 4. Major tectonic units of the Arabian Gulf region (after Clarke 1988).

Geological, Structural and Geochemical Aspects of the Main Aquifer Systems in Kuwait

157

Shield (Fig. 1). These sedimentary rocks outcrop in a large belt along the eastern
margin of the shield, with the less resistant strata eroded into a series of low land
strips. To the north-northwest of Kuwait, there is the Mesopotamian plain with
the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers' delta at the head of the Arabian Gulf. To the
east, Kuwait is fenced by the shallow marginal sea of the Arabian Gulf. In
general, the surface topography is rather monotonously at to gently rolling
plain broken by occasional low hills, scarps, valleys of ephemeral streams and
shallow wide inland depressions. Local relief is low except for the Jal Az-Zor
escarpment, Wadi Al-Batin valley and small hills at Wara, Burgan, UmmGudair and Wafra showing bolder relief. The ground slopes gently from about
300 m above sea level near Al-Salmi in the extreme southwestern corner of the
country towards the Mesopotamian lowland and Khor Al-Subiyah in the
northeast. The southern part drops across a series of low discontinuous scarps,
separated by rather wide plateaus and plains, toward the Gulf coast in the east.
The morphology of most of the country is controlled by the geological structure
and lithology of the rock, rather than by recent erosion. The western and
northern parts lie within a large former outwash fan spreading far beyond the
international borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia (Fig. 5), that was deposited by
a stream, a precursor of Wadi Al-Batin, which owed from Central Arabia. The
fan extends from the broader vicinity of Hafar Al-Batin as far as Khor AlHammar in Iraq and the northern shore of the Kuwait Bay and also over the
Dibdibba plain in Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The continuous northeastern slope in
the northern Kuwait is interrupted by a very wide shallow inland depression
with an internal drainage pattern (Umm Al-Aish, and Al-Raudhatain) followed
by a very gentle dome - shaped mound (reection of the Sabriyah-Raudhatain
structures) controlling the watersheds.

MAIN STRUCTURAL FEATURES


Structures that aect the Hasa and Kuwait Groups, may be broadly
distinguished into pre-Neogene structures aecting the Hasa Group, where their
eect is well investigated in the Eocene Dammam Limestone Formation, and
Neogene structures, which have been recognized to have aected the Dammam
Formation and pre-Dibdibba Formations of the Kuwait Group.
Pre-Neogene structures are recognized only in the subsurface, though their
morphostructural expression is detectable on the surface as oriented ridges and
depressions. These structures include the upper parts of the Arabian Oil Field
structures in Kuwait such as Al-Ahmadi, Al-Wafra, Al-Maqwa, Bahra, Sabriya,
and Al-Raudhatain structure. Such structures are closely related to the
evolution of the Kuwait Arch (Fig. 4), involving basement activation in various
geological periods from the Jurassic into the Paleogene. Due to basement uplift,

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J.S. Al-Sulaimi and F.M. Al-Ruwaih

Fig. 5. Geological map for the northern part of the Arabian Gulf region, delineated with the help
of remotely sensed data (after Al-Sulaimi et al. 1992a).

Geological, Structural and Geochemical Aspects of the Main Aquifer Systems in Kuwait

159

the overlying sedimentary cover is uplifted, domed and faulted successively


producing growth structures. Such doming and faulting aecting the Hasa
Group has controlled the subsurface conguration and subsequent erosion of
the various formations of the Hasa Group. The rise of the formations by
doming, brought the signicant aquifer of the Dammam Formation nearer to
the surface. Erosion of the crestal parts have led, in places, to the erosion of the
upper member of the Dammam Formation. To the southwest, such erosion
advanced to the extent to bring up the Rus Formation to the unconformity
surface between the Hasa and Kuwait Groups. Cases of extreme erosion
produced major depressions through which the Kuwait Group sediments were
probably transported. Faulting and associated fracturing have directly
inuenced the permeability of the Dammam Formation, leading to the
development of paleo-karst.
Neogene structures are those associated with uplift, faulting, and tilting
associated with the Arabian Plate motion along the Neogene. The main eect of
such structures is tilting of the sedimentary cover overlying the basement
complex rocks of the Arabian Shield, producing the well known northwest
trending scarpland of Arabia. This structural pattern continued in Kuwait
whereby major lithostratigraphic contact strikes northwest-southeast and the
formation acquired a very gentle dip towards the northeast. Due to such uplift,
faulting and tilting, a mature continental slope toward the northeast developed,
regulating continental drainage. As a result and during uvial periods,
sediments of the Dibdibba Formation were transported and deposited in northeast depression (Dibdibba basin).
In places, Neogene uplift and tilting produced variation in the dip of the
sediments in Kuwait resulting in northwest-southeast trending monoclinal
exures, which aected the pattern of transport and deposition of the Dibdibba
sediments. Due to Neogene tilting, trends of some of the pre-existing domal
structures were distributed, such as the case of Al-Managish and Bahra-Sabriya
structures.
Both Neogene and pre-Neogene structures are among the most signicant
factors that controlled the geometry of the aquifers in Kuwait as well as
thickness distribution of the Kuwait Group and localization of the Dibdibba
Formation.

