The Orontes is the Levant’s best river. The drains north Beqaa, a part of mainland Syria and also of the Turkish Hatay, indigenous the slopes that Lebanon come the foothills of the Taurus, over a big of almost 610 km. The watershed covers more than 24,870 km² with 2205 km² in Lebanon (9%), 17,110 km² in Syria (69%) and also 5552 km² in Turkey (22%). Its waters, despite scarce however perennial, have carved one the the most characteristic landscapes in Syria, “the Orontes gardens”.

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Shaped by Tectonics

The Orontes River has actually been shame by tectonics (Weulersse 1940, p 11.): its food – and also the same is true the the Litani and also the Jordan – corresponds to the great Syrian ditch, v a North-South axis, situated on a change fault that is component of the Red Sea rift system, i m sorry extends from the Gulf the Aqaba come the Amanus. From the Orontes headwaters in the Beqaa, down to the Amouk depression in the province of Hatay with the Al Ghab depression, the flow flows along this significant tectonic axis and also into the Mediterranean, listed below the city of Antakya.

Its longitudinal profile reveals a complex geological history and is identified by lengthy stages, extended with alluvial floodplains or uplands sculpted out by the river and connected through abrupt gradient changes marked by rocky sills (Weulersse 1940, p. 15, fig. 4). The top Orontes, upstream the Aïn ez Zarqa spring, 650 m high, is very comparable to a “wadi”, a seasonal stream, or also a short-lived one, who thalweg (main channel) is not clearly defined. Actually, the river resource is a small above Hermel, wherein the karstic springs of Aïn ez Zarqa (the blue spring) gush out, and where, carving its method across one arid plateau, it winds through a steep and narrow, yet lush, valley. Quickly afterwards, it climate reaches its very first level, at around 500 m over sea level, whereby both Lebanon’s hill ranges disappear, giving method to the “Homs Gap” and also the productive Tell an Nabi Mindu level it operation across. Basalts, i m sorry occupy most of the Homs gap and also the Jabal al Hulw region, have squeezed the river into flowing additional away come the North-East. Once flowing out of the plain, the embankment steeps deeply right into the basalt Homs plateau, bring about a new break in slope, which remains steep every the means to Ar Rastan. There, it pipeline the basalt and flows across soft senonian chalk, and also the valley widens – despite it is tho carved across a plateau. The obstacle of the basaltic Jabal al-Ala mesa pressures the flow to again readjust its course, to the northwest this time, towards Hama. Close to the Al Lataminah village, the next break in steep occurs, resulting from the an extremely low basic level the the Al Ghab tectonic rift. Its gorges space steep, and they carve the end the hard Cenomanian limestone under to the citadel that Shayzar where, thanks to a fault-line, the best step can begin. Indeed, from Shayzar à Qarqur, over there stretches the end a two-fold level landscape, which because that a lengthy time remained greatly unhealthy marshlands: the levels of Al ‘Asharinah and also Al Ghab, which exchange mail to rift valleys. In Qarqour, a break in slope close the door the Ghab through a basaltic sill. Native there, the Orontes flows under the slopes come Darkush and also reaches the level of Amouk, its critical stage, i m sorry it crosses all the means to Antakya where the last break that slope leads it come its Mediterranean outlet.

A complicated Watershed

The Orontes watershed, a vast and complex one, deserve to be divided into well-differentiated sections:

- Upstream to the level of Homs, can mainly be found glacis equipment whose surfaces are topped through conglomerates, and are marked with arid climate and also soils, all the more so as they lied in the vicinity of mountain Lebanon highlands, which drastically ward off incursions of moist waiting masses. Yet, those highlands – and their, albeit lower, counterparts: the Anti-Lebanon – are at the origin of the karstic supply provided by the abundant springs that create the Orontes and also feed the huge Northern Beqaa “oases”: Baalbek, Laboue, Hermel, but also the smallest sanctuaries of Younine that Fakehe or Ras Baalbek. The progressive widening of the Beqaa in the direction of the phibìc has enabled the facility of a parallel network – in the Qaa “drainpipe”, which collection the waters in the north-west that the Anti-Lebanon despite it is no longer functional (Besançon and Sanlaville 1993, p. 14).

