Groundwater Potential of the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt

Principal Investigator: Dr. Farouk El-Baz and Dr. Ibrahim Himida

Research Associates: Magaly Koch, Timothy Kusky, Robert Morency

Graduate Students: Lynne Fielding

Sponsor: United States Agency for International Development (AID) in Cairo, Egypt

Duration: September 1992 – September 1995

Project Summary:

In September 1992, we initiated a research project to be conducted jointly between the Boston University Center for Remote Sensing (BU/CRS) and the Desert Research Center (DRC) in Cairo, Egypt. It was one of the International Cooperative Agreements of the National Agricultural Research Project (NARP), which was administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (AID) in Cairo, Egypt.

During the nearly three-years of work, all the satellite images of the Sinai Peninsula were enhanced and interpreted. Data from several field excursions were conducted, many with team members from both BU/CRS and DRC, were integrated with image data using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) methodologies. The research resulted in the recognition of a dozen sites with potential for groundwater exploration. Three have already been drilled and produced water.

In addition, work was done in the southeastern part in the Eastern Desert near the border with Sudan, and the Kharga Depression south of Baris, with similar results. These results prove beyond doubt the applicability of remote sensing to groundwater exploration particularly in arid regions.

First Year Results

Efforts were directed at accomplishing four main goals including: 1) acquisition and cataloging of remotely sensed images and geologic and topographic maps of the Sinai Peninsula; 2) interpretation of drainage patterns, fracture traces, and regional structural geology from these images; 3) correlation of the image interpretations with geological maps of the region; and 4) selection of potential groundwater well drilling sites for further detailed study and analysis.

Towards these goals the drainage and fracture patterns were analyzed on nine 1:100,000 scale Landsat RBV images, and seven 1:250,000 scale Landsat MSS images of the Sinai Peninsula. We also formulated a model relating fracture frequency and drainage density to groundwater potential. High fracture and intersection frequency and low drainage density indicate an increased fracture porosity of the rock, this favoring surface water infiltration and transmission. Conversely, zones of low fracture and intersection density but high drainage density are characteristic of impermeable rock types.

Second Year Results

In north-central Sinai tectonic activity has resulted in a network of young fractures that increased the capacity of the near-surface rocks to absorb and store runoff in this secondary porosity. Advances in the field of image segmentation allowed automated delineation of drainage networks from Landsat images. These data were used for correlation with structural data, specifically areas of intense fracturing, which were considered to be potential groundwater storage areas.

Ten sites in north-central Sinai were recommended for further study and preliminary drilling after the second year of our work. Results of this test drilling will have implications for the urban and agricultural development of the area between Nekhl, El-Arish, and the Israeli border.

Third Year Results

We constructed an extensive database on the geology, structure, hydro-geology, geochemistry, and geophysics of the Sinai Peninsula. Significant gaps in the database, however, hinder a complete understanding of the flow regimes. The main issues remaining to be addressed are: the elevations of wellheads, referred to a common datum; and a standardized suite of geochemical parameters, for which samples are gathered during a short time interval from wells purged of at least one well volume. To be documented are the time of sampling, sampled depth intervals, temperature, pH, and conductivity. Furthermore, the gathering and compiling of these data should be coordinated by a single agency with specific expertise in Egypt’s hydrogeology.

The database includes digitized layers of the topography of the Sinai Peninsula at 1:100,000, geology of the Sinai Peninsula (at 1:250,000), and digitized layers including interpreted lineament and drainage patterns from Landsat MSS and RBV images at several scales, and by several different investigators. This database forms a valuable asset for future studies including ground and surface water modeling, detection of topographic lineaments, and superimposing topographic, geologic, and other data sets in a GIS. In addition, DEM’s can be constructed, which can yield useful information on slope, surface runoff, aspect, and establish drainage divides and other parameters.