Computational Water, Energy, and Environmental Engineering, 2013, 2, 26-35
doi:10.4236/cweee.2013.22B005 Published Online April 2013 (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. CWEEE
Are there Monthly Variations in Water Quality in the
Amman, Zarqa and Balqa R egions, Jordan?
Khaled A. Alqadi*, Lalit Kumar
Ecosystem Management, School of En vi ronment al and Rur al Science, Faculty of Arts and Sciences,
University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia
Email: *
Received 2013
This study investigated the monthly variation of water quality in the Amman-Zarqa and Balqa regions in Jordan in
terms of pH, ammonium, nitrate and conductivity. During 2004 there was no monthly variation in water quality for
most of the tested parameters. All readings were above the accepted range except for pH, indicating that land use does
have an impact on water quality irrespective of urban, industrial or agricultural usage. The water quality remained for
the most part below the maximum levels for drinking standards in Jordan, but these standards are often below the WHO
recommendations. The pH was found to fluctuate through the year. Nitrate levels were highly seasonal in irrigated lands
but remained stable over basin covered by other land uses. Ammonium levels were high in areas of urbanisation and
intensive animal husbandry as a consequence of effluent infiltration, peaking during the wet season due to increased
infiltration. These results indicate that, over an annual cycle, the variation in water quality remains constant; however
the continued dra wdo wn of th e a quifer system will inevitabl y lead to dete r ioration in the parameters investigated.
Keywords: Water Quality; pH; Ammonium; Conduct ivity; Nitrate
1. Introduction
The water crisis in Jordan is a major geopolitical issue
that threatens the future and stability of the whole coun-
try. The Amman, Zarqa and Balqa regions supply irriga-
tion water to an estimated 33,000 Ha, however, most of
demand is for do mestic and industrial water with the ba-
sin supplying over half of the population of Jordan with
water [3]. Agricultural production in the basin is domi-
nated by grazing, with only limited olive and fruit trees
and the production of cereals near areas of permanent
Ground water quality has a major impact on human
welfare and affects all human activity [7]. Understanding
changes in ground water quality allows for effective
management of water resources in the face of increasing
pressures from urbanization, agricultural and industrial
development [15]. However, Jordan is faced with a lack
of funding to maintain monitoring which has resulted in
fragmented data sets [13]. The utilisation of aquifers has
led to severe lowering of the ground water table and this
has changed the ground water chemistry [10]. The Am-
man, Zarqa and Balqa regions is renewable and draws
water from areas of urban and industrial development
and landfill sites and therefore is at significant risk of
waste water infiltration pollution [1].
Data from 2002 indicates that there was an unsustain-
able drawdown of ground water from the Amman-Zarqa
Basin. In 2002 a total of 84 mcm year-1 was withdrawn
from the aquifer for municipal supply, while 54 mcm
year-1 was taken to supply the agricultural sector. This
represents an excess of 72 mcm year-1 of water above the
estimated safe yield of 65 mcm year-1. This overdrawing
from the 772 officiall y register ed wells has led to a fall in
the ground water table and declines in water quality [13].
Salameh [19] argued that the current drawdown of the
aquifers has led to permanent damage of the hydrological
system, and Al-Mahamid [4] argued that at current ex-
traction rates areas in the middle of the basin will be
completely dry in the next few decades. These findings
were supported by Dottrige and Jaber [8] who argued
that at current levels of extraction many of the aquifers
dependent upon for urban and industrial supply will be
dry by the middle of the t wenty first century. The aim of
this paper is to examine the water quality over an annual
cycle in the Amman, Zarqa and Balqa regions under dif-
fering land use.
2. Hydrogeology of the Amman-Zarqa
The geology of the Amman-Zarqa Basin is primarily
*Corresponding author.
K. A. Al q a d i ET AL.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. CWEEE
sedimentary with ages ranging from the lower Creta-
ceous to the present (Table 1 ). The major aquifers i n the
Amma n-Zarqa Basin from which water is drawn are con-
sidered to be hydraulically connected, but maybe sepa-
rated in regions by geological layers which act as aquic-
ludes [9].
