Gravel Aquifers

  • Abdulrahman S. Alsharhan
  • Zeinelabidin E. Rizk
Part of the World Water Resources book series (WWR, volume 3)


The eastern and western gravel aquifers comprise the largest groundwater reservoirs of acceptable quality in the UAE, and their water is used for domestic, agricultural and industrial purposes in the eastern coastal region. However, excessive groundwater pumping has dramatically lowered groundwater levels, deteriorated water quality and caused intrusion of saline water in many areas.

The eastern gravel aquifer is composed of unconsolidated sand and gravel, four to 10 km wide and 24–113 m thick. The aquifer’s saturated thickness varies between 24 and 92 m and the groundwater depth ranges from 7 to 10 m. The aquifer’s average water-table elevation, hydraulic conductivity (K) and transmissivity (T) are 48 m amsl, 57 m/d and 2440 m2/d, respectively. Rainfall is the main source of recharge for the aquifer, and groundwater is mostly fresh, but salinity increases towards the Gulf of Oman in the east. The 3H and 14C activities in the eastern gravel aquifer suggest that the water wells tapping the aquifer drain a local system of groundwater flow and confirms that rainfall is the major source of the present-day aquifer recharge. For this reason, the groundwater water is used for all purposes.

The western gravel aquifer consists mainly of conglomerate outwash fans, gravel and sand, with silt and clay intercalations derived mainly from Semail ophiolites forming the eastern mountain ranges in the UAE. The aquifer covers the area between the mountains in the east and sand dune fields in the west, and receives large amounts of fresh recharge water from the mountains. The aquifer’s average thickness is 60 m in the east, increasing to 400 m west of Jabal Hafit. Recharge of the western gravel aquifer occurs through rains falling on the western side of the mountains. The depth to groundwater varies between 15 and 30 m below the ground surface, reaching 50–90 m in cones-of-depressions, and the transmissivity varies between 25 and 400 m2/d. The hydraulic heads in aquifer decrease from 370-m above mean sea level (amsl) near Al Buraimi area in the east to 110-m amsl west of Al Khaznah area in the west. Groundwater is fresh in the Al Jaww plain and Al Shuaib areas, brackish in the Al Ain area and saline west of Al Ain. The EC-SAR relationship reflects the suitability of groundwater for irrigation in the eastern Al Ain area, somewhat harmful around Al Ain City, and harmful for irrigation of traditional crops in western Al Ain.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Abdulrahman S. Alsharhan
    • 1
  • Zeinelabidin E. Rizk
    • 2
  1. 1.Middle East Geological and Environmental EstablishmentDubaiUnited Arab Emirates
  2. 2.University of Science and Technology of FujairahFujairahUnited Arab Emirates

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