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Remole Sensing and Hydrology 2000 (Proceedings of a s y m p o s i u m held at Santa Fe, N e w Mexico, U S A ,

April 2000). IAHS Publ. no. 267, 2 0 0 1 .

451

Assessment of the renewable groundwater resources


of Wadi El-Arish, Sinai, Egypt: modelling, remote
sensing and GIS applications

H A Z E M M. GHEITH
EMH&T,

South

East Building,

140 North

High Street,

Gahanna,

Ohio 43230,

USA

e-mail: h g h e i t h @ e m h t . c o m

M O H A M E D I. SULTAN
Argonne
National Laboratory,
Environmental
Argon ne, Illinois 60439,
USA

Research

Division,

9700 South

Cass

Avenue,

Abstract Recharge of the alluvial aquifers flooring Wadi El-Arish in central


and northern Sinai, Egypt was investigated. A hydrological model that
combined the spatial and temporal distribution of rainfall, suitable infiltration
parameters, and appropriate sub-basin unit hydrographs to estimate rainfall
excess, transmission losses along stream networks, and downstream runoff
was developed. The Wadi El-Arish watershed receives an annual average
rainfall of 981.3 x 10 m in the rainy season (November-March) of which our
model indicates that 938.7 x 10 m is the initial upstream loss, 32.5 x 10 m
is the transmission loss recharging the alluvial aquifers flooring the stream
network, and 10.1 x 10 m is downstream runoff.
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K e y w o r d s alluvial aquifer; arid r e g i o n ; g r o u n d w a t e r r e c h a r g e ; L a n d s a t T M ; r e m o t e s e n s i n g ;


Sinai, transmission losses

INTRODUCTION
Sporadic storms over the Sinai hills (Egypt) are channelled as surface runoff and
subsurface waters through a network of minor valleys, which join into a few valleys
that ultimately drain towards the Mediterranean Sea, the Gulf of Suez, or the Gulf of
Aqaba. The largest of these drainage basins is the Wadi El-Arish watershed (22 000 km ),
which collects over 6 0 % of Sinai's precipitation. W e constructed a hydrological model
to calculate initial upstream loss, transmission loss, and downstream runoff for the
Wadi El-Arish watershed. The model integrated Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM),
Digital Terrain Elevation (DTED), meteorological, and geological data in a geographic
information system (GIS) environment.
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METHOD
Digital mosaics were generated and co-registered. Three data sources were used: threearc-second DTED, TM data (Fig. 1(a)), and geological maps. Watersheds and channel
networks (Fig. 1 (b)) were then delineated from the D T E D and verified by comparison
to co-registered TM scenes and geology maps. Monthly mean precipitation values
averaged between 1920 and 1980 m m (Legates & Wilmott, 1997) and an archival

452

Hazem M. Gheith & Mohamed I. Sultan

Fig. 1 (a) Mosaic of four Landsat TM band-5 images covering the Precambrian
volcanic-sedimentary rocks cropping out in southern Sinai (dark) and the Cretaceous
and Tertiary outcrops (bright) to the north, which are largely composed of sandstone
and limestone, respectively. The outlet of Wadi El-Arish, covered by box A, is
enlarged in Fig. 2. (b) Distribution of watersheds and streams network in Sinai
Peninsula. Also shown are the areas (in km ) covered by the identified watersheds.
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hyetograph were adopted as input to the hydrological model. W e assumed a single rain
event for each month. The US Soil Conservation Service (SCS) curve number method
(SCS, 1985) was adopted to calculate upstream initial losses in the sub-basins. Soils
were classified into three types: Quaternary valley deposits as type A; Nubian
Sandstone (NSS) as type B; and massive Tertiary limestone and basement rocks as
impervious areas. Runoff calculations were enabled by adopting the SCS unit
hydrograph (SCS, 1985) and by using the Riverside County lag-time equations for
mountainous, foothill, and valley areas (Riverside County Flood Control, 1978).
Channel routing was conducted by using the Muskingum routing method (McCarthy,
1938), whereby the average Manning's coefficient for gravel bed rivers was calculated
according to procedures developed by Jarrett (1984). W e adopted expressions
developed for a similar arid environment (Saudi Arabia) to calculate transmission
losses (groundwater recharge) in the stream networks from the known volume of
runoff upstream (Walters, 1990). The aerial extents of soil types and various
geomorphic features (valleys, mountains, and foothills) were identified from coregistered TM, DTED, and geological digital mosaics.

