Identifying potential sites for artificial groundwater recharge using GIS and AHP techniques: A case study of Erbil basin, Iraq

DOI: 10.48129/kjs.11917


  • Omeed H. Al-Kakey Institute of Geology, TU Bergakademie Freiberg, 09599 Freiberg, Germany
  • Arsalan A. Othman Dept. of Petroleum Engineering, Komar University of Science and Technology, 46001 Sulaymaniyah, Iraq
  • Broder J. Merkel Institute of Geology, TU Bergakademie Freiberg, 09599 Freiberg, Germany



Excessive extraction, uncontrolled withdrawal of groundwater, and unregulated practices have caused severe depletion of groundwater resources in the Erbil basin, Iraq. This situation has had a number of negative consequences on human settlement, agricultural activities, clean water supply, and the environment. Runoff harvesting and artificial groundwater recharge play a significant role in the sustainable management of water resources, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions. This study aims to: (1) delineate groundwater recharge zones using multiple thematic layers that control the groundwater recharge process, and (2) identify prospective sites and structures to perform artificial groundwater recharge. In order to generate a potential map for groundwater recharge zones, seven thematic layers are considered in this study, namely, topographic position index, geomorphology, lithology, land cover, slope, drainage-length density, and lineament-length density. After that, the analytic hierarchy process was applied to weight, rank, and reclassify these seven thematic layers. All maps are then integrated within the ArcGIS environment for delineating groundwater recharge zones. Accordingly, the resulting map categorizes the study area into five zones: extremely high, high, moderate, low, and extremely low potential for groundwater recharge.
As expected, areas along the Greater Zab river show the highest possibility for groundwater recharge. Likewise, rugged eastern hills demonstrate an encouraging capacity for artificial aquifer recharge, whereas the least effective area is represented by built-up land. Based on the generated map, two dams are proposed as promising artificial recharge structures for harvesting runoff water east of Erbil city. Lastly, the resulting map of the potential groundwater recharge zones is verified using static water level data, where the coefficient of determination (R2) achieved a satisfactory result (0.73). These findings provide crucial evidence for implementing a sustainable management plan for surface and groundwater resources. The applied method is eventually valid for regions where appropriate and adequate field data availability is a serious issue.





Earth & Environment