The geology of Middle East is summarized under the subheadings: Precambrian basement, epicontinental sediments, geosynclinal and shelf deposits, Tertiary volcanics and Quaternary cover. The main tectonic episodes including epeirogenic movements, rifting and the Tertiary orogeny, are reviewed.
The imposition of hydrometeorolocal and climatic conditions upon the regional geology provides the setting for the hydrogeological discussion. Five factors which influence infiltration to aquifers under conditions of low precipitation and high potential evaportranspiration are discussed.
The predominance of fossil groundwater is the most striking hydrogeological phenomenon occurring on a regional scale in the Middle East. Its mode of formation during the pluvials is outlined and the isotopic evidence is reviewed. The main physical and chemical characteristics of fossil ground-waters are described.
It is conservatively estimated that some 65 000 km3 of good- to medium-quality groundwater are stored in the great artesian basins of the Near East. These fossil ground-waters are a non-renewable natural resource. Current annual abstraction is, as yet, a small percentage of the total reserves but economic factors rather than the volume of reserves will determine the ultimate extent of their exploitation.
The renewable groundwater resources of the Middle East tend, by comparison, to be of local rather than regional significance. Some originate outside the Middle East, coming in as surface flows in the Nile and Tigris-Euphrates and infiltrating into the sediments in and adjacent to the flood plains.
Other renewable resources accumulate within the region where high precipitation and mountainous relief are associated. Such areas include the Djebel Akhdar of Cyrenacia, the Tertiary fold mountains from the Taurus through the Zagros to the Oman ranges, and the volcanic and basement highlands of Yemen, Asir and Ethiopa. Locally, in areas of lower precipitation, lenses of recent fresh groundwater float on regional more saline groundwater. In some areas subsurface flows towards and through wadi systems are also of importance.