Major new water source discovered in parched Hadhramaut

A water company in Hadhramaut Governorate, southern Yemen, has discovered an important new source of water near the provincial capital, Mukalla, after four months of exploration.

"Using modern machinery, we have discovered a huge underground drinking water resource in Al-Ghaliah on the outskirts of Mukalla," Awadh Al-Ganzal, head of the Local Corporation for Water Supply and Sanitation (LCWSS), told IRIN.

"Our preliminary assessments regarding the newly discovered field have shown that it will provide Mukalla with potable water for the next 50 years… Water quality is great."

"The field in Al-Ghaliah consists of nine wells, each able to produce 30 litres a second. It will definitely supply the city with drinking water for decades to come,” said Mahfood Obaid Bagwaigo, manager of the Mukalla Water Supply and Sanitation company.

“Engineers struck water in sandstone at a depth of 225-320 metres. They couldn't go beyond that because of the immense pressure of water in the reservoir," he added.

Mohammed al-Mashjri, dean of the faculty of Environmental Science at Hadhramaut University of Science and Technology, did not rule out the possibility of such a find. ”When the Canadians started oil exploration in the early 90s in Hadhramaut, their satellite pictures suggested a huge underground reservoir in Wadi Hadhramaut [the Hadhramaut Valley],” he said.

A paper delivered at a Vienna conference in 1996 suggested that a “significant deep groundwater resource may exist” in the Hadhramaut-Masila region of southern Yemen.

Al-Ganzal said LCWSS had discovered many promising new water resources in Hadhramaut. “We recently drilled two new wells in Gusair which will provide water west of Mukalla. Work is currently being completed. We have also discovered a new water resource in Wadi Haram."

Photo: Saeed Al-Batati/IRIN
The field in Al-Ghaliah consists of nine wells, each able to produce 30 litres a second


Despite the discoveries there are persistent threats to water resources. One of them is salt water intrusion. "Salinity is posing a great threat to the groundwater in the coastal city of Mukalla. Some wells have been completely contaminated by sea water, and rehabilitation is expensive," Al-Ganzal said.

Gahtan Al-Asbahi, a senior official in the National Water Resources Authority (NWRA), told IRIN untreated sewage, mining and building refuse, and the oil spilt by garages also posed threats to Hadhramaut's water sources.

Without naming names or making any specific allegations, Al-Asbahi also pointed the finger at oil companies. "The government has recently formed a committee to investigate," he said.

Abdulkarim Bahakim, NWRA manager responsible for the Hadhramaut Valley area, told IRIN the digging of unauthorized wells, the dumping of raw sewage in deep boreholes and the use of fertilizers were significant threats to clean water sources for cities like Tarim, Seyoun and Qaten.

Many people in rural areas “are totally unaware of the risks of dumping sewage in the ground - something that must be stopped. Raw sewage can seep into the groundwater and contaminate it," he said.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in 2000, 90 percent of water was used for agriculture, 8 percent by people and 2 percent by industry. Most of the water taken from wells and springs resulted in groundwater depletion as the withdrawal rate exceeded annual groundwater recharge from rainfall. In coastal zones overexploitation of groundwater led to salt water intrusion, it said.