There are three aquifer systems in the Amman-Zarqa
Basin. There is evidence that water moves between the
aquifers along the Zarqa fault system [4]. The upper
aquifer is contained within the linked Campanian Am-
man (B2) and Turonian Wadi Sir (A7) limestone forma-
tions and the neighbouring basalt strata (V). The middle
aquifer is contained within the Cenomanian Shue mar
(A4) limestone formation. T he lo wer aquifer is contained
within the Albian-Aptian Kurnub (K) sandstone forma-
tion. Ta ble 2 provides an overview of the hydrology and
hydrochemistry of the three aquifers. The long term ef-
fects of drawdown has resulted in declines in the water
table in all aquifers contained within the basin and this
has led to an increase in the level of dissolved chemicals
Table 1. The geology and hydrogeology classification of the Am-
man-Zarqa B as in [18].
Table 2. The average hydrological and hydrochemical data for the
three major aquifers in the Amman-Zarqa Basin for the period
1995-2003 [4].
that are naturally occurring as a consequence of the sur-
rounding geological formations of each aquifer [4]. As a
consequence of the geological formations in which the
aquifers are contained, calcium and magnesium are the
dominant cations, while bicarbonate is the dominant
anion [6].
The rainfall over the Amman-Zarqa Basin is highly
seasonal. Peak rainfall occurs during late autumn to earl y
spring with summer receiving negligible to no rainfall
reflected in the annual runoff (Figure 1). The annual
depth of rainfall over the basin is variable, ranging from
50 mm in the east to 1000 mm in the west; however the
total annual rainfall for the region has declined over the
last three decades by 25 - 33 mm [4]. This has an impact
on the total runoff potential and the water available for
recharging of the aquifers within the basin. During the
period of rainfall the B2/A7 aquifer is subjected to infil-
tration which then enters the connected A4 aquifer
through fracture zones as the water flows north easterly
down the Amman-Zarqa sincline [6].
3. Description of Study Area
The Amman, Zarqa and Balqa regions cover an area of
1939 km2 and are located in north eastern Jordan uplands
and are between 500 1000m in elevation with an an-
nual precipitation of 150 to 600 mm year-1 [13,17]. Fig-
ure 2 illustrates the study area and location of the study
area within Jordan. The basin contains significant popu-
lation and industrial production centres. Agriculture is
primarily restricted to plains of the water courses with
rangelands dominating the remainder. The sporadic dis-
tribution of population and industry, as well as the re-
striction of agriculture to the water courses has been that
the spatial quality of the ground water is highly variable
with aquifer systems [5].
Figure 1. The monthly long-term rainfall average of the Amman-
Zarqa Basin for the period 1970-2002.
K. A. Al q a d i ET AL.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. CWEEE
Figure 2. The location of the Amman, Zarqa and Balqa regions and the location of the wells investigated in this study.
4. Method s
The use of ge ogr aphic info r matio n syste ms ha s p rove n to
be an effective means of investigating spatial changes in
water quality [7,15]. The spatial data support system, Arc
View GIS, provides the tools to allo w the seasonal map-
ping of temporal changes in water quality parameters
[16]. The use of mapping systems in conjunction with
aerial images allows for a greater understanding of the
potential i mpacts of land use on water quality.
Historical data for wells in the Amman, Zarqa and
Balqa regions were obtained from the Jordan Water Au-
thority. Fro m these historic al reco rd s on the water qualit y,
11 wells from the three regions representing each of the
three major aquifers, and with significantly detailed
monthly data for 2004, were selected for investigation
(Table 3). From the records of these 11 wells the
monthly recorded conductivity, ammonium, nitrate and
pH were graphed to determine if seasonal variation in
water quality parameters could be determined. A map of
the Amman-Zarqa Basin was digitised using Arc Map
9.3 and the location of the 11 wells plotted. Rainfall data
for the area surrounding the wells in 2004 was also
mapped. The depth of the wells was also investigated to
determine the geological formation that contained and
surrounded the wells, and this enabled an understanding
of the influence of the surrounding strata on the quality
of the water contained in t he a quifer.
