Chapter 25

Neogene Aquifer System (North-West), Upper and Lower Fars

Jezira Basin

Executive Summary 

The eastern part of the Upper and Middle Neogene Formations beneath the Mesopotamian Plain constitutes a shared aquifer system between Iraq and Syria. This aquifer system is referred to as the Neogene Aquifer System (North-West), and comprises the Upper and Lower Fars Formations of Miocene age (presently known in Iraq as Injana and Fatha). It consists of a lower part composed mainly of gypsum, and an upper part made up mostly of sandstones and clay.

Groundwater flow across the political border is generally directed towards river courses and salt flats. Groundwater in both aquifer parts is generally brackish (4,000-≥20,000 mg/L TDS), with relatively more freshwater in the upper layers (<1,000 mg/L) especially in the northern areas where the aquifer is recharged by precipitation and surface water.

Groundwater is abstracted from wells, in addition to a small number of bore-holes that are concentrated in the vicinity of elevated areas around the Sinjar-Abdel Aziz Mountains. Groundwater use is generally restricted by high salinity levels and low well yields, and water for domestic consumption can only be abstracted from the upper aquifer up to a depth of 25 m bgl.

  • Kawkab Mountain in Hasakah Governorate, Syria, 2009. Source: Haitham Alfalah.
  • Kurdistan, northern Iraq, 1991. Source: Ed Kashi/VII.
  • Near Aqrah, Iraq, 1991. Source: Ed Kashi/VII.

Basin Facts 

Riparian Countries Iraq, Syria
Alternative Names Iraq: Fatha-Injana
Syria: Lower and Upper Fars
Renewability Medium to High (20 - >100 mm/yr)
Hydraulic Linkage with Surface Water Good
Rock Type Porous
Aquifer Type Unconfined to confined
Extent 65,000 km2
Age Cenozoic (Neogene)
Lithology Sandstones
Thickness Generally 500-550 m with a pronounced decrease in thickness north of the Sinjar Uplift
Average Annual Abstraction --
Storage --
Water Quality Most common: brackish to saline
(2,000-4,000 mg/L TDS)
Recharge areas: ≤ 1,000 mg/L TDS
Discharge areas: 5,000 - ≥ 20,000 mg/L TDS
Water Use Agriculture and domestic
Agreements --
Sustainability Risk of salinization if wells are deepened and/or infiltration of surface water from irrigated areas