This preview shows page 1. Sign up to view the full content.
Unformatted text preview: r resources of the desert is greatly influenced by landforms. Flats and depressions where water can collect are common features, but they make up only a small part of the landscape.
Arid lands, surprisingly, contain some of the world’s largest river systems, such as the MurrayDarling in Australia, the Rio Grande in North America, the Indus in Asia, and the Nile in Africa. These rivers and river systems are known as "exogenous" because their sources lie outside the arid zone. They are vital for sustaining life in some of the driest parts of the world. For centuries, the annual floods of the Nile, Tigris, and Euphrates, for example, has brought fertile silts and water to the inhabitants of their lower valleys. Today, river discharges are increasingly controlled by human intervention, creating a need for international riverbasin agreements. The filling of the Ataturk and other dams in Turkey has drastically reduced flows in the Euphrates, with potentially serious consequences for Syria and Iraq.
The flow of exogenous rivers varies with the season. The desert sections of long rivers respond several months after rain has fallen outside the desert, so that peak flows may be in the dry season. This is useful for irrigation, but the high temperatures, low humidity, and different day lengths of the dry season, compared to the normal growing season, can present difficulties with some crops.
Regularly flowing rivers and streams that originate within arid lands are known as "endogenous." These are generally fed by groundwater springs, and many issue from limestone massifs, such as the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Basaltic rocks also support springs, notably at the Jabal AlArab on the JordanSyria border. Endogenous Rivers often do not reach the sea but drain into inland basins, where the water evaporates or is lost in the ground. Most desert streambeds are normally dry, but they occasionally receive large flows of water and sediment.
Deserts contain large amounts of groundwater when compared to the amounts they hold in surface stores such as lakes and rivers. But only a small fraction of groundwater enters the hydrological cyclefeeding the flows of streams, maintaining lake levels, and being recharged (or refilled) through surface flows and rainwater. In recent years, groundwater has become an increasingly important source of freshwater for desert dwellers. The United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank have funded attempts to survey the groundwater resources of arid lands and to develop appropriate extraction techniques. Such programs are much needed because in many arid lands there is only a vague idea of the extent of groundwater resources. It is known, however, that the distribution of groundwater is uneven, and that much of it lies at great depths.
Groundwater is stored in the pore spaces and joints of rocks and unconsolidated (unsolidified) sediments or in the openings widened through fractures and weathering. The...
View Full Document
- Fall '13