Regional groundwater flow model for Abu Dhabi Emirate: scenario-based investigation

S. Sathish, M. Mohamed, H. Klammler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the continuous increase in water supply from desalination plants in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, groundwater remains the major source of fresh water satisfying domestic and agricultural demands. Groundwater has always been considered as a strategic water source towards groundwater security in the Emirate. Understanding the groundwater flow system, including identification of recharge and discharge areas, is a crucial step towards proper management of this precious source. One main tool to achieve such goal is a groundwater model development. As such, the main aim of this paper is to develop a regional groundwater flow model for the surficial aquifer in Abu Dhabi Emirate using MODFLOW. Up to our knowledge, this is the first regional numerical groundwater flow model for Abu Dhabi Emirate. After steady state and transient model calibration, several future scenarios of recharge and pumping are simulated. Results indicate that groundwater pumping remains several times higher than aquifer recharge from rainfall, which provides between 2 and 5% of total aquifer recharge. The largest contribution of recharge is due to subsurface inflow from the eastern Oman Mountains. While rainfall induced groundwater level fluctuation is absent in the western coastal region, it reaches a maximum of 0.5 m in the eastern part of the Emirate. In contrast, over the past decades, groundwater levels have declined annually by 0.5 m on average with local extremes spanning from 93 m of decline to 60 m of increase. Results also indicate that a further decrease in groundwater levels is expected in most of Emirate. At other few locations, upwelling of groundwater is expected due to a combination of reduced pumping and increased infiltration of water from nonconventional sources. Beyond results presented here, this regional groundwater model is expected to provide an effective tool to water resources managers in Abu Dhabi. It will help to accurately estimate sustainable extraction rates, assess groundwater availability, and identify pathways and velocity of groundwater flow as crucial information for identifying the best locations for artificial recharge.

Original languageEnglish
Article number409
JournalEnvironmental Earth Sciences
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Abu Dhabi Emirate
  • Groundwater recharge and discharge
  • Regional groundwater model
  • UAE

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Pollution
  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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