LITHOSTRATIGRAPHY
The surface of Kuwait is predominantly covered by Quaternary sediments which
include Pleistocene gravel and sand of the upper member of the Dibdibba
Formation and Holocene sediments including marine sand, coastal deposits,

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J.S. Al-Sulaimi and F.M. Al-Ruwaih

beach rocks, sabkha deposits, desert oor deposits, alluvium and aeolian sands.
Older Miocene rocks are represented by calcareous sandstone of the lower
member of the Dibdibba Formation and sand and sandstone of the Fars and
Ghar Formations (Fig. 3). At the excavated quarry of the Al-Ahmadi ridge (Fig.
3), the Dammam Formation (upper Eocene) is now exposed a few meters below
the ground surface and is covered by recent sediments. Due to the limited data
obtainable from surface exposures, the geology of the State of Kuwait requires
the reconstruction of subsurface data along with studies of the surface sediments.

Kuwait Group
Previous geological studies (Owen & Nasr 1958, James & Wynd 1965, Milton
1967, Fuchs et al. 1968, HGG 1981) indicate that the post-Eocene deposits
range in thickness from a few to more than 100 m and conformably overlie the
Dammam Formation of Eocene age. In southern Kuwait, the sediments of the
Kuwait Group consist of a sequence of unconsolidated, medium to coarse,
pebbly to gravelly sand. Partially to highly cemented calcareous patches occur
as irregular lenses of dierent shapes and sizes and are common and
characteristic features of the lower Kuwait Group sand (Al-Sulaimi 1988).
These calcareous lenses are believed to represent calcretized parts of the Kuwait
Group sand as an eect of diagenetic processes in this zone (Al-Sulaimi 1988).
This clastic fossil-free deposit is mainly of terrestrial - uvial origin and may
be equivalent to the Ghar Formation (Oligocene) and possibly the Lower Fars
Formation (Lower Miocene) of the Kuwait Group. Hunting (1981) used the
term `` Undierentiated'' Fars and Ghar Formations to dene these clastic
sediments (Table 1). The Kuwait Group increases in thickness from the SW to
the NE from 150-400 m. In the northern part of the country, the Kuwait Group
may be subdivided from the land surface to the top of the Dammam Formation
into the Dibdibba, Fars and Ghar Formations. At the Jal Az-Zor escarpment
(Fuchs et al. 1968), the sequence consists of, from bottom to top, clastic
sediments of the lower Kuwait Group, fossiliferous shallow marine carbonates
of the Fars Formation (Miocene to Pliocene), clastic beds of the Upper Fars and
the uviatile sequence of ungraded sand and gravel of the Dibdibba Formation
(Pliocene). Hunting (1981) divided the Dibdibba Formation into upper and
lower members (Table 1). The lower member is extensively exposed in west and
north-central Kuwait. It consists of weathered medium to very coarse - grained
silty pebbly sandstone with ne-grained chalky carbonate cement. The upper
member of the Dibdibba Formation, that underlies the extensive undulating
plain of north and northeast Kuwait and caps Jal Az-Zor, is mostly composed
of very coarse grained sand with scattered pebbles and cobbles and lenses of
pebbles, cobbles and boulder gravel (Fuchs et al. 1968).

