Liwa Quaternary Sand Aquifer

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


This chapter investigates the hydrogeology and hydrogeochemistry of the “Liwa Quaternary sand aquifer” in the western UAE. The results of an investigation uncovered the presence of a fresh groundwater lens south of the Bu Hasa Oil Field. A similar aquifer is already known to exist in the area between Madinat Zayed and Liwa Oasis. The aquifers in both areas have similar hydraulic properties, water chemistry and isotopic contents. For this reason, both aquifers are named by the authors the Liwa Quaternary sand aquifer.

The Liwa Quaternary sand aquifer is composed of two fresh/groundwater mounds in Liwa and Bu Hasa and constitutes a relic of an older and larger aquifer system formed during the pluvial periods that affected the northwestern part of Liwa Oasis between 7000 and 5000 years ago. A large mound of an oval shape, 120-km long and 40-km wide, extends between the Liwa Crescent and Madinat Zayed, and another small elliptical mound, with an average diameter of 40 km, occurs between Bu Hasa and Habshan areas. In Liwa, the groundwater depth is <5 to >50 m, and in Bu Hasa the groundwater depth is 24–52 m. The aquifer’s hydraulic parameters are: “hydraulic conductivity (K) is 2.3–8.5 m/d, transmissivity (T) is 200–650 m2/d and specific capacity (SC) is 40–90 m2/d. The aquifer’s saturated thickness varies from <75 m at Shah and Hamim to >175 m between Bu Hasa and Madinat Zayed. The Liwa Quaternary sand aquifer is free (Sy = 0.1–0.3) and heterogeneous (hydraulic gradient = 0.001–0.01)”.

The groundwater in the Liwa Quaternary sand aquifer is: “Fresh where the total dissolved solids (TDS) is ≤1000 mg/L, saline where the TDS is ≥10,000 mg/L, mostly hard (TH > 200 mg/L) and unsuitable for drinking or domestic uses. The concentrations of all cations and anions (except HCO3) increase from the center of each fresh water mound outwards in all directions”. The average values of sodium adsorption ratios (SARLiwa = 24 and SARBu Hasa = 40) and electrical conductance (ECLiwa = 13,016 μS/cm and ECBu Hasa = 4588 μS/cm) indicates that the groundwater of the Liwa Quaternary sand aquifer can harm conventional crops when used for irrigation. The concentrations minor cations (NO3 and F) and trace elements (B, Cr and Zn) are higher than the WHO limits for drinking water.

Based on analysis of groundwater chemistry and natural isotopes (2H, 3H, 18O and 14C), the authors identified and characterized regional, intermediate and local groundwater-flow systems in the UAE. The Liwa-Bu Hasa area has a regional groundwater-flow system characterized by an old groundwater of Cl type, low carbon-14 (14C) and tritium (3H) activities. This finding supports the proposed past pluvial periods indicated in previous studies used radiocarbon dating of lacustrine deposits in the Liwa area.

The high level of stable isotopes (2H and 18O) in the Liwa Quaternary sand aquifer indicates high evaporation before recharge. Both isotopes are identical in the aquifer at Bu Hasa Oil field and Liwa Oasis, reflecting the similarity of groundwater characteristics in both areas. The absence of 3H and low level of 14C in groundwater samples collected from of the aquifer suggest old-age groundwater and lack of recharge in the present time.


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© 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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