Water Resources and Use in Qatar Prior to the Discovery of Oil Qatar is known as one of the most arid countries in the world with all of the land characterised as dessert which in geographical terms is defined as territory with no surface water. Despite this unpromising situation people have lived on the Qatar peninsula for thousands of years carefully conserving, harvesting and using the scarce water resources. This paper will argue that a better understanding of the conservation and utilisation of fresh water in the past may have implications for the future development of agriculture and water management in Qatar. All the water resources in the past were fed either directly by scarce and sporadic rainfall events or through sub-surface water (fossil water) which formed a fresh water lens floating above a predominantly saline aquifer. The presence of shallow wad is located throughout the country but particularly near the coast are indicative of the occasionally heavy rainfall. This paper will investigate the methods used to provide water to the traditional settlements and more ancient archaeological sites throughout the country. The paper will begin by reviewing the hydrological structure of the Qatar peninsula and its condition prior to the modern over exploitation of water resources from the 1950's onwards. The paper will pay particular attention to the location of settlements around the northern coast where particularly favourable conditions exist as a result of the north Qatar arch. The settlements of the northern coast employed a variety of water catchment methods including modifying shallow natural depressions (rawdhas) to provide either grazing land or in some cases agricultural zones. In some cases such as at Jifara extensive sunken field systems enclosed within mud brick walls were created fed by a series of shallow wells taking advantage of both rainfall catchment and fossil rainwater. In some cases such as at Ruwayda on the north Qatar coast an existing rawdah appears to have been modified to create a garden with trees enclosed by a fortified masonry wall. A variety of well forms were created including shaft wells where water was accessed by buckets or other receptacles lowered by rope (two example of traditional leather buckets with goat hair rope have been found in archaeological excavations in Qatar) and wide shallow stepped wells which allowed direct access to the water either for humans or animals. In the centre of the country access to water has always been more difficult because the freshwater acquifer has been closest to the surface near the coast. As a consequence the majority of human settlement in Qatar has always been close to the coast. Where inland settlement do exist they are usually located either within or next to some geographical feature such as a wadi or a large depression which will act as a catchment area for rainfall. Such settlements are nearly always supplemented with wells which tend to be larger and much deeper than those on the coast. Examples of inland wells include those associated with gardens at Umm Salal Muhammad. The transformation of inland wells with motorised pumps from the 1950's onwards was one of the causes for the depletion and subsequent salinization of the freshwater aquifer in Qatar. In addition to wells and modified rawdahs a number of other forms of water catchment exist. One of the most surprising water sources is the perennial spring (naba‘a) which following periods of heavy or sustained rainfall may result in water literally spring out from the ground. Another unusual source are fresh water springs located off the coast which were traditionally exploited by fishermen and pearl divers. A rare form of water catchment exists in the Jabal Jassasiya rock formations on the north-east coast of Qatar where the natural contours of the rock are modified to form a cistern blocked on one side by a masonry dam. Masonry dams- possibly of medieval date- have also been documented near Umm Salal Muhammad.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error