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Flow modelling of strategically vital freshwater aquifers in Kuwait


An oil flow from the oil wells damaged during the 1991 Gulf War and the sea water used for extinguishing the resulting oil fire have contaminated the freshwater aquifers of Raudhatain and Umm Al-Aish water fields in north Kuwait. The numerical flow modelling of the aquifers was undertaken to create a calibrated and validated model that could be used in the future to explore a viable remediation strategy for the aquifers. The Environmental Visualization Software (EVS-pro) 3-D data presentation program was used to construct a conceptual model as a preliminary step. A 3-D numerical model was developed using the MODFLOW-SURFACT code that overcame the limitations of the classical MODFLOW. This model was able to combine both freshwater lenses in one model domain simulating the vadose zone together with the saturated zone. The model domain covered an area of 580 km2 encompassing the Al-Raudhatain and Umm Al-Aish basins. A steady-state model was developed first to study regional flow patterns in the aquifer. A transient model was developed subsequently to assess seasonal recharge on groundwater and investigate their effects on flow patterns. Analysis of the calibrated steady-state model output indicated that the model simulated the groundwater elevation and flow direction across the model domain to an acceptable level. The calibrated transient flow model is of significant importance to assess the vertical and lateral plume migration in the area and helps to come up with a plausible remediation strategy.

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The authors would like to thank the Kuwait National Focal Point for Environmental Projects, Ministry of Electricity and Water in Kuwait—Groundwater Sector and SMEC international for providing access to some of their data.

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Correspondence to Yohannes Yihdego.

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Al-Weshah, R.A., Yihdego, Y. Flow modelling of strategically vital freshwater aquifers in Kuwait. Environ Earth Sci 75, 1315 (2016).

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  • Groundwater modelling
  • Gulf war
  • Groundwater management
  • Remediation
  • Water resources
  • Kuwait