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Syrian Arab Republic

Water resources

It is estimated that water resources generated from rain falling within the country amount to about 7.1 km3/year (Table 2). Internal renewable surface water resources are estimated at 4.3 km3/year and groundwater recharge at 4.8 km3/year, of which 2 km3/year discharge into rivers as spring water (overlap between surface water and groundwater).

Seven main hydrographic basins can be identified: Al Jazeera, Aleppo (Quaick and Al Jabbool sub-basins), Al Badia (Palmyra, Khanaser, Al Zelf, Wadi el Miah, Al Rassafa, Al Talf and Assabe’biar sub-basins), Horan or Al Yarmook, Damascus, Asi-Orontes and Al Sahel. Rainfall and snowfall represent the major water supply for the basins, except for the Al Jazeera and Asi-Orontes, the main sources of which are located in the neighbouring countries. There are 16 main rivers and tributaries in the country, of which 6 are main international rivers:

  • the Euphrates (Al Furat), which is the Syrian Arab Republic’s the largest river. It comes from Turkey and flows to Iraq. Its total length is 2 330 km, 680 km of which are in the Syrian Arab Republic;
  • the Afrin in the northwestern part of the country, which comes from Turkey, crosses the Syrian Arab Republic and flows back to Turkey;
  • the Asi-Orontes in the western part of the country, coming from Lebanon and flowing into Turkey;
  • the Yarmouk in the southwestern part of the country with sources in the Syrian Arab Republic and Jordan and which forms the border between these two countries before flowing into the Jordan river;
  • the El-Kabir with sources in the Syrian Arab Republic and Lebanon and which forms the border between them before flowing to the sea;
  • the Tigris, which forms the border between the Syrian Arab Republic and Turkey in the extreme northeastern part.

Total actual renewable water resources are estimated at 16.797 km3/year. The natural average surface runoff to the Syrian Arab Republic from international rivers is estimated at 28.515 km3/year. The actual external renewable surface water resources are 17.335 km3/year, which includes 15.750 km3 of water entering with the Euphrates, as unilaterally proposed by Turkey, 0.335 km3 of water entering with the Asi-Orontes, as agreed with Lebanon, and 1.250 km3/year from the Tigris. The Tigris has a total mean annual flow of 18 km3, but since it only borders the country over a short distance in the east, very little can be available for the Syrian Arab Republic and a figure of 1.250 km3/year is given (Abed Rabboh, 2007). Total actual groundwater inflow has been estimated at 1.33 km3/year, of which 1.20 km3 from Turkey and 0.13 km3 from Lebanon (Dan springs). Groundwater outflow to Israel and Jordan is estimated at 0.25 and 0.09 km3/year respectively.

The main groundwater aquifers are those of Anti-Lebanon and the Alouite Mountains. Folding and faulting of the geological layers has resulted in the mingling of the subaquifer systems. There are a number of springs discharging from this aquifer system, such as the Ari-Eyh, Barada, Anjar-Chamsine and Ras El-Ain. Recharge to the system occurs from intense precipitation in the mountainous regions which infiltrates through the fractures and fissures of the karstified surface layer. Water quality ranges from 175 to 900 ppm. Another significant aquifer system is that of the Damascus plain aquifers extending from the Anti-Lebanon Mountains in the west to the volcanic formations in the south and east of the country. This system is composed of gravel and conglomerates with some clay, and is represented by riverbeds and alluvial fan deposits with a thickness of up to 400 metres. Groundwater quality ranges from 500 to more than 5 000 ppm. The major carbonate Haramoun mountain aquifer is located between Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic. The main discharging springs are those of the Banias and Dan tributaries of the Jordan River basin. Groundwater quality is estimated at 250 ppm. Other aquifers with limited potential are located in the desert areas. These consist of marl and chalky limestone of the Paleogene age. Recharge occurs mainly from flood flow. Water quality ranges from 500 to 5 000 ppm depending on the source of recharge (ESCWA, 2001).

There are 166 dams in the Syrian Arab Republic with a total storage capacity of 19.7 km3 (Table 3). The largest dam is the Al Tabka dam, located near Ar Raqqah on the Euphrates and forming the Al Assad Lake with a storage capacity of 14.1 km3 and a surface area of 674 km2. Medium-size dams include the Al Rastan (228 million m3), the Qattinah (200 million m3), the Mouhardeh (67 million m3) and the Taldo (15 million m3). The majority of these dams are located near Hims and Hamah in the western part of the country.

In 2002, total wastewater produced in the Syrian Arab Republic was 1 364 million m3. The treatment of municipal wastewater was carried out mainly in the towns of Damascus, Aleppo, Hims and Salamieh and it reached 550 million m3 in 2002. All treated wastewater is reused. The reused treated wastewater was 330 million m3 in 1993, meaning an increase of 49 percent since 1993. The production of desalinated water in the Syrian Arab Republic is marginal. The installed gross desalination capacity (design capacity) is 8 183 m3/day, which is less than 3 million m3/year (Wangnick Consulting, 2002).


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