5. Resul ts
The wells represent areas of five primary land uses. The
well AL1230 is located in an area of heavy industrial use
Table 3. Identification, location and land use of the wells and sur-
rounding area s used in thi s study.
on the edge of a water course. The three wells AL1192,
AL1898 and AL1899 are surrounded by residential areas;
however there is a chicken farm nearby. The wells
AL1254 and AL2715 are located on a small irrigation
plain with a central water course surrounded by arid
lands, while AL3505 is located in the nearby arid land.
The three wells AL1318, AL1319 and AL2691 are all in
light industrial with neighboring residential area, and are
located near a water course, with AL1318 and AL1319
located in and around waste water treatment works. Fig-
ure 3 illustrates the aerial view of the wells and their
This investigation also indicates that in areas of low
development represented by AL 3505 and AL3506, there
was a low level of nitrate contamination. These two wells
draw water from the middle and lower aquifer systems
K. A. Al q a d i ET AL.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. CWEEE
indicating that there is a natural tendency for low nitrate
levels from this supply in underdeveloped areas. One
well, AL125 4 had a high nitra te indicting in filtration and
may represent the use of nitrate fertilisers on the irrigated
plains on which the well was located. This infiltration
diffus ed thr oug h the aq ui fers to which it is connected and
the well nitrate le vel returned to that of all the study ar ea
for the upper and middle systems. The results also indi-
cate that, while there is a peak in the pH of the wells in
late spring and summer, however, there is little change
throughout the year, with all wells having a pH between
7 to 8. The ammonium level was only significa ntly raise d
in the residen tia l a reas, wit h all industrial and agricultural
wells demo nstr at i n g an an nua l l o w am mo ni u m le ve l. T he
ammonium level in the residential areas peaked during
the onset of the rains, indicating that there is a possible
flushing of sewerage down into the water table from the
individual dwellings septic systems and the nearby
chicke n far m. The peak in cond uctivi ty dur ing the p eriod
of peak rainfall indicates that the infiltration of water
through the geological strata is carrying dissolved salts
into the aquifers.
Figure 3. Land use images showing surrounding areas of each well (from Google Earth, 2004).
K. A. Al q a d i ET AL.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. CWEEE
5.1. pH
At present there is no considered risk to consumers from
water pH levels, and therefore, no safe health guidelines
[15]. However, the pH has significant impact on the op-
erational water q uality parameters with the Wo rld Health
Organisation (WHO, 2004) recommending an optimum
range of 6.5 - 9.5. The Jordan Water Standard indicates
that the permissible pH range is 6.5 - 85 for drinking
water [4,11]. The maximum and minimum pH for the 11
wells in the Amman, Zarqa and Balqa regions investi-
gated ranged from 6.84 to 8.06, respectively. This study
determined that no well fell outside the operation water
parameters of the WHO. Figure 4 illustrate s the pH on a
monthly basis for each of the wells investigated. The
results indicate that there was a variation in t he p H of t he
wells throughout the year of ~1.2 to ~0.63. Table 4 illu-
strates the maximum and minimum pH for each well and
the month in which that level was reached. There is clear
indication that water pH reaches a maximum during late
spring to summer in all wells and with minimums
reached in autumn, winter and early spring depending on
the well.
Table 4. The pH for the maximal and minimal months and the
percentage change over the period for the 11 wells.
Figure 4. The pH records fo r ea ch well in 2004.
