Management of land and water resources in arid regions is vital and opens the way for new agricultural activities and growth of residential communities. The Sinai Peninsula suffers from water scarcity, limiting these types of development in a substantial way. This chapter seeks to evaluate the conventional land and water resources of Sinai, Egypt, using remote sensing (RS) and geographic information system (GIS) techniques. The future of land reclamation in Sinai will depend largely on its groundwater potential.
For major portions of Sinai, however, information on soil resources is limited. Generally, Sinai soils lack pedological features that indicate the soil development under arid conditions. El-Tina plain soils are derived from fluvial-lacustrine deposits with poorly drained, shallow water tables, with clayey or loamy texture and a salic horizon. Sandy soils extend through southern El-Qantara East and the surrounding areas of Lake El-Bardawil; these are considered Aeolian deposits without horizon differentiation. Wadi El-Arish soils are developed from fluvial deposits as influenced from limestone in the upstream. The Wadi El-Arish cultivated area extends from the confluence of Wadi Abu Gidi north to Wadi El-Bruk. The good agricultural land is located along the Wadi E1-Arish main channel and its tributary. Wadi Al-Aqabah is also a good agricultural area but is smaller and narrower than the Wadi El-Bruk area.
The assessment of suitable agricultural lands must be associated with an evaluation of water availability. The availability of water is usually the most limiting factor when planning development in Sinai. In this study, areas with the most (soil and groundwater) potential for agricultural development are identified and mapped to inform decision-makers. The best locations for drilling groundwater wells were selected from the decision map, which was produced by utilizing the GIS technique. The iso-salinity contour map of the Lower Cretaceous (LC) aquifer shows a general increase of groundwater salinity toward the west and the north, with four salinity zones recognized. The importance of LC groundwater development is essentially related to the necessity of providing basic extension services (mainly water supply for domestic purposes and for small-scale irrigation agriculture) to the existing nomad tribes in central and South Sinai. Moreover, as the groundwater in the LC aquifer is moving down the gradient across the eastern border toward the aquifer discharge area along the Dead Sea-Gulf of Aqaba rift valley, it is desirable to use this water in Sinai before it gets naturally lost in the rift discharge areas. The salinity of the Upper Cretaceous (UC) carbonate aquifer is rather high in most of Sinai (3,200–10,870 ppm) with the exception of its central part along the El-Tih, El-Egma, and Shaira zone, where the groundwater salinity of the UC ranges between 1,100 and 1,500 ppm. Consequently, it is not recommended to rely on exploiting this aquifer for future development projects in Sinai. Favorable areas for groundwater development from the Eocene aquifer include the area between El-Hasana and El-Quseima and the area north of Nakhl and El-Thamad, where the aquifer hydrogeological setting is similar to the northeastern Sinai at Ain El-Guderrate and Ain Qedees. The groundwater quality in South Sinai is better and has more potential than that in the North Sinai.