Limestone Aquifers

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


The Limestone aquifers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are the northern limestone aquifer of the Wadi Al Bih basin in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, Dammam limestone aquifer in Jabal Hafit south of Al Ain City and limestone aquifers in the western region of Abu Dhabi Emirate.

Wadi Bih limestone aquifer is the main water source used for domestic and agricultural purposes in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. About 8.8% of rain falling on the Wadi Al Bih catchment area (475 km2) recharges the limestone aquifer. The aquifer’s recharge from rainfall increased to 13% after the Wadi Al Bih dam was construction in 1982. The decrease of groundwater pumping the Wadi Al Bih basin from 9.0 Mm3/year during the period 1991–1995 to 4.5 Mm3/year during the period 2010–2014, increased groundwater storage, raised the hydraulic heads and decreased groundwater salinity by 45% in the Al Burayrat well field 30% in the Wadi Al Bih well field. The study of stable isotopes suggests that the groundwater recharge occurs at an elevation of 1050 m. The source of increasing groundwater salinity in the aquifer during the period 1980–1994 is likely to be upwelling of more saline water from deeper zones in the aquifer itself under the influence of the excessive groundwater pumping. The groundwater in the aquifer is hard to very hard and the SAR values indicate that the groundwater is mostly characterized by limited harmful effects on plants and soils when used for irrigation.

Water wells tapping the limestone Dammam aquifer in Jabal Hafit produce 21,000 m3/day of thermal (36–52 °C), brackish (3900–6900 mg/L), with high radium-226 and radon-222 gases. This water is slightly alkaline (pH 7–8), sodium-chloride rich and is now used for recreation, therapeutic purposes and landscaping. In Jabal Hafit, three water-bearing zones were identified: an upper freshwater zone, a middle brackish- water zone and a lower saline-water zone. The sources water in the Dammam aquifer include recharge water from rains directly falling on Jabal Hafit and saline water moving upward from a depth of 2000 m under temperature or gas drive. The brackish water forms when descending fresh recharge water mixes with ascending hot saltwater in the Jabal Hafit area. In addition to its curative and therapeutic and values, the groundwater in Jabal Hafit is now used for recreation, tourism and irrigation of salt-tolerant palm trees.

The limestone aquifers in the western UAE, including the Simsima, Umm Er Radhuma and Dammam, are highly saline. Water from these aquifers is injected in oil reservoirs to maintain pressure.


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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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