K. A. Al q a d i ET AL.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. CWEEE
5.2. Nitr at e
High nitrate levels can have significant negative health
consequences [11]. The WHO guidelines indicate a
maximum nitrate level of 50 mgL-1 for drinking water;
however while the authorities in Jordan recognize a per-
missible target level of 50 mgL-1, the national standards
allow for a concentration of up to 70 mgL-1, [4]. The
maximum and minimu m nitrate levels for the 11 wells in
the Am ma n, Zar q a a nd B a lq a regio ns inve st i gat ed r ange d
from <0.16 mgL-1 to 75.88 mgL-1, respectively. The re-
sults of the investi gation int o t he 11 wells found that o nly
two of the wells (AL3505, AL3506) did not have year
round dangerous nitrate levels making the water fit for
consumption in WHO terms, with one other well (AL1318)
being safe for only one month. However, the Jordan
maximum permissible level for nitrate was only exceeded
significantly in areas of irrigation (AL1254). Notwith-
standing, the urban areas also contain significantly high
levels of nitrates in the immediate wells. Figure 5 illu-
strates the nitra te le vel on a monthl y ba sis for e ach o f the
wells investigated. The results indicate that there was a
variation in the nitrate within each well throughout the
year of ~ 6 mgL-1 to ~ 50 mgL-1. Table 5 highlights the
nitra te varia tion t hro ugho ut t h e year for each of the wells
investigated. These results indicate significant variation
in nitrate concentration in each well on a monthly basis
with no specific seasonal variation evidenced.
Table 5. The Nitrate concentration (mgL-1) for the maximal and
minimal months and the percentage change over the period for
each of the 11 wells.
Figure 5. The Nitrate (mgL-1) records for each well in 200 4.
K. A. Al q a d i ET AL.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. CWEEE
5.3. Ammonium
The maximum and minimum ammonium (NH4) levels
for the 11 wells in the Amman, Zarqa and Balqa regions
investigated ranged from < 0.05 mgL-1 to 4.2 mgL-1 re-
spectively. Figure 6 illustrates the ammonium levels on a
monthly basis for each of the wells investigated. The
results indicate that there was a variation in the ammo-
nium level within any one well throughout the year of
~0.05 mgL-1 to 3.41 mgL-1. Table 6 highlights the am-
monium variation throughout the year for each of the
wells investigated. These results indicate that only three
wells (AL1192, AL1898, and AL1899) showed signifi-
cant variation in nitrate concentration with all the other
wells having an ammonium level of below ~0.1 mgL-1
throughout the year. Ammonium levels tended to rise
towards the end of each year with the first months show-
ing the lowest concentrations; however, the three wells
with significantly higher ammonium levels (AL1192,
AL1898, AL1899) showed the reverse with higher con-
centration during the firs t three months of the year.
Table 6. The Ammonium (NH4 mgL-1) f or t he ma x i ma l a nd mi n im-
al months and the percentage cha nge over the period.
*Pa r tial re sult with data f rom s ome months unavailable.
Figu re 6. The amm o n ium (NH 4 mgL-1) records for each well in 2004 with infer red data show n as a dotted line.
K. A. Al q a d i ET AL.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. CWEEE
5.4. Conductivity
The maximum and minimum conductivity levels for the
11 wells in the Amman, Zarqa and Balqa regions inves-
tigated ranged from 790 µScm-1 to 3640 µScm-1, respec-
tively. Figure 7 illustrates the conductivity level on a
monthly basis for each of the wells investigated. The
results indicate that there was a variation in the conduc-
tivity within any one well throughout the year of 276
µScm-1 to 1935 µScm-1. Table 7 highlights the monthly
conductivity throughout the year for each of the wells
investigated. These results indicate the early months of
the year have the lowest conductivity; however this rises
rapidly during May through June. These results also
demonstrate that the conductivity within a well can
change significant within any month with AL1192 show-
ing a 145% rise in conductivity between the 4th April and
27th May.
Table 7. The conductivity for the maximal and minimal months
and the perc en t a ge chan g e ov er th e p eri od f or each o f the 1 1 wells.
*Wel l subject to chlorination during some mo nths.
Figure 7. The conductivity (µScm-1) reco rd s fo r ea ch we ll in 2004 with inferred data shown as a dotted line.
