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Journal of Arid Land  2022, Vol. 14 Issue (2): 154-166    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-022-0005-0
Research article     
Assessment of water resources in Yarmouk River Basin using geospatial technique during the period 1980-2020
Department of Water Resources and Environmental Management, Al-Balqa Applied University, Al-Salt 19117, Jordan
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It is common knowledge that Yarmouk River Basin (YRB) is shared between Jordan and Syria. Management of YRB trans-boundary water resources is attracting increasing interest because it is a strategic water resource for the riparian countries. Actually, lack of sharing information regarding hydrological flows and basin's water management between partners' countries makes it difficult to distinguish between natural and man-made factors affecting the water body. Therefore, this study seeks to address and assess the main on-site changes that exert on YRB. Geospatial technique and arithmetic equations were combined to carry out an assessment of the changes on water resources in YRB. Data, information and field measurements of the basin were aggregated, compiled and presented to determine the extent of changes during the period 1980-2020. Remarkable findings showed that precipitation amount in the basin significantly declined during the period 1980-2020 in particularly after the year 1992. Pumping rate of groundwater was 550×103 m3/a, exceeding the basin's safe yield. Draw down of static groundwater level over time approached the value of -3.2 m/a due to the over abstraction in the aquifer body. Additionally, the evaporation rate reached more than 99% in some regions in the basin. Moreover, the number of private wells has increased from 98 wells in 1980 to 126 wells in 2020, showing the excessive extraction of groundwater. These findings indicate that the study area is subjected to a considerable groundwater depletion in the near future due to extensive abstraction, continuous drilling of illegal wells and decreased annual precipitation under the shadow of the rapid population growth and continuous influx of refugees. Therefore, decision makers-informed scenarios are suggested in the development of water resource portfolios, which involves the combination of management and infrastructural actions that enhance the water productivity of the basin. Further studies are recommended to evaluate the on-site changes on water resources in YRB in collaboration with riparian countries and to establish monitoring system for continuous and accurate measurements of the basin.

Key wordsassessment      geospatial technique      on-site changes      water resources      Yarmouk River Basin     
Received: 30 September 2021      Published: 28 February 2022
Corresponding Authors: *Noor M AL-KHARABSHEH (E-mail:
Cite this article:

Noor M AL-KHARABSHEH. Assessment of water resources in Yarmouk River Basin using geospatial technique during the period 1980-2020. Journal of Arid Land, 2022, 14(2): 154-166.

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Fig. 1 Yarmouk River Basin (YRB) and its location with respect to Jordan
Fig. 2 Schematic diagram of the developed water assessment approach applied in the study
Fig. 3 YRB watershed and its sub-basins
Fig. 4 Distribution of mean annual precipitation using the Thiessen Polygons method
Station Area covered (km2) Percentage of total area (%) Mean annual precipitation (mm)
Khanasiri 151.0 10.6 199
Mafraq Airport 148.0 10.4 157
Hosha 155.0 10.9 145
Jaber Mughayyir 163.0 11.4 138
Kufr Saum 107.0 7.5 475
Um Qeis 49.6 3.5 433
Kharja 119.0 8.3 403
Husun 87.0 6.1 359
En Nueiyime 139.0 9.7 297
Ramtha Boys School 134.0 9.4 256
Turra 74.2 5.2 265
Irbid 44.9 3.1 458
Ras Muneef 54.6 3.8 538
Table 1 Mean annual precipitation of Jordanian side of Yarmouk River Basin (YRB) and area covered
Station code Climate station Total area (%) Area covered (km2) Evaporation rate (%)
AE0002 Irbid 15.1 215 97
AH0003 Ras Muneef 9.7 139 92
AD0032 Baqura 1.1 15 95
AD0019 Mafraq Airport 26.2 374 100
AD0004 Samar 15.3 218 96
AD0012 Ramtha 32.6 465 99
Table 2 Calculated long-term evaporation rates for the climatic stations in YRB
Fig. 5 Isohyetal map of spatial distribution of mean annual precipitation in YRB
Fig. 6 Average evaporation rate of YRB
Fig. 7 Annual streamflow of Maqaren gauging station in YRB
Fig. 8 Annual streamflow of Adasiya gauging station in YRB
Fig. 9 Abstraction rate from pumping wells of YRB
Fig. 10 Drawdown rate of groundwater level from monitoring wells in YRB
On-site change Extent of change
Change in surface water availability (streamflow amount including baseflow and flood flow) using data of relevant gauging stations During the period 1980-2020, the highest mean annual precipitation occurred at the southwestern boundary of the basin (520 mm) and the lowest at the east of the basin (142 mm) due to the weather system interventions at various basin's relief. However, using the weighing average method, the weighted mean precipitation for the entire basin is 277 mm that dovetails the semi-arid Mediterranean climate to arid climate in YRB.
The values of annual streamflow in YRB clearly show an obvious declining trend especially after 1992 (440×106 m3) in comparison with 2020 (50×106 m3) in Maqaren gauging station as an example, which assures the influence of warming on precipitation and can dramatically impact runoff and groundwater recharge.
Change in evaporation rate from bare ground and open watershed The calculated long-term evaporation rates for the climate stations ranged from 92% to 100% at the southwestern highlands and eastern regions of the basin, respectively. It is obvious that this influence dramatically increases when shifting from west to east, reflecting the effect of climatic patterns from semi-arid to arid regions in YRB.
Change in groundwater availability (abstraction, monitoring wells and depth to water table) Ranges of pumping rates with a maximum of 550×103-300×103 m3/a are relatively high values that cause the excess of the basin's safe yield.
Drawdown rate of groundwater level over time due to over abstraction in the aquifer body varies from -3.2 to -0.9 m/a due to low amount of precipitation, natural and sudden increase in the number of population in addition to requirements of agribusiness interventions.
Expansion in water extraction from growing numbers of private or unlawful wells Number of state-owned and private wells are 33 and 12, 4 and 25, 6 and 33, 8 and 29, and 10 and 26, respectively, for the pumping rates with the ranges from 550×103-300×103, 300×103-200×103, 200×103-150×103, 150×103-75×103 to 75×103-2×103 m3/a, respectively.
Table 3 Extent of imposed on-site changes on water resources in YRB
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