Azraq: A Desert Oasis


Clockwise from Top Left: Me, Rico, Kenten, Dr. Heidi, Siham,
Dr. Muna, Ornwipa, Maggie, Main, Ahmed, Nate and Carmen

Today we visited the Azraq Wetland Reserve, once home to a desert oasis. Once covering an area of 47 square miles (120 square kilometers), the oasis was a series of marshes, pools and a mudflat all fed by seasonal flooding and nearby springs. The unique topography of the area means that all water draining from the surrounding hills feeds into the lowland of the oasis. The following photo, while not of the highest quality, illustrates the topography beautifully.

The orange line shows the flow of underground springs contributing to the oasis, the yellow line shows the flow of flood water. These wetlands were once home to a large population of wildlife, as well as being an important stop for a million migrating birds.

Topography of the Area Surrounding the Azraq Wetland

Because of the extreme scarcity of water in Jordan, water has been pumped legally and illegally from the Azraq aquifer since the 1960s. This water goes for municipal purposes—one out of every four glasses of water drunk in Amman comes from the aquifer—as well as farming and irrigation purposes. This pumping has nearly drained the water feeding the oasis; by 1992, the oasis had shrunk to 0.04% of its original size, when water was being pumped from the oasis at a rate twice that of its ability to replenish its water reserves. A rescue effort to restore the wetlands was begun in 1994 by the Jordanian Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature. Since then, the oasis has grown to approximately 10% of its original size. Now a protected area, the Azraq Wetland Reserve covers an area of 4.6 square miles (12 square kilometers).

The Museum in Front of the Wetland Preserve
Marsh Pool at Azraq
Water Buffalo at Azraq
The water is deep enough in the marsh pools to be anoxic;
we could see methane bubbling up from the bottom of the pool.

Aquatic Life in the Marsh Pool
The Foundation of a Watchtower Constructed
at the Oasis in the 8th Century
Wetland Grasses and Reeds Growing
at the Edge of the Wetland