Geological, Structural and Geochemical Aspects of the Main Aquifer Systems in Kuwait

161

Hasa Group
The Hasa Group is comprised of Dammam, Rus and Umm Er-Radhuma
Formations (Table 1). The Dammam Formation (middle to upper Eocene),
which varies in thickness from about 150 m in the southwest to about 275 m in
the northeast, consists of a massive chalky dolomicritic Upper Member,
laminated biomicrites and domomicrites of the Middle Member, and a
nummulitic dense biomicritic Lower Member. The diagenessis of the uppermost
part of the Dammam Formation and the lowermost part of the Kuwait Group
has given rise to a Karst Zone.
The Rus Formation (Lower-Middle Eocene) varies in thickness from 70-200
m. The type locality is Jabel Umm Er-Rus on the southeast ank of the
Dammam Dome in Saudi Arabia. The Rus Formation encountered in Kuwait
in three boreholes (Omar et al. 1981), ranging in thickness from 100-193m, is
characterized by low porosity, and the succession is made of limestone, that is
soft, chalky, marly, gypsiferous with minor sand and anhydrite.
Umm Er-Radhuma Formation (Paleocene-Lower Eocene) overlies
unconformably the Tayarat Formation of the Aruma Group. The type locality
is Umm Er-Radhuma water eld in Saudi Arabia about 62 km west of Kuwait.
This formation is encountered at depths of 164-256 m in southwest Kuwait
(Omar et al. 1981). The general lithology is made of dolomite and anhydrite in
places silicied and intercalated with lignite.

GEOLOGICAL INFLUENCE ON HYDROGEOLOGY


The knowledge of the tectonic evolution sets the logical framework for the
exploration of the possible relationship between the geomorphic forms and
structural events. This framework, in the present case, categorizes the structural
events into pre-Neogene folding and exuring and Neogene faulting and tilting,
that allows for the rejuvenation of pre-existing structures, and the
superimposition eect induced by later structures. Three items of concern from
oldest to youngest are (1) the surface at the top of the Rus Formation, (2) the
Pre-Neogene unconformity at the top of the Dammam Formation, and (3) the
Dibdibba basin gravels. Their geologic histories are discussed below.

Surface at top of the Rus Formation


The modied interpretation of the top of the Rus Formation from CGG map
(1968) is shown in Fig. 6 as the BRGM interpretation. This new interpretation
was compared with that of a similar map obtained from KOC and the
comparison between the two maps was excellent.

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Fig. 6. Seismic survey map for the top of Rus Formation of northwest Shagaya (grid system in
UTM). [CGG 1968 (broken lines): BRGM interpretation (solid lines).

From the results of the new seismic survey interpretation (BRGM and KOC
maps) the following comments can be made:
- Only one reector appeared to be continuous. It was attributed to the top of
the Rus Formation owing to the large change in acoustic impedance between
the Dammam limestone and the Rus anhydrite formations.
- This seismic reector horizon is not aected by any important or signicant
fault. In fact, the signal frequency was too low to detect any fault with a
throw less than 10 m. The previous survey (CGG 1968) showed a large fault
striking northeast - southwest on the map.
- The map shows the regional northeastern dip of the Rus Formation.
- The undulations observed in the Two Way Travel (TWT) contour map are
probably due to irregularities on the surface of the Rus Formation.

Dammam Formation and Neogene unconformity


The signicance of selecting the Neogene unconformity surface at the top of the
Dammam Formation and the whole of the Eocene succession for this analysis
are outlined as follows:

Geological, Structural and Geochemical Aspects of the Main Aquifer Systems in Kuwait

163

- Data on circulation loss of drilling uid and other hydrologic data,


particularly aquifer tests, strongly point to the existence of karst topography
within and on top of the Dammam Formation. Karst hydrogeologic features
may form suitable sites for articial recharge.
- The structural evolution aecting the Dammam Formation produced
structures that determined the conguration of its upper surface, inuenced
its thickness through erosion control, and exerted a noticeable control on
diagenetic processes that took place after deformation.
- Deformation of the Dammam Formation associated with uplift, exuring
and doming also resulted in the formation of faults and fractures that may
radically obliterate and inuence the existing hydrogeologic regime, and
inuence the development of karst topography.
- The subsurface conguration of the Dammam Formation is the pre-Neogene
unconformity surface between the Dammam Formation and the Kuwait
Group.
- The subsurface conguration of the Dammam Formation, shaped by the preNeogene unconformity, may be considered as the most inuential single
factor that determines the distribution and thickness of the overlying Kuwait
Group and to some extent its lithofacies. In fact, the renewed rise along the
subsurface axis of these structures has controlled the conguration of the
lower portion (pre-Dibdibba) of the Kuwait Group sediments. This latter
eect has directly inuenced the present landform, producing dierent
morphostructural features in many parts of Kuwait.
The Neogene and Quaternary geological history of Kuwait is, to a great
extent, a consequence of the eect on the subsurface conguration of the preNeogene unconformity surface expressed simply, but not precisely, as the ``top''
of the Dammam Formation. Furthermore, the landforms of the Kuwait surface
in many places (where it is not covered by Dibdibba sand and gravel) during the
Neogene - Quaternary period are merely a reection of the erosional surface at
the top of the Dammam Formation. The relationship between the top of the
Dammam Formation and the base of the Kuwait Group may be expressed as a
cast and mold, and the surface conguration is an imitation of the pre-Neogene
subsurface.
Paleomorphostructural analysis of the Dammam Formation
The dierent geometries of sedimentary or tectonic origin that aected the
Dammam Formation are presented in Figure 4.
Some sedimentary patterns are contemporaneous with Dammam deposits as
shoals and intrashelf basins. Others are post-sedimentary and reected as paleo-

