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Groundwater dynamics in fossil fractured carbonate aquifers in Eastern Arabian Peninsula: A preliminary investigation

Abotalib.Z. Abotalib, Essam Heggy, Giovanni Scabbia, Annamaria Mazzoni
Journal of hydrology 2019 v.571 pp. 460-470
Landsat, aquifers, carbonates, fossils, groundwater, groundwater flow, hydrodynamics, karsts, landscapes, radar, water quality, Qatar
Eastern Arabian Peninsula represents the main natural groundwater discharge area of the Arabian platform fossil aquifer system. In such settings, connections between aquifers could strongly affect the flow dynamics, water quality and availability as well as karst formation and landscape evolution. Geological structures such as folds and faults are central to aquifer connectivity, yet their role on groundwater flow is poorly understood. Herein, we perform mapping of exposed and buried structural features in the Qatar Peninsula using Landsat, Sentinel-2 and ALOS-PalSAR scenes, correlated with field, GPR and isotopic data to assess their role in aquifer connections and groundwater dynamics. Our results suggest that ENE-WSW oriented fold-related faults act as vertical conduits along which artesian upward leakages from the deep Aruma aquifer take place into the shallower main aquifer unit (i.e. Umm er Radhuma and Rus) in southern Qatar Peninsula. On the other hand, downward leakage from the freshwater lens in the Dammam aquifer take place in northern Qatar Peninsula. The deep, brackish, and gaseous-rich waters ascending along faults in south Qatar Peninsula, in addition to degrading the water quality in the main aquifer unit, enhance dissolution of carbonates and evaporites leading to strong karstification that produces abundant collapse features. Our findings suggest that structure controls can add significant complexity to recharge mechanisms and groundwater dynamics in fossil aquifers. Future large-scale radar subsurface mapping will be essential to resolve the variability of the water heads in such areas and its correlation to structural discontinuities.