K. A. Al q a d i ET AL.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. CWEEE
6. Discussion
This study confirmed waste effluent can have a signifi-
cant negative impact on the water quality of the aquifers
in the basin. Ho wever, thi s study indicates that the prob-
lem may come from urban areas with low sanitation in-
frastructure. Also, areas under irrigation can have a
marked, localised and temporary effect on water quality.
Infil tra tion i s ar eas o f u nder deve lop me nt have sig ni fica nt
increase in the conductivity, particularly as the first flush
from the rains moves through the profile. Notwithstanding
all aquifers were determined to comply with the guide-
lines for maximum permissible standards for drinking
water, except for the A2/B7 aquifer from which water is
dra wn has regions of conductivity which is outside these
standards. It must be noted that the maximum permissi-
ble level for most water contaminants in Jordan often
exceed the WHO recommendations [4].
During this study the pH of all wells remained within
the permissible standards of the Jordanian water authori-
ty [4]. This study concluded that irrigation can have a
significant impact on the nitrate level of the aquifer with
nitrate levels shown to significantly exceed the maximal
permissible levels [4]. Areas of high urban density also
had higher nitrate levels which seasonally peaked at or
just above the Jordan Governmental standards for the
maximum permissible level, while lands which are
grazed have the lo west nitrates [4]. The high ammoniu m
content of AL1192, AL1898, and AL1899 is postulated
to come fro m infiltration o f the efflue nt from the c hicken
farm, indicating that ammonium contamination is highly
dependent on land use. The conductivity was found to be
lo wes t in the ra ngela nds wit h irri gated, urban, and ind us-
tria l lands s howi ng the highe st re adings. T his re flect s the
level of water use in each of these areas, indicating that
drawdown has a negative impact on the conductivity of
the water. This study confirms the results obtained in
neighboring aquifer systems in Jordan that indicate that
urbanizatio n and industrializat ion, coup led with intensive
agriculture, have a negative impact on water quality
when compared to natural rangeland systems [2,10].
Many of the aquifer systems in Jordan are under threat
from overexploitation and this unsustainable drawdown
will lead to many systems becoming dry by 2030 to 2040
[8].There is a need for increased monitoring throughout
the Amman, Zarqa and Balqa regions over a long term in
order to capture a more reliable image of the declines in
water quality and regulate the water extraction or face the
loss of the aquifer system [4,13,18].
7. Conclusions
The aquifers within the Amman, Zarqa and Balqa regions
are affected by irrigation, industrialisation and urbansia-
tion. The increased drawdown of the aquifers has led to
declines in the water quality o ve r t he lo ng ter m. T he mon-
thly variations in water quality parameters are signifcantly
affected by the rainfall which leads to infiltration of
water that carries pollutants from anthropogenic sources
and dissolved salts from the geological strata that the
water moves through. The drawdown of the aqufers has
led to a concentration of salts and other contaminants that
would have previously been dispersed in a historical
larger water volume.
[1] M. Al-Farajat, I. Hamdan, K. Jaber, and S. H. Mo-
hammed, GIS Mapping of Ground Water Vulnerability
against Pollution in Amman Using DRASTIC
dex, ”Hydrogeologie und Umwelt, Vol. 33, No. 9, 2005,
pp. 1-19.
[2] A. Al-Hanbali and A. Kondoh, Ground Water Vulnera-
bility Assessment and Evaluation of Human Activity Im-
pact (HAI) within the Dead Sea Groundwater Basin, Jor-
dan,” Hydrogeology Journal, Vol. 16, 2008, pp.
499-510. doi:10.1007/s10040-008-0280-7
[3] E. K. Al-Karablieh, A. S. Jabarin and M. A. Tabieh,
Jordan Horticultural Export Competit iveness fro m Water
Perspective,” Journal of Agricultural Science and Tech-
nology, Vol. B1, 2011, pp. 964-974.