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valleys, possibly of Oligocene age. The general gradient of the surface of the
Dammam Formation is towards the northeast. The ridge system (anticlines and
synclines) is clearly visible in the eastern part of the area toward the north-south
or northnorthwest - southsoutheast axis.
The areas of intensive and extensive erosion corresponding to an uplift and a
thinning down of the Dammam Formation (under the Pre-Neogene
unconformity) are favorable for karst development. One of these areas is located
in the southwestern corner of Kuwait. The other one, located in Saudi Arabia, is
consistent with the general structural trend and is perpendicular with the paleovalley. The result is the complete erosion of both the Dammam and the Rus
Formations.
The contact between the Dammam Formation and underlying formations is
generally concordant, although more than 12 million years of sedimentary break
existed. The thickness of the Dammam Formation is considered as relatively
constant. Consequently, only a peculiar type of karst could have developed.
However, a deeper type of karst could have been formed where the
unconformity is predominant, predicted as sinkhole in some areas along the
contact between the Dammam and underlying formations.
The sedimentary formations along the contact with the Dammam Formation
could have been weathered before transportation when the shelf was large and
at leading to collapse and formation of dissolution breccia (sedimentary
break), like the breccia of dissolution in Al-Ahmadi quarry (Fig. 3).
The upper and lower units of the Dammam Formation represent lagoon
deposits. The middle unit represents tidal-to-marsh deposits with lignites. In
northern Kuwait, some anhydrite deposits are interbedded, which results in the
high salinity contents of the present groundwater (over 100 g/l).
Dammam Formation thickness
The extended limits of the Dammam Formation are given by the pre-Neogene
unconformity contour map and by the location of its outcrops (Fig. 7), as well
as by the structural contour map of the bottom of the Dammam Formation (top
of Rus Formation).
The Dammam Formation crops out south of Iraq and east of Khurous in
Saudi Arabia. It is truncated by the unconformity which also aects the Rus
and the Umm Er-Radhuma Formations.
During the middle Eocene, the structural conguration was quite similar to
that of the present time. The Kuwait Arch is at the center, emphasized by the
presence of oil elds and surrounded in the west by a shallow intershelf basin
(Dibdibba basin) and in the east by the Arabian Gulf basin. The thickness of the

Geological, Structural and Geochemical Aspects of the Main Aquifer Systems in Kuwait

165

Fig. 7. Structural contour of the unconformity surface separating the Dammam Formation from
the overlying Kuwait Group in and around Kuwait (after Al-Sulaimi et al. 1992b).

Dammam Formation ranges from 120 to 280 m within Kuwait and from 180 to
210 m within the water elds (Sulaibiya, Shagaya and Umm-Gudair). The
Dammam Formation is thicker than 280 m at two well locations in Saudi
Arabia that probably correspond to structural depressions. The two wells are
separated by an area oriented to the northeast where the Dammam Formation
is very thin. However, the Dammam Formation is pinched out in the southern
part of Saudi Arabia in the same direction as the bed strike (northwestsoutheast) due to truncations.