- The call an Nabi Mindu plain, which hosts Lake Qattinah (or Lake the Homs) is a huge Neogene outcropping generated, behind basalt flows, by a once very big body the water. The presence of the “Homs Gap” between Mount Lebanon come the south and the Syrian seaside mountains allows the flow of moist waiting thwarted somewhere else by the obstacle of mountain massifs. Hence, the level benefits indigenous a climate favorable come rain-fed crops, yet irrigation is nevertheless widely occurred there, again thanks to waters drawn from the river and springs. This accounts because that the agricultural wealth that the region, where grain crops and also orchards space widely developed and gardens space concentrated around urban areas.

- between the call an Nabi Mindu plain and also the one of Al ‘Asharinah and also of the Al Ghab, the flow flows v several, very first basalt then limestone plateaus, through an extremely steep-sided valleys. The regularly bare surfaces of these plateaus, now reclaimed by fruit trees, traditionally provided to hold rain-fed serial farming. Contrary to these areas where edaphic aridity still has some impact, the bottom and alluvial terraces were the domain of waterwheels and also occupied by lush crops, many thanks to irrigation: this is an oasis economy, based upon gardens, and which supplements the big grain economy. Many Orontes river tributaries converge towards that area. The most essential ones space the Wadi Maydani, i beg your pardon drains all the northeast of the Anti Lebanon approximately the Yabrud highlands, and also the Wadi Al Kafat Who, flow from Salamiyah, point out the foray of the basin into the arid east margins, up the Jabal al-Bil ‘as, a part of the Palmyrean chain come the phibìc (about 100 kilometres from the Orontes).

- The Al Ghab synchronizes to a rift valley wherein sediment transported by the river is trapped. That is actually written of two compartments, the Al ‘Asharinah low land the Al Ghab itself. The Orontes travels v the an initial from east to west prior to flowing approximately the rocky outcrop that Al Asharinah and through the Ghab from south to north. The whole area, normally poorly drained and likewise fed by an effective springs from the seaside mountains and Syrian Jabal az Zawiyah karsts, has long been unhealthy and swampy. The Al Ghab, 80 km long and also some 15 kilometres wide, enjoys a very gentle steep (0.1 ‰); so, it has a really flat surface and the river, as result of the increase of that is bed, provided to make a slight relief. In those days, this bank-lifts to be the only inhabitable areas; over there also, and also only in the highest parts, lived Bedouin or mountain world in semi-lacustrine villages, relying mainly on fishing (Weulersse 1940, p 73.), buffalo breeding and little sorghum crops.

- The Qarqur-Darkush narrow pass, which contributes to the river circulation thanks to springs fed native the Jabal Kosseir and also Jabal al-Wastani and from the Rug depression that tectonic origin in between Jabal az Zawiyah and also al Wastani (Besançon et Geyer 1995) has likewise been fully transformed by breakthrough work on the Al Ghab (Mazloum 1954). To achieve the draining that marshes, the basalt Qarqur lock to be removed; besides, the food of the Orontes was deepened indigenous 4 come 6 m and also widened native 11 to 30 m end the 5 km in between the towns of Kufayr and Qarqur (Métral J. And Métral F. 1979, p. 308).

River Catchment and also Regime

The Orontes is different from the other Levant rivers since it flows almost from finish to finish in sub-humid Mediterranean bioclimatic region; as such it enjoys far-reaching precipitations (typically between 400 and 500 mm every year), which contribute to raising its circulation rate from upstream come downstream. But it is fed mostly from steep mountains, mostly limestone, which, fine watered together they are, play the role of water towers, bordering it practically all along its course, supplying many powerful springs, in every seasons. The is when it acquires its karstic nature along with the loved one regularity the its flow throughout the year – more accentuated through the regulating role of the alluvial levels it flows across.

