Conjunctive use of groundwater and surface water resources with aquifer recharge by treated wastewater: evaluation of management scenarios in the Zarqa River Basin, Jordan

  • Mustafa El-Rawy
  • Vitaly A. Zlotnik
  • Marwan Al-Raggad
  • Ali Al-Maktoumi
  • Anvar Kacimov
  • Osman Abdalla
Original Article


We study the effects of treated wastewater (TWW) discharge into the Zarqa River in Jordan and the underlying unconfined limestone Hummar Aquifer. The main objectives were to develop a conceptual model of the aquifer, to gain better understanding of water dynamics in the basin and to investigate different management scenarios of conjunctive use of groundwater and surface water. The model using MODFLOW 2005 code was developed over a selected part of the Zarqa River Valley of area 387 km2, including the As Samra wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). The annual TWW discharge of 110 million m3 significantly augments the groundwater storage and allows for expansion of agricultural practices in the area, providing large reserve during dry spells. On average, the water table rises by 29 m following the inception of the WWTP. The results indicate that the aquifer will be able to accommodate extra discharge of TWW when the plant will operate at full capacity as planned and upon increase in the abstraction rate for irrigation by 30 %, based on farming land availability. This abstraction will result in an average water table drawdown of 0.3 m. Because around 20 % of the discharged TWW only reach the aquifer, we recommend direct use of river water, especially during drought periods to reduce the stress on the aquifer storage and its associated depletion. The simulated conjunctive use and MAR utilizing both TWW and the groundwater present a salient case study of intricate management of water resources in arid zone. Augmentation of groundwater resources by both banking of the TWW and management of water use will allow more agricultural activities that would result in a better income for farming communities and social stability in the MENA region, where water is a precious commodity.


Groundwater–surface water interactions Zarqa River As Samra wastewater treatment plant Jordan Conjunctive water use MODFLOW 2005 



Base case scenario (current situation)


Background scenario


River conductance (m2/day)


Recharge rate (m3/day)


Soil depth (m)


Depth of the horizon above the horizon with the lowest hydraulic conductivity (m)


Evapotranspiration (mm/year)


Geographical information system


Stream depth at the gauging station (m)


Average river water depth for base scenario (m)


Average river water depth for a given scenario (m)


Inverse distance weighing method


Hydrological and physical processes-based model of the water balance of large catchment areas


Maximum coefficient of hydraulic conductivity (m/day)


Minimum coefficient of hydraulic conductivity (m/day)


Hydraulic conductivity of streambed sediments (m/day)


Length of the river reach (m)


Managed aquifer recharge


Middle East and North Africa


A graphical user interface for MODFLOW-2005


Finite-difference groundwater flow model


Thickness of the streambed sediments (m)


Ministry of Water and Irrigation of Jordan


North East


Natural Resources Authority, Amman, Jordan


Precipitation (mm/year)


River discharge


River discharge changes among various scenarios


River MODFLOW package


Runoff (mm/year)


Soil Conservation Service, the United States Department of Agriculture


Soil type ID


Sewage treatment plant


South West


Treated wastewater


United States of America 


United States Agency for International Development


US Geological Survey


Width of the river reach (m)


Jordan Water Authority, Amman, Jordan


Wastewater treatment plant


Change in soil water storage in the soil column (mm/year)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mustafa El-Rawy
    • 1
    • 2
  • Vitaly A. Zlotnik
    • 3
  • Marwan Al-Raggad
    • 4
  • Ali Al-Maktoumi
    • 5
  • Anvar Kacimov
    • 5
  • Osman Abdalla
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Civil Engineering, Faculty of EngineeringMinia UniversityMiniaEgypt
  2. 2.Departmentof Hydrology and Hydraulic EngineeringVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Department of Earth and Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of Nebraska-LincolnLincolnUSA
  4. 4.Water, Energy and Environment CenterUniversity of JordanAmmanJordan
  5. 5.Sultan Qaboos UniversityMuscatOman

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