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Cross-Sections
Three cross-sections (Fig. 8) were constructed to show the structure,
conguration, unconformity and zones of uplift in the Dammam Formation.
Cross-Section A-B oriented Southwest-Northeast. The general dip shown in
cross-section A-B is regular. The thickness of the Dammam Formation is almost
constant within Kuwait but decreases rapidly southward in Saudi Arabia.
This cross-section clearly shows the relationship between the thickness of the
Dammam Formation, the Kuwait Arch and the Dibdibba basin structures. The
southwestern part where the slope of the curve is large and near the surface,
probably represents an uplifted unconconformity block due to erosion. This
type of area is favorable to karst development.
At the extreme southwestern part, the thickness of the Dammam Formation
decreases, emphasizing the great angular unconformity between the Neogene
and the Umm Er-Radhuma Formation.
Cross-Section C-D oriented Southsouthwest-Northnortheast. This shows the
thickness of the Dammam Formation increasing towards the northeast. In the
southwest, it shows the eects of erosion, resulting in an angular unconformity.
Cross-Section E-F oriented West-East. The variation in the thickness of the
Dammam Formation is clearly shown in this section as a result of
paleographical conditions on which are superimposed more recent tectonic
eects. The depression located west of Kuwait Arch could have been a
receptable for the Lower Fars deposits overlapping the Ghar Formation. This
hypothesis is supported by observations on the variations of facies in Jal Az-Zor
outcrops of the two formations, where transition between marine and
continental deposits has been observed.

Dibdibba Basin
The geomorphology and depositional history of the Wadi Al-Batin alluvial fan
which is the source of Dibdibba gravels in Kuwait (Fig. 4) is explained below.
These deposits (Dibdibba gravel) were laid down in shifting stream channels;
they do not have lateral or vertical continuity, most likely forming as a braided
stream deposit in an alluvial fan. In the case of Arabian alluvial fans, such
deposits only extend to very shallow depths (Hotzl et al. 1978). An attempt is
made here to understand the origin and depositional history of the fan's
landforms and the processes, which have subsequently re-shaped the fan's
original form to its present day form.
Several sections were previously studied by Al-Sulaimi and Pitty (1995) to

Geological, Structural and Geochemical Aspects of the Main Aquifer Systems in Kuwait

Fig. 8. Series of cross-sections showing the structural conguration


of the Dammam Limestone within the study area.

167

168

J.S. Al-Sulaimi and F.M. Al-Ruwaih

obtain a broader picture of the distribution of gravel in the Arabian Peninsula.


The Wadi Al-Batin fan is perceived as the relict landform within which much of
the present gravel characteristics were acquired and modied. The broad
tectonic setting of Arabia has aected the deposition of Wadi Al-Batin alluvial
fans.
The broad structural setting in the Al-Batin area was acquired in the Late
Tertiary. Some tectonic event is required to explain the marked change from
carbonate sedimentation, which characterized the Dammam Formation, to the
dominantly siliciclastic sedimentary character represented in the deposition of
the Dibdibba sand and gravel.
The opening of the Red Sea to the west is one possibility (HGG 1981),
causing the tilting of the Arabian Shield northeastward and accounting for the
gentle dip of these strata towards the northeast. The degree of tilting is also
important in considering the transportation processes of the Al-Batin fan
material.
The Arabian Peninsula has two main geological components. In addition to
the 61x104 km2 of the Precambrian Arabian Shield to the west, there is the
sequence of overlying continental and shallow-water marine sedimentary rocks
of the Arabian Shelf or Platform to the east. This sedimentary sequence consists
mainly of sandstones and limestones. This outcrop is a great curved belt along
the eastern margin of the shield, with the less resistant strata eroded into a series
of lowland strips. The intervening elongated ridges created by the outcrop of the
more resistant sedimentary strata are termed as escarpments. The alteration of
escarpments and intervening lowlands, both expressing the strike of inclined
strata (Fig. 1) are termed as scarpland.
Al-Sulaimi and Pitty (1995) have shown that the initiation of the Wadi AlBatin drainage and the deposition of its alluvial fan, which possibly caused the
cessation of gravel deposition, are best explained within the framework of
landform evolution and gravel deposition within the Central Arabian Shield.