[4] J. Al-Mahamid, Integration of Water Resources of the
Upper Aquifer in Amman-Zarqa Basin Based on Mathe-
matical Modeling and GIS, Jordan,” Freiberg Online Ge-
ology, Vol. 12, 2005, pp. 7-223.
[5] Al-Mashagbah, R. Al-Adamat, and E. Salmeh, The Use
of Kri gin g Techniques with in GIS Environment to Inves-
tigate Groundwater Quality in the Amman-Zarqa Ba-
sin/Jordan,” Research Journal of Environmental and
Earth Sciences, Vol. 4, No 2, 201 1, pp. 177-185.
[6] E. Al-Tarazi, J. A. Rajab, A. Al-Naqa and M . El-Waheidi,
Detecting Leachate Plumes and Groundwater Pollution
at Ruseifa Municipal Landfill Utalising VLF-EM Me-
thod,” Journal of Applied Geophysics, Vol. 65, 2008, pp.
121-131. doi:10.1016/j.jappgeo.2008.06.005
[7] P. Balakrishnan, A. Saleem and N. D, “Mallikarjan,
Groundwater Quality Mapping Using Geographic Infor-
mation System (GIS): A Case Study of Gulbarga City,
Karnataka, India,” African Journal of Environmental
Science and Technology, Vol.5, No. 12, 2011, pp.
1069-1084. doi:10.5897/AJEST11.134
[8] J. Dottridge and N. A. Jaber, “Groundwater Resources
and Quality in Northeastern Jordan: Safe Yield and Sus-
tainability,” Applied Geography, Vo l. 19, pp.
313-323. doi:10.1016/S0143-6228(99)00012-0
[9] A. El-Naqa, N. Hammouri and M. Kuisi, GIS- Based
Evaluation of Groundwater Vulnerability in the Russeifa
Area Jordan,” Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Geológicas,
Vol. 23, 1999, pp. 277-287.
[10] N. Hammouri and A. El-Naqa, GIS Based HydroGeo-
logical Vulnerability Mapping of Ground Water Re-
sources in Jerash Area- Jordan,” Geofísica Internacional,
K. A. Al q a d i ET AL.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. CWEEE
Vol. 47, No. 2, 2008, pp. 85-97.
[11] P. F. Hudak, Regional Trends in Nitrate Content of
Texas Groundwater,” Journal of Hydrology, Vol. 228,
2000, pp. 37-47.
[12] Jordanian Institute of Standards and Metrology (JISM)
Drinking water standards No. (286/2001), 2001, Gov-
ernment of Jordan, Amman.
[13] Jordan Ministry of Water and Irrigation (JMWI). Disi-
Mudawarra to Amman Water Conveyance System: Envi-
ronmental and Social Management Plan Part 2. 2009,
Government of Jo r dan, Amman.
[14] G. Jousma, Guideline on: Groundwater Monitoring for
General Reference Purposes. International Working
Group I, International Groundwater Resources Assess-
ment Centre, Ut r acht, GP 2008-1, 2008.
[15] R. T. Mehrjardi, M. Z. Jahromi, S. Hahmodi and A. Hei-
dari, “Spatial Distribution of Groundwater Quaity and
Geostatistics (Case Study: Yazd-Ardakan Plain),” World
Applied Sciences Journal, Vol. 4, No. 1, 2008, pp. 9-17.
[16] B. Nas and A. Berktay, Groundwater Quality Mapping
in Urban Groundwater Using GIS,” Environmental Mon-
itoring and Assessment, Vo l . 160, 2010, pp.
215-227. doi:10.1007/s10661-008-0689-4
[17] O. Rimawi, Hydrochemistry and isotope hydrology of
groundwater and surface water in the north-east of Ma-
fraq, Dhuleil, Hallabat, Azraq basin, PhD. Thesis,
Techn. University, Muenchen, 1985, p. 240.
[18] E. Salameh, Over-Exploitation of Groundwater Re-
sources and Their Environmental and Socio-Economic
Implications: The Case of Jordan,” Water International
Vol. 33, No. 1, 2008, pp. 55-68.