Geomorphology and Geology and Their Influence on Water Resources
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Geologic conditions govern the distribution of aquifers and confining units and their outcrops, while geomorphic features control the directions of surface-water flow. Usually any stratigraphic sequence can be differentiated into aquifers, aquitards, aquicludes and aquifuges. Geologic conditions also control the distribution of structural belts, which influence groundwater flow, recharge and discharge. Both geomorphology and geology determine the volumes of surface runoff and amounts and rates of infiltration, in addition to surface-water and groundwater quality.
The major geomorphic features in the UAE include the Northern Oman Mountains (the eastern mountain ranges), gravel plains surrounding the eastern and western sides of these mountains, sand dunes, coastal areas and drainage basins. The porosity and hydraulic conductivity of the rocks forming the mountain ranges in northern and eastern UAE are very low. Therefore, most of runoff water makes its way rapidly towards the gravel plains in the east and west. The freshwater feeding these plains turns them into the most important, freshwater and renewable aquifers in the country.
Sand dunes cover most of the UAE, stretching between the western gravel plains to the east and the sabkha deposits along the Arabian Gulf to the west. The coastal areas include tidal flats and coastal sabkhas. The inland sabkhas occupy topographic depressions between the sand dunes and represent areas of groundwater discharge. Despite the absence of surface-water features such as rivers and lakes, dry drainage lines interrupt the continuity of rock outcrops and gravel plains forming a network of dry drainage basins which may carry water during the rainy seasons. The drainage basins in mountains are dominated by dense trellis and rectangular patterns because of the wide variation in lithologies and presence of several geologic structures, while the basins in gravel plains are characterized by dendritic and braided patterns because of the homogeneity of plain sediments.
The geologic conditions, stratigraphy and main surface and subsurface structural elements determine the hydrogeologic characteristics of the lithologic units in terms of their relationship to water. The rock sequence in the Ru’us Al Jibal area ranges from the Permian to Early Triassic and represents the main aquifer in the Wadi Al Bih basin of the Ras Al Khaimah Emirate. The Dammam Formation, belonging to the Eocene age, forms the main aquifer in Jabal Hafit. The Quaternary gravel-and-sand aquifer is the UAE’s most important aquifer. The surface and subsurface geologic structures affect, either directly or indirectly, surface-water and groundwater resources. These structures include Ru’us Al Jibal, Dibba zone, Wadi Ham line, Hatta zone, Al Fayah mountains and the Al Ain mountains, as well as subsurface structures.
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