Assessment of the renewable groundwater resources of Wadi El-Arish, Sinai, Egypt

453

Fig. 2 Enlargement of the area covered by box A in Fig. 1(a). Also shown are
contoured elevations (in metres) that were extracted from DTED data.

DISCUSSION AND RESULTS


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W e identified 18 watersheds across Sinai, the largest (22 000 k m ) of which is the
Wadi El-Arish watershed (Fig. 1(b)). Each of the El-Watir, Awag, Girafi, Dahab and
Kid watersheds covers an area of 1500-3500 k m , and each of the remaining 12
watersheds covers an area less than 1500 k m . The hydrological model was applied to
calculate the upstream initial loss, transmission loss, and runoff in the Wadi El Arish
watershed for each of the rainy months of November, December, January, February
and March (Table 1).
Average annual recharge rates for the El-Arish aquifer were obtained by adding
the transmission losses deduced for the five rainy months (Table 1). Our estimate for
the annual recharge rate (32.5 x 10 m ) is conservative because it is based on average
monthly precipitation values, whereas in reality rain storms in Sinai are more likely to
occur as infrequent events or as rare large or extreme events. Large (26 mm) and
extreme (76 mm) rainstorms were reported to occur once every ten years and sixty
years, respectively in the St Catherine area (JICA, 1999). Assuming that these rare
events cover an area 150 km long and 50 1cm wide, centred on St Catherine, we found
that the recharge and initial losses from the 60-year events (76 mm) are sub-equal,
each amounting to approximately 5 0 % of the total precipitation. Considerably lower
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Hazem M. Gheith & Mohamed I. Sultan

454

Table 1 Results of hydrology model for Wadi El-Arish watershed (all values x 10
Transmission
losses

Downstream
runoff

Total
precipitation

Upstream
losses

144
202.5

139.6

December

192.7

5.7

0.4
4.1

January

201.1

193.4

4.6

3.1

February

270.6

254.4

March

163.1

158.6

4.2

0.3

Average annual

981.3

938.7

32.5

10.1

92.8

63

29.5

0.3

271.9

131.8

135.4

4.8

November

10-year event (26 mm)


60-year event (76.2 mm)

14

2.2

recharge (32% of precipitation) and higher initial losses (68% of precipitation) were
computed for the relatively smaller (26 mm), 10-year events (Table 1). Unfortunately,
records for the temporal and spatial distribution of these infrequent-to-rare events are
incomplete and thus could not be used to evaluate the recharge of the Wadi El-Arish
alluvial aquifer. Future studies will benefit from Egypt's current efforts to further
develop Sinai's meteorological network. A fairly large (100 k m ) depression outlined
by the 200-m contour on Fig. 2 at the outlet of Wadi El-Arish could potentially be used
to enhance both the recharge of the alluvial aquifer under investigation and local
agricultural activity (e.g. area B on Fig. 2) if the outlet (point C on Fig. 2) of the
depression was dammed.
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Acknowledgements We thank Professors Mofeed Shehab, Farouk Ismail, Naguib El


Helaly, Fathy Saad, Hamdy Ibrahim and Zeinhom El Alfy for facilitating collaborative
scientific research between Cairo University and the Argonne National Laboratory. Efforts
at Argonne National Laboratory were supported by Cairo University and by Argonne's
Strategic Initiatives Program through US Department of Energy Contract W-3 l-109-Eng-38.

REFERENCES
J I C A (Japan international Cooperation A g e n c y ) (1999) South Sinai G r o u n d w a t e r R e s o u r c e s Study Report.

Pacific

Consultants International and Sanyu Consultants Inc., T o k y o , Japan.


Jarrett, R. D. (1984) Hydraulics of high-gradient streams. J. Hydraulic

Engng

110, 1 5 1 9 - 1 5 3 9 .

Legates, D. R. & W i l m o t t , C. J. (1997) Legates Surface and Ship Observation of Precipitation


nasa.gov/hvdrologv/precip/legates/README.legates

ftp://daac.gsfc.

gauge precip

M c C a r t h y , G. T. ( 1 9 3 8 ) T h e unit h y d r o g r a p h and flood routing. In: Proc.

Conf. North

Atlantic

Div.

U S Corps of

Engineers, N e w L o n d o n , Connecticut, U S A .
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Manual.

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W a t e r Conservation District.
Engineering

Handbook,

Section

4, Hydrology.

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Engng

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