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Abstract

Freshwater groundwater resources at north Kuwait were contaminated by infiltrated oil as well as sea water that was used to fight the oil-well fires during the liberation of Kuwait in 1991. This paper investigates the feasibility of five remediation options to restore the polluted aquifers. These options include: (i) pump and treat of contaminated groundwater; (ii) cleaning the aquifer formation; (iii) construction of additional desalination plant; (iv) constructing additional storage tanks, and (v) development of artificial aquifer recharge schemes. The basis for this assessment study is to supply minimum basic drinking water to Kuwait City at a total rate of 50,000 m³/day in an emergency for up to one year based on essential basic need of 32 liters per capita per day. To compare these options, a decision matrix to select suitable remediation options using Multiple Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) approach is developed. The cost was given a relative weight of 20 whereas other criteria are given weight of 10. Based on these MCDA scores, it was found that option 3, namely, establishing an additional water desalination plant, is the most feasible option followed by option 5, artificial recharge of aquifers.
1 23
Environmental Science and Pollution
Research
ISSN 0944-1344
Environ Sci Pollut Res
DOI 10.1007/s11356-018-3723-2
Multi-criteria decision approach for
evaluation, ranking, and selection of
remediation options: case of polluted
groundwater, Kuwait
Radwan A.Al-Weshah & Yohannes
Yihdego
1 23
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TREND EDITORIAL
Multi-criteria decision approach for evaluation, ranking, and selection
of remediation options: case of polluted groundwater, Kuwait
Radwan A. Al-Weshah
1
&Yohannes Yihdego
2,3
Received: 15 April 2018 /Accepted: 8 November 2018
#Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018
Abstract
Freshwater groundwater resources at north Kuwait were contaminated by infiltrated oil as well as sea water that was used to fight
the oil-well fires during the liberation of Kuwait in 1991. This paper investigates the feasibility of five remediation options to
restore the polluted aquifers. These options include: (i) pump and treat of contaminated groundwater; (ii) cleaning the aquifer
formation; (iii) construction of additional desalination plant; (iv) constructing additional storage tanks, and (v) development of
artificial aquifer recharge schemes. The basis for this assessment study is to supply minimum basic drinking water to Kuwait City
at a total rate of 50,000 m
3
/day in an emergency for up to one year based on essential basic need of 32 liters per capita per day. To
compare these options, a decision matrix to select suitable remediation options using Multiple Criteria Decision Analysis
(MCDA) approach is developed. The cost was given a relative weight of 20 whereas other criteria are given weight of 10.
Based on these MCDA scores, it was found that option 3, namely, establishing an additional water desalination plant, is the most
feasible option followed by option 5, artificial recharge of aquifers.
Keywords Water r es ou rc es .Groundwater remediation .Pump and treat .Artificial recharge .Storage tanks .Desalination plant
Introduction
A decision support tool for groundwater remediation and pollu-
tion control is often needed to provide insight on the trade-off
between water status and the cost to achieve such situation
(Benedetti et al. 2010; Fragoso et al. 2010; Hajkowicz and
Collins 2007;Lotovetal.2005; Muleta and Nicklow 2005;
Udías et al. 2011,2014; Yihdego et al. 2017a; Zitzler et al. 2003).
Iraqs invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1990 left a
chronic legacy of damage and environmental contamination.
Over one billion barrels of crude oil are estimated to have been
deliberately released to the environment as a result of the Iraqi
invasion. The extent of contamination was such that vast lakes
of oil were created in the desert and airborne petrochemical
by-products from well fires initiated by the Iraqis resulting in
dark days over Kuwait for months after liberation (Al-Damkhi
et al. 2009). Seawater pumped from the Gulf to extinguish the
many well fires, dousing the ecologically sensitive landscape
with large quantities of saline water that also intruded into
fresh groundwater aquifers (Al-Weshah and Yihdego 2016).
Freshwater is the most scarce, critical, and valuable natural
resource in Kuwait. Surface water is generally absent and
groundwater is limited and mostly non-renewable. The two
main fresh groundwater fields in Kuwait are found in the north
of the country, in Raudhatain and Umm Al-Aish as shown in
Fig. 1. These aquifers are essential for the sustainable devel-
opment of the country and served historically as huge under-
ground reservoirs to secure freshwater demands during emer-
gency situations. These aquifers were the only freshwater re-
serves available in Kuwait as active production fields prior to
invasion. They form a strategic emergency supply if drinking
water supplies from desalination of seawater ceased or were
interrupted (Yihdego and Al-Weshah 2016a).
The two aquifers were contaminated by infiltrated oil and
also by entrainment and dissolution of petroleum contami-
nants that subsequently leached with rainwater as well as
Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues
*Yohannes Yihdego
yohannesyihdego@gmail.com
1
Department of Civil Engineering, The University of Jordan,
Amman, Jordan
2
Department of Ecology, Environment & Evolution, College of
Science, Health & Engineering, La Trobe University,
Melbourne, Victoria 3086, Australia
3