Weulersse J. (1940, p. 50) characterizes the flow by the “abundance the its average flow, the regime regularity, the lack of disastrous floods and also the fixity the its bed.”

In Lebanon, ¾ that the flow rate is because of inputs indigenous the Aïn ez Zarqa springs through an average circulation of roughly 11 m3/s, in ~ an altitude the 650 m. Thus, the river program in Al Qusayr, a tiny town located simply upstream the the Qattinah dam lake, has actually all the qualities of a mainly karstic watercourse regime. It has little inter-annual variations (the ratio between wet and dry years is 2 only). Throughout the 1965-1973 period (dams have since profoundly disrupted the regimen of the river), the minimum average yearly river circulation rate to be at 14.8 m3/s, if the maximum mean annual rate was just 17.2 m3/s (Kerbé 1979). High waters begin in June, averaging 16.5 m3/s, through a almost four-month delay relatively to maximum rainfalls developing in January-February; this is partly because of the melting of the snow on the Lebanon hills that feeding the karstic springs. The Orontes climate experiences the most significant arid climate in the course, i beg your pardon is component of the explanation because that the preponderance of karstic inputs. Low waters, meanwhile, take place in September, through an average flow of 12.6 m3/s – tho remarkably high since it is still sustained by karstic inputs.

The area native Al Qusayr come Lake Qattinah is very little fed by inputs indigenous tributaries that drainpipe the southern and southeastern basin, located on the Anti-Lebanon east slopes and also glacis. In this part, real tributaries have actually all but disappeared, due to the region’s marked aridity, sheltered as it is through the mountains: together a result, it receives much less than 200 mm the precipitation every year. The Wadi Ar Rabi"ah is the best one, which drains the Qara and also Hisya regions, and also flows into the Orontes south to Al Qusayr. The most southern part, fed by little karstic springs in the Anti-Lebanon, is traversed by the Al Majarr key wadi. The latter drains the Asal Alward area west the Rankus approximately Yabrud and also An Nabk. That then almost dries up an ext or much less in the arid soil of north Sadad and also ends up in the Maydani wadi. The latter opens into the Orontes northeast of Ar Rastan and also thus drains all the northeast the the Anti-Lebanon and the arid locations located eastern of Homs. Choose in the area eastern of Al Qusayr, the input is low below as it greatly depends top top rainfall, currently reduced over most of this region.

Flow measurement stations space rare on the river and no various other data is obtainable down to Shayzar. Reports then show lower intake v a specific module indigenous 5.4 l/s/km2 at the enntrance gate of the Lake that Homs, only 2.77 l/s/km2 to the Al ‘Asharinah level (Besançon and Sanlaville 1993, p. 17). However, the is worth stating that, though over there are plenty of tributaries on this ar (on the left bank, the Nafseh and the Nahr together Sarut Wadis that flow down the Jabal al Hulw; on the right bank, the Maydani Al Kafat and also Al Durat Wadis), their inputs are mostly because of the surfaces the lie there and include on to the main catchment basin, more so than to seasonal if not temporary flow-rates – constantly rather slow contrasted to yearly averages. In addition, springs, basically from the Hama plateau drainage, space less numerous here. Consequently, the river regime is, in this section, more substantially significant by seasonality. Note that, ~ above this plateau, part valleys have been barred with little dams, in order among other points to save water during seasonal runoffs, so regarding sustain irrigation and also groundwater supply. This is the instance of the Al Kafat dam ~ above the eponymous wadi, and also of the one built throughout Zayzun top top the east slope the the Al Ghab. There are 40 dams in the Orontes basin, almost all situated in Syria (only the Tahtaköprü dam top top the Kara Su and the Yarseli one on a tributary the the Orontes are in Turkey. In Lebanon, a dam has actually been reserved downstream the the Aïn ez Zarqa springs). Two of them, amongst the best ones, space designed for power production (Ar Rastan and also Muhradah), if the Qattinah dam, in addition to 20 others, carry out irrigation water. The rather are used to control the flow. These room built across wadis, to keep water, prefer the Zeita dam, whose certain feature is to it is in fed by the river also, just before the Orontes flows into Syria, v a canal. The three major dam storage volume – Ar Rastan, and Muhradah Qattinah – is 200 come 500 million m3 per year.

