Anthropogenic wetlands due to over-irrigation of desert areas: a challenging hydrogeological investigation with extensive geophysical input from TEM and MRS measurements
- 1Department of Geophysics, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA
- 2Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering, University of Padua, Padua, Italy
- 3Consorzio Universitario per la Ricerca Socioeconomica e per l'Ambiente (CURSA), Rome, Italy
- 4Department of Geoscience, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
- 5Mathematical Methods and Models for Engineering (M3E s.r.l.), Padua, Italy
Abstract. During the last century, many large irrigation projects were carried out in arid lands worldwide. Despite a tremendous increase in food production, a common problem when characterizing these zones is land degradation in the form of waterlogging. A clear example of this phenomenon is in the Nubariya depression in the Western Desert of Egypt. Following the reclamation of desert lands for agricultural production, an artificial brackish and contaminated pond started to develop in the late 1990s, which at present extends for about 2.5 km2. The available data provide evidence of a simultaneous general deterioration of the groundwater system. An extensive hydrogeophysical investigation was carried out in this challenging environment using magnetic resonance sounding (MRS) and ground-based time-domain electromagnetic (TEM) techniques with the following main objectives: (1) understanding the hydrological evolution of the area; (2) characterizing the hydrogeological setting; and (3) developing scenarios for artificial aquifer remediation and recharge. The integrated interpretation of the geophysical surveys provided a hydrogeological picture of the upper 100 m sedimentary setting in terms of both lithological distribution and groundwater quality. The information is then used to set up (1) a regional groundwater flow and (2) a local density-dependent flow and transport numerical model to reproduce the evolution of the aquifer system and develop a few scenarios for artificial aquifer recharge using the treated water provided by a nearby wastewater treatment plant. The research outcomes point to the hydrological challenges that emerge for the effective management of water resources in reclaimed desert areas, and they highlight the effectiveness of using advanced geophysical and modeling methodologies.