HYDROGEOLOGY OF THE AQUIFERS


The hydrogeological characteristics of the two main aquifers and their
parameter values have been calculated from the available pumping test data
which were conducted in about 150 water wells drilled in the two aquifers at
dierent locations in Kuwait. The pumping test data have been analyzed using a
variety of analytical methods (Kruseman & De Ridder 1990). The analyses of
the pumping tests suggest that the Dammam Formation is karstied, contains
vuggy and moldic porosity and acts as a semi-conned to conned aquifer. The
average transmissivity and eective permeability values are 581.5 m2/day and

Geological, Structural and Geochemical Aspects of the Main Aquifer Systems in Kuwait

169

2.8x10-8 cm2 respectively, and increase toward the north. The average value of
the storage coecient of the Dammam Formation is 5.8x10-4.
The aquifer in the Kuwait Group appears to be a layered semi-conned
system with a free water table in the uppermost horizon. The values of the
hydraulic parameters of the aquifer vary spatially as related to the saturated
thickness and gradation of its sediments. The average transmissivity and the
average eective permeability were found to be 209 m2/day and 2.16x10-8 cm2,
respectively (Al-Ruwaih 2001). Under natural conditions, ground water ows in
both aquifers from SW to NE and discharges into Shatt Al-Arab and the
Arabian Gulf.

GROUNDWATER QUALITY
The chemical composition of groundwater reects its history, and the study of
the aquifer hydrochemistry can assist in the understanding of past large-scale
groundwater circulation. The occurrence, movement, storage and chemical
character of the groundwater is aected by numerous geological controls such
as lithology, topography, geological history and structure.
Laboratory analyses of the major cations and anions were carried out, along
with the eld analyses of temperature (C), pH, electrical conductivity and O2
level (measured by electrode). Of the 66 groundwater samples, 36 represent the
Kuwait Group aquifer, and 30 are from the Dammam Formation aquifer. The
temperature of most of the samples ranged between 20 and 25C. The accuracy
of the chemical analysis of the samples has been checked by calculating the
cation-anion balance in terms of milli-equivalents per liter (meq/l; Hem 1985).
Table 2 represents the means of chemical analyses of the Kuwait Group and
Dammam Formation aquifers.
In the southwest and central part of Kuwait, the water in the entire saturated
thickness of Kuwait Group is generally brackish, with salinity ranging from
3,000 to 5,000 mg/l. The dominant sequences of anions and cations are SO4 >
Cl >HCO3 and Ca > Na > Mg, respectively, which change to Cl > SO4 >
HCO3 and Na > Ca > Mg as the salinity increases. Water of salinity between
10,000 - 20,000 mg/l occurs in the upper 100 m of the structural layer of the
Kuwait Group in northern and northeastern Kuwait. Chloride and sodium are
the dominant anion and cations, respectively.
The Dammam aquifer underlies the Kuwait Group aquifer and extends all
over the State of Kuwait. Presently, it is the major aquifer being exploited in
Kuwait. Its water varies in salinity from brackish to brine. Brackish water of
TDS less than 5,000 mg/l occurs in most of the southwest and central parts of
Kuwait, where most of the water-well elds are located. In the southwestern

170

J.S. Al-Sulaimi and F.M. Al-Ruwaih

corner of Kuwait, water salinity of the Dammam aquifer is about 3,000 mg/l
and gradually increases in the eastern and northeastern directions. The
dominant sequences of anions and cations of the Dammam groundwater of less
than 5,000 mg/l TDS are SO4 > Cl >HCO3 and Na > Ca > Mg respectively.
The salinity of the Dammam aquifer water exceeds 150,000 mg/l in northeastern
Kuwait, and its value increases gradually with depth. The dominant sequence of
anions and cations are Cl > SO4 > HCO3 and Na > Ca > Mg, respectively.

Saturation state
The natural composition of water is derived from many dierent sources of
solutes, including gases and aerosols from the atmosphere, and the weathering
and erosion of rocks and soil. Solution and/or precipitation reactions can occur
below the land surface where the concentration of many minerals is inuenced
by a variety of environmental factors, especially the position and solubility of
rock strata. Therefore in order to investigate the thermodynamic controls on the
water composition, equilibrium speciation calculations were made using the
speciation code WATEQ4 program (Ball & Nordstrom 1992). These
calculations provide saturation indices (SI) of minerals that may be reacting in
the system. The SI of a particular mineral is dened by Chapelle (1993) as:
SI log