Just after ~ flowing past the Shayzar gorge and also into the Al ‘Asharinah plain, its routine is again overcame by karstic inputs, and integrates waters native the an excellent Tall Al’Uyun spring. The river flow is then set at 18 m3/s on average and is inflated as result of the huge number the springs flow on the edge of the Ghab, fed from the seaside range ~ above one hand and the Jabal az Zawiyah ~ above the other. This springs median flow-rate is estimated at 13 m3/s (Abdulsalam 1990, p. 50). The mean annual flow rate of the river, out of the Ghab level is around 40 m3/s. During wet years, the median maximum circulation can with 102 m3/s (1968-1969) while it might come under to 23.4 m3/s in dried years (Kerbé 1979). It need to be provided that the is at high water (April-June) that agriculture water requirements peak.

But the plentiful and relatively regular Orontes waters space not only beneficial. They also have a downside, in this region significant by the an excellent number that depressions, rift valleys and also deep depressions, where, early out to poor drainage, water can accumulate, creating huge marshy wetlands that space repulsive till they have actually been drained. Even today, the drainage of the Ghab remains complicated during really wet years, in spite of all the work that has already been done (Besançon and Sanlaville 1993, p. 19). Finally, the Qarqur-Darkush small pass likewise brings its donation to the river flow through resources fed from Jabal al Kosseir, Jabal al Wastani and also the polje Ruj. That is with these gorges that the Orontes flows the end of the area under study.

The volume that the Orontes waters, as it exits Lebanon, is approximated at 403 million m3, of i beg your pardon 80 Mm3 are allocated to Lebanon follow to the Syro Lebanese water sharing agreement . The complete water sources in the Orontes basin are estimated at 2340 Mm3/year, including inputs native Afrin and Kara Su. Whereby the Orontes flows into Turkey, the annual potential is 1400 Mm3/year (Droubi 2012).

The Orontes flow accounts for around 13% the water sources in Syria, approximated at a total of 18,134 m3/year.

Groundwater Input

The Orontes basin is identified by a facility geological structure and lithology. Rocks space generally really permeable, and also deeply karstified: limestones and dolomites that the Jurassic and also Cretaceous chalky limestone the the Paleogene. Also basalt, together it is fractured, feeds the groundwater. Fractures facilitate the renewal of springs, particularly on both sides of ditches.

The estimate of accessible groundwater in an aquifer is based generally on estimating the recharge of these waters by precipitation or directly from rivers. Because of average (400 to 500 mm/year) rainfall inputs, (except in the eastern of the Hama Salamiyah axis, whereby the container sinks into arid margins in the north Beqaa and in the south-eastern Syria component in the region of Al Yabrud and An Nabk) and the good permeability of geological formations, most groundwater in the Orontes container may be thought about as renewable. Indeed, a current study (ACSAD, 2012) approximated the recharge of underground water at about 2,441 Mm3/year.

Springs total flow-rate is estimated at 275 Mm3/year. The Al Ghab an ar is considered the richest in groundwater throughout the Orontes area basin. The receives about 782 Mm3/year in renewable recharge, in enhancement to around 568 Mm3/year lateral operation from neighboring areas. In total, groundwater sources are about 1350 Mm3/year (ACSAD, 2012).

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Therefore, groundwater is said to feed about 90% of the full runoff that the Orontes basin, largely thanks come karstic springs, the key one being the Aïn ez Zarqa spring, but also the Al Ghab springs; these gush out at the foot that the east slopes that the seaside range, the greatest ones being Nab` al Barid (0.94 m3/s) and Ayn al Fawwar (0.93 m3/s). Finally, groundwater is reputed able to administer approximately 56% of water needs for agriculture in the whole container of the Syrian Orontes, whereby the irrigated area is approximated at about 85,000 ha (Alchami, 2000).