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Using Satellite Images for Groundwater Exploration in the Sultanate of Oman

Principal Investigator: Dr. Farouk El-Baz

Research Associates: Cordula Robinson, Magaly Koch, Timothy Kusky

Graduate Students/Research Associates: Lynne Fielding, Mutlu Ozdogan, Michael Ledwith, Jennifer Inzana, Said Al-Khamisi, Ahmed Al-Malki

Sponsors: Ministry of Water Resources, Sultanate of Oman

Duration: May 1996 – February 2000

Project Summary:

project focus areaThe Sultanate of Oman is growing rapidly each year. This unprecedented growth phase makes water resources particularly precious, since Oman’s climate is so arid. Oman’s development depends on locating new sources of high-quality water supplies. Perhaps because of its understanding of the value of water, and its long and rich history of extracting water from seemingly barren landscapes, Oman supports research that uses space-age technology in order to assess the potential for Oman’s geolgically rich env ironment to supply groundwater.

The Center for Remote Sensing is currently working on the final phase of a three-year project entitled “Utilizing Satellite Images for Ground-Water Exploration in the Sultanate of Oman” in cooperation with Oman’s Ministry of Water Resources. The purpose of the project is to use remotely-sensed data from space-borne platforms (such as Landsat, SIR-C, RadarSat, SPOT, and IRS-C) to assess the potential of ground-water availability throughout this middle eastern country.

Short-term goals included providing support and expertise to the Ministry or Water Resources in their immediate needs to locate urban areas and agricultural centers that experience water stress due to the combination of drought and development. A long-te rm objective is to provide Oman’s government with information that will point toward areas where eretofore untapped water supplies may be located in the future. Boston University has also admitted three Omani students in advanced degree programs that con centrate on remote sensing, water resources, and GIS.

Year One of the project was devoted to studying northern Oman, where most of the country’s population and agriculture is located. The other years were spent’ studying Oman’s southern and central regions.

The geology of Northern Oman is a diverse mix of mountains, alluvial plains, coastal areas, and desert. Throughout the region, groundwater is recharged by precipitation that falls at mid-to-high altitudes (mountains) and runs off onto alluvial plains on either side of the mountain range. Ground water flows beneath the desert and discharges rather far away from the source, so its quality is degraded in the process. Along the way, communities have sprouted where geological conditions bring water near the surface. CRS satellite data research aimsto identify geological features such as faults and drainage patterns (both active and ancient) which may point to areas where ground water is concentrated.

CRS research faculty and staff use their respective specialties (i.e., Landsat. SIR-C, RadarSat and thermal imaging)in order to achieve a view of study areas that allow for broad-based photogeologic analyses. Comparison of radar (SIR-C) with Landsat data , for example, has resulted in the ability to discriminate ancient drainage from recent drainage. These results suggest that areas where ancient drainage is present may be favorable for locating concentrations of ground water; because ground water collec ts in permeable zones associated with channels. Buried faults can also be identified by mapping these ancient drainage patterns. Thermal imaging shows promise in showing locations where near surface ground water in fracture zones, and otherwise, cause a cooling of the surface.