Alternative water resources in the Sinai Peninsula

Chapters :

Background

Demand of freshwater supplies in arid and semi-arid countries worldwide is on the rise because of the increasing populations and the limited water supplies. This problem is exemplified in countries of Saharan Africa (Northern Africa) and the Middle East, where scarcity of water resources is contributing to political instability, disputes, conflicts and terrorism. The proposed project aims in demonstrating the viability of alternative water resources that could complement or substitute for surface waters, thus easing use conflicts and allowing some water flow for the ecosystems.

Objectives

  • Develop in-country scientific and technical capabilities in the area of assessment of alternative water resources. This will be attained by conducting training for the participants, acquisition of laboratory (hardware, software) for image processing, and hydrologic modeling. Also, by presenting findings in national and international meetings by the involved national scientists, especially the junior scientists.
  • Collect and conduct geochemical and isotopic analyses on water samples from existing wells and water bodies.
  • Identify the origin of subsurface waters in all of the main valleys of the Sinai Peninsula by analysis of geochemical and isotopic data.
  • Develop a web-based GIS to host all relevant data sets (our data and published data).
  • Identify the watersheds and stream network in the study area.
  • Collect all available satellite-based precipitation data for the study area.
  • Generate, test, refine, and validate an integrated continuous rainfall-runoff model for mountainous arid regions that combines temporal and spatial distribution of rainfall with appropriate infiltration parameters for various soil types to estimate infiltration. Test and refine the model at several locations by using data on flooding events.
  • Produce a map that highlights potential well locations.
  • Test the validity of the selected sites by geophysical methods and drilling.

What is being done

Thus far, the majority of the collection of published data (95%) has been compiled and organized into a GIS database, which includes existing isotopic data, chemical data, water well data and geophysical data. A custom made tool has been added to the web-based GIS to enable users to visualize, analyze and manipulate the data.

Two field trips have been conducted where temperature probes were installed in several depths in seven locations and soil temperature data have been collected from the buried probes. The soil temperature data is to be used to compute recharge rates following precipitation events.

Groundwater samples have also been collected for groundwater dating (14C), solute chemistry, radioactivity, oxygen and hydrogen analyses. Groundwater tracers (CaBr2) were also setup for groundwater recharge investigation in five locations near Wadi Ferrain.

A major finding of this investigation is that the Nubian Sandstone (NSS) aquifer of NE Africa, believed to contain only fossil groundwater, is locally receiving modern recharge and estimates of this modern recharge were obtained using continuous rainfall-runoff modeling. Findings bear on the sustainable exploitation of the NSS aquifer, where the aquifer is being locally recharged, and on the exploitation of similar extensive aquifers largely recharged in previous wet climatic periods.

Training of young scientists

This project has achieved high levels of success in terms of training young scientists to carry on the work in the future. It is an ideal situation for local geologists to get extensive training on remote sensing, GIS and hydrologic modeling principles pertaining to the Sinai Peninsula. From the Egyptian side four (4) young scientists from the Suez Canal University and eight (8) from the Western Michigan University (U.S. side) have been involved in the project. Through NATO funding, these young scientists have been able to travel, train, and learn from their peers in NATO and Partner countries.

End results

The project is in its third year, and some of the preliminary results have already been published in peer-reviewed Journals, namely in the Journal of Hydrology and in the Journal of Computers and Geosciences. Findings have also been presented in numerous National and International conferences. A web-based GIS has been established to facilitate the transfer of project results to the end-users. The web-base allows users to view, interact and download all of the current datasets produced for the project. Discussions are underway to bring the National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences (NARSS) as a new end-user for the developed methodologies.