Technical data

Emirates News Agency – EAD undertakes hydrogeological mapping project to prepare digital maps, using geographic information systems

ABU DHABI, 4th February, 2022 (WAM) — The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD), in cooperation with the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, is carrying out a hydrogeological mapping project for the United Arab Emirates, a unique project in the Arabian Gulf region.

The project aims to collect, classify and analyze all available ground and surface water data, which has been collected from well drilling, research and reports. This information will be converted into digital data that can be used to prepare accurate, high-quality digital maps using Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

The information covers groundwater, well locations, geological and topographical data, land use, surface water, ponds, dams and springs, as well as vegetation cover and soil. Data is categorized and interpreted to identify gaps and provide missing information. This is achieved through field tests and measurements such as pumping tests on selected wells and collecting data on groundwater levels. Water salinity and chemical, biological and radioactive characteristics as well as other surface geological information and land use and climate data are also measured.

Maps are produced with different drawing scales to determine the types and sizes of underground aquifers. The maps also determine the depths, storage capacity, and draw and recharge locations for these reservoirs.

The information also helps to identify aquifers subject to depletion, salinization, due to increased abstraction, and the extent of pollution of these aquifers. This is in addition to causes of pollution and many other features that can be displayed as maps.

The information enables the country’s decision makers to properly understand the current situation of underground aquifers. It further facilitates the adoption of appropriate measures, procedures and policies to exploit these aquifers in a sustainable manner by using the available groundwater resources, protecting them from depletion and pollution and optimally planning their use. more efficient land.

The hydrogeological map of the UAE will also help determine the locations of existing wells and identify future drilling locations and areas that suffer from a lack of data – where knowledge of groundwater is insufficient.

Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of EAD, said: “Groundwater in the UAE is a vital source to provide water for agriculture and forestry and is necessary to ensure the well- social being of the population and economic growth.This represents the continued pressure on this non-renewable and exhaustible resource and increasing salinization due to over-abstraction and scarcity of rainfall, leading to non-renewable groundwater resources in most parts of the country.

Al Dhaheri said that meeting water demand for all consuming sectors is an ongoing struggle that requires the full attention of all concerned authorities to provide accurate and high quality data. However, such data may not be available or may not reach planners, legislators and decision makers, which prompted EAD, in cooperation with the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, to take this important initiative to prepare and establish the first hydrogeological map of the UNITED ARAB EMIRATES.

The map will be an accurate and easy reference for policy makers, legislators and researchers in the fields of ground and surface water, he added.

The importance of the hydrogeological map is that it displays a lot of data and information at the same time and in one place in a clear and simple way. It displays all available ground and surface water data and information, such as their locations, quantities, depths, levels, movement, salinity, chemical, biological and radiological properties.

It also includes extraction rates, areas of overexploitation, excessive or drained areas, and natural recharge areas. This is also in addition to relevant information and data such as climate, precipitation rates, topography, surficial geology, land composition and use. Additionally, there is information on well density locations and other data that helps in understanding the current groundwater situation.

The hydrogeological map is also useful for saving public and private expenses and budgets for drilling wells and extracting groundwater. This is achieved by determining well density locations and identifying future drilling areas that have not been explored before or require further exploration. Additionally, determining well information to explore new resources or deep aquifers that have not been tapped before helps in budget management.

The implementation of the project will take approximately 42 months, starting from the start of the project implementation, which started in February 2020, and is expected to end in August 2023. The implementation will take place in three successive phases, the first phase lasting 18 months, covering the work of collection, categorization, analysis and interpretation of various data and the development of a database. then conduct on-the-ground surveys and measurements to fill those gaps. This is in addition to preparing and processing the required data and information in digital form to represent them as digital maps using GIS. The results of this stage are presented in the form of technical report stages.

The second phase, which will last 18 months, includes the compilation and production of hydrogeological maps for the whole country at different scales using GIS. The third and final phase, which will last six months, includes the preparation of the graphic design of the digital maps and the printing and review of the technical content of the maps by an international peer reviewer to ensure their compliance with international standards.

This is in addition to the preparation of an explanatory booklet for each map with images, sectors and diagrams, explaining the geological, hydrogeological and chemical characteristics of the groundwater, classifying the underground aquifers for each zone and various other information and data .

EAD has completed the preparation of the project’s inception report and the preparation of the working methodology, in accordance with international standards. The data collection and analysis stage has also been completed and a report has been prepared on current data gaps.

In addition, an action plan has been prepared to fill the gaps, and data has been collected on areas with no water data or information. A database (digital library) containing all the sources, reports, maps and digital data necessary for the project has also been set up, accessible online.

Fieldwork is currently underway to fill in the gaps, including conducting pumping experiments on several suitable wells to determine the hydraulic, permeability and storage parameters of underground aquifers in specific areas. Groundwater levels are measured and samples are taken and tested to identify their chemical, biological and radiological properties.

Project outputs include the preparation of digital maps of the United Arab Emirates with GIS and their printing on A0 sheets with different drawing scales. A booklet will be issued with each card, including an explanation and interpretation of the card and additional information.

Other key results also include the training of national employees in EAD and the improvement of their skills in the preparation of maps, using the latest technologies, programs and GIS, and the use of standards, colors and of international legends in the creation of geological and hydrogeological maps.