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Hydrogeologic framework and simulation of predevelopment groundwater flow, eastern Abu Dhabi Emirate, United Arab Emirates

April 7, 2020

Groundwater in eastern Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates is an important resource that is widely used for irrigation and domestic supplies in rural areas. The U.S. Geological Survey and the Environment Agency—Abu Dhabi cooperated on an investigation to integrate existing hydrogeologic information and to answer questions about regional groundwater resources in Abu Dhabi by developing a numerical groundwater flow model based on MODFLOW–2005 software. The groundwater flow model developed in this investigation provides an improved understanding of groundwater conditions in the eastern region of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The flow model simulates steady-state predevelopment conditions from before the rapid growth of modern pumping in the 1980s and was calibrated with 1,342 groundwater-level observations by use of automated and manual calibration techniques. The calibrated model provides good accuracy, with a mean error of 0.50 meters and a standard error of 5.92 meters for simulated groundwater levels. The results of the regional water budget simulation show that gap recharge, which is groundwater inflow through mountain-front gap alluvium, is the greatest source of water to the aquifer. In the base simulation scenario, gap recharge represents 80 percent of total inflow (119,470 of 149,403 cubic meters per day) and the greatest outflow from the aquifer is from evapotranspiration (93 percent of total outflow). Model scenario and sensitivity results reveal a need for data that more thoroughly and more accurately describe aquifer hydraulic conductivity, inflow to the aquifer from the Oman Mountains, and recharge from precipitation on the piedmont. Additional long-term aquifer pumping test observations would improve understanding of aquifer hydraulic conductivity, which would also improve model accuracy. Future studies can modify the model to understand the effect of land-use change and water use on groundwater supplies and simulate more complex groundwater flow conditions in a predictive mode.