Forecasting the Depletion of Transboundary Groundwater Resources in Hyper-Arid Environments

Monday, 15 December 2014: 9:15 AM
Annamaria Mazzoni, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, United States and Essam Heggy, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States
The increase in awareness about the overexploitation of transboundary groundwater resources in hyper-arid environments that occurred in the last decades has highlighted the need to better map, monitor and manage these resources. Climate change, economic and population growth are driving forces that put more pressure on these fragile but fundamental resources. The aim of our approach is to address the question of whether or not groundwater resources, especially non-renewable, could serve as “backstop” water resource during water shortage periods that would probably affect the drylands in the upcoming 100 years. The high dependence of arid regions on these resources requires prudent management to be able to preserve their fossil aquifers and exploit them in a more sustainable way. We use the NetLogo environment with the FAO Aquastat Database to evaluate if the actual trends of extraction, consumption and use of non-renewable groundwater resources would remain feasible with the future climate change impacts and the population growth scenarios. The case studies selected are three: the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System, shared between Egypt, Libya, Sudan and Chad; the North Western Sahara Aquifer System, with Algeria, Tunisia and Libya and the Umm Radhuma Dammam Aquifer, in its central part, shared between Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain. The reason these three fossil aquifers were selected are manifold. First, they represent properly transboundary non-renewable groundwater resources, with all the implications that derive from this, i.e. the necessity of scientific and socio-political cooperation among riparians, the importance of monitoring the status of shared resources and the need to elaborate a shared management policy. Furthermore, each country is characterized by hyper-arid climatic conditions, which will be exacerbated in the next century by climate change and lead to probable severe water shortage periods. Together with climate change, the rate of population growth will be at unprecedented levels for these areas causing the water demand of these nations to grow largely. Our preliminary simulation results suggest that fossil aquifers cannot be used as a long-term solution for water shortage in hyper-arid environments. Aquifers in the Arabian Peninsula are forecasted to be depleted within decades.