Use of Hydro-chemical Tools to Improve Definitions of the North-Western Sahara Aquifer System, Case of Ouargla Groundwater, Algeria




aquifer, mineralization, Wadi Mya, continental intercalary, complex terminal, interconnection


The North-Western Sahara Aquifer System (NWSAS) is a complex multi-layered aquifer system with extraordinary continental groundwater reserves. This largest aquifer in the world straddles three countries: Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia. It contains more than 50,000 billion cubic meters of water; of which, 70% is in Algerian territory in the southeast of the country. This water is the result of accumulation over 1 million years. In the Wadi Mya basin (Algeria), this system is characterized by two overlaid aquifer systems: the complex terminal (CT), a shallow aquifer housed in the Senonian-Eocene and Mio-Pliocene formations, and the continental intercalary (CI), a deep aquifer hosted in the Albian, Aptian and Barremian formations. The main purpose of this study is to carry out a correlation between the geochemical composition of the water and the facies of the aquifer formation. The adopted approach will allow deciphering the hydro-chemical relationships between the different levels of the two aquifer systems in the Wadi Mya basin. To acquire the chemical composition of water, the study method goes through a targeted sampling and physicochemical analysis of water followed by a statistical analysis as well as correlation and geochemical modelling: the interpretation of specific diagrams (Piper), correlations between chemical elements in binary graphs, and principal component analysis (PCA). The performed geochemical modelling by examining the saturation index and chemical balance of water helps to better understand the origin of mineralization, elucidate the mixing of waters originating from different aquifers, as well as highlight the relationship between deep and shallow aquifers in the Wadi Mya Basin hydrodynamic conversion. The obtained results indicate that the overall mineralization occurring within the study area is dominated by sodium chloride and calcium chloride-sulfate facies. This can be explained by the dissolution of halite, gypsum, and anhydrite evaporitic rocks, intercalated in the aquifer matrix besides the effects of the extended stay of fossil waters with low recharging and cation exchange reactions resulting from water-rock interactions. The interference recorded between the geochemical signatures of the two aquifers favors the hypothesis of interconnection between aquifers through fractures. Through the implementation of such academic research, this invaluable source of life will stay sustainable for future generations.