IAP
Ks p

where SI is the saturation index, IAP is the ion-activity product and Ksp is the
solubility product constant for the mineral. If the SI < 0, the mineral is
undersaturated with respect to the solution and the mineral can dissolve. If the
SI > 0, the mineral is supersaturated and it can be precipitated but not
dissolved. If the SI is close to 0, the mineral may not be reacting at all or may be
reacting reversibly.
The calculated saturation indices for the two aquifers are presented in Table
2. The groundwater of the Kuwait Group aquifer is supersaturated with respect
to calcite and is undersaturated with respect to anhydrite, gypsum, halite and
dolomite. Meanwhile, the saturation indices indicate that the groundwater of
the Dammam Formation aquifer is undersaturated with halite, anhydrite and
gypsum, but supersaturated with respect to calcite and dolomite.
Generally, the saturation indices of all minerals increase in the direction of
ow for both aquifers. It was noted that the calculated mean values of PCO2 of
the Kuwait Group and the Dammam Formation aquifers are 3.8 x 10-3 atm. and
2.99 x 10-3 atm. respectively, which are signicantly above the PCO2 of the
Earth's atmosphere (10-3.5 atm.). This may suggest that the groundwater in the
aquifers was charged with CO2 during inltration through soil zones, and the

Geological, Structural and Geochemical Aspects of the Main Aquifer Systems in Kuwait

171

groundwater probably represents a deep closed environment system, because


PCO2 between 10-2.5 and 10-6.4 atm. indicates a closed system (Stigter et al. 1998).
Table 2: Summary of the mean chemical analyses and results of thermodynamic speciation calculations of the main aquifer systems.
Kuwait Group aquifer
 (Mean)

Dammam Formation
 (Mean)

E.C. ( mhos/cm)

5782

4764

TDS (mg/l)

4270

3979

7.5

7.6

849

537

33.8

25.9

429

437

114

163.3

Cl (mg/l)

1399

896

SO42-

1239

1500

142.7

133

(mg/l)

58.6

10.2

SiO2 (mg/l)

25.7

19.2

SI - Halite

-4.99

-5.11

SI - Anhydrite

-0.766

-0.501

SI - Gypsum

-0.55

-0.282

SI - Dolomite

-0.153

0.251

SI - Calcite

0.312

Parameters

pH
Na

(mg/l)

K (mg/l)
2+

Ca

Mg

(mg/l)

2+

(mg/l)

(mg/l)

HCO3NO3-

(mg/l)

PCO2 (atm.)

3.8 x 10

0.44
-3

2.99 x 10-3

SI = Saturation Index.

CONCLUSIONS
The two main aquifer systems in Kuwait, the Kuwait Group and Dammam
Formation, are greatly aected by the Pre-Neogene unconformity surface. The
Pre-Paleogene structures are recognized only in the subsurface. Faulting and
associated fractures have directly inuenced the secondary permeability of
Dammam Formation aquifer and hence developed the paleo-Karstication.
Both Neogene and Pre-Neogene structures are among the most signicant
factors that controlled the geometry as well as the saturated thickness
distribution of the two aquifers.

172

J.S. Al-Sulaimi and F.M. Al-Ruwaih

The Paleomorphostructural analysis of the Dammam Formation reveals that


the general dip of the surface of the Dammam Formation is towards the
northeast. Its thickness ranges from 120 to 280 m. The hydrogeological studies
reveal that the aquifers systems are acting as conned to semi-conned. The
average transmissivity and eective permeability of the Dammam Formation
aquifer are 581.5 m2/day and 2.8 x 10- 8 cm2 respectively, and increase toward
the north. The average transmissivity and eective permeability of the Kuwait
Group aquifer are 290 m2/day and 2.16 x 10-8 cm2, respectively. The chemical
investigation indicates that the Kuwait Group aquifer is occupied by Na2SO4
and NaCl water types. In addition, the Kuwait Group aquifer is supersaturated
with respect to calcite and is undersaturated with respect to halite, gypsum,
anhydrite and dolomite. The Dammam Formation aquifer has Na2SO4, CaSO4
and NaCl water types. Moreover, the Dammam Formation is supersaturated
with calcite and dolomite and is undersaturated with respect to halite, gypsum,
and anhydrite. The calculated mean values of the PCO2 of the Kuwait Group
and the Dammam Formation aquifers are 3.8 x 10-3 atm. and 2.99 x 10-3 atm.,
respectively, which are signicantly above the PCO2 of the Earth's atmosphere,
suggesting a deep closed environment in the aquifers.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The authors would like to express their gratitude and thanks to the Ministry of
Electricity and Water for providing the hydrochemical and pumping test data.

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Submitted :
Revised :
Accepted :

19/2/2003
18/11/2003
8/12/2003

174

J.S. Al-Sulaimi and F.M. Al-Ruwaih

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