Assessment of waterlogging in agricultural megaprojects in the closed drainage basins of the Western Desert of Egypt
Abstract. This paper investigates the development of waterlogging in the cultivated and arable areas within typical dryland closed drainage basins (e.g. the Farafra and Baharia Oases), which are located in the Western Desert of Egypt. Multi-temporal remote sensing data of the Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) and Enhanced Thematic Mapper (ETM+) were collected and processed to detect the land cover changes; cultivations, and the extent of water ponds and seepage channels. The Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) digital elevation model (DEM) has been processed to delineate the catchment morphometrical parameters (i.e. drainage networks, catchment divides and surface areas of different basins) and to examine the spatial distribution of cultivated fields and their relation to the extracted drainage networks. The soil of these closed drainage basins is mainly shallow and lithic with high calcium carbonate content; therefore, the downward percolation of excess irrigation water is limited by the development of subsurface hardpan, which also saturates the upper layer of soil with water. The subsurface seepage from the newly cultivated areas in the Farafra Oasis has revealed the pattern of buried alluvial channels, which are waterlogged and outlined by the growth of diagnostic saline shrubs. Furthermore, the courses of these waterlogged channels are coinciding with their counterparts of the SRTM DEM, and the recent satellite images show that the surface playas in the downstream of these channels are partially occupied by water ponds. On the other hand, a large water pond has occupied the main playa and submerged the surrounding fields, as a large area has been cultivated within a relatively small closed drainage basin in the Baharia Oasis. The geomorphology of closed drainage basins has to be considered when planning for a new cultivation in dryland catchments to better control waterlogging hazards. The "dry-drainage" concept can be implemented as the drainage and seepage water can be conveyed through the inactive alluvial channels into certain abandoned playas for evaporation.