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Ground-water exploration in Al Marj area, Cyrenaica, United Kingdom of Libya

January 1, 1963

The present report, based largely on fieldwork during 1959-61, describes the results of reconnaissance hydrogeologic studies and exploratory drilling to evaluate the general water-bearing properties of the rocks and the availability of groundwater supplies for irrigation, stock, and village uses in Al Marj area. These studies and the drilling were conducted under the auspices of the U.S. Operations Mission of the International Cooperation Administration.

Al Marj area, located in the Province of Cyrenaica on the southern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, contains a land area of about 6,770 square kilometers. Along the Mediterranean shore is a narrow coastal plain that rises evenly to the base of an escarpment that forms the seaward front of an undulating plateau known as. Al Jabal al Akhgiar. The climate is semiarid; seasonal rainfall occurs during the winter months. Owing to orographic effects, the rainfall is somewhat higher in the Jabal than in the coastal plain. The average annual rainfall ranges from about 250 millimeters in the coastal plain to 450 millimeters on the Jabal. All the streams (wadis) of the area are ephemeral and flow only in response to heavy rains of the winter season. From a drainage divide on the Jabal some streams flow north and northwest toward the sea and the others, south and southeast to the interior desert. Solution features, such as limestone sink holes, are common in the coastal plain and a large solution depression occurs near Al Marj.

The rocks of A1 Marj area consist predominantly of limestone and some sandstone and shale; they range from Cretaceous to Miocene age. On the coastal plain Miocene limestone is locally mantled by Quaternary alluvial, beach and lagoonal deposits. The Miocene and older beds have a regional southerly dip. These rocks are broken by northeast-trending normal faults in the coastal and inland escarpments.

The ground-water reservoir is contained chiefly in fractures, bedding planes, and solution openings in the limestone country rock. The upper limit of this reservoir is marked by a water table which generally lies within 40 meters of the land surface in the coastal plain but is 100 meters or more below the surface of most of the Jabal and the interior desert. The ground-water reservoir is replenished chiefly by infiltration from surface-water runoff in wadis and to less extent by direct infiltration of rainfall. Ground water moves north and northwest toward the Mediterranean Sea and south toward the interior desert from a ground-water divide near the crest of A1 Jabal al Akhgiar. Discharge of ground water takes place by submarine outflow, spring flow, evapotranspiration, and withdrawals from wells.

Wells, springs, and cisterns furnish almost all water supplies for municipal, village, stock and irrigation purposes. Bengasi, A1 Marj, and A1 Abyar are the only centers of population with municipal distribution systems. Drafts from individual dug wells used for irrigation in the coastal plain generally are no more than 10 to 15 cubic meters per day. In the Jabal and the interior desert drafts from individual stock and village wells are generally less than 10 cubic meters per day and from most wells only a few thousand liters per day.

Some 21 test wells were put down during the present investigation to depths ranging from 30 to 309 meters. The yields obtained by test pump and bailer ranged from 45 to 0.6 cubic meters per hour. With few exceptions, well yields sufficient for stock and village requirements were obtained. Well yields sufficient for irrigation even on a moderate scale, however, are not everywhere available. In the Jabal and the interior desert the ground water is generally of good to fair chemical quality and suitable for most purposes. In the coastal plain, however, the ground water is in places moderately to highly mineralized, and consequently for irrigation use it must be applied to the land under optimum crop soil, and drainage conditions.

Publication Year 1963
Title Ground-water exploration in Al Marj area, Cyrenaica, United Kingdom of Libya
DOI 10.3133/wsp1757A
Authors T.G. Newport, Yousef Haddor
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Water Supply Paper
Series Number 1757
Index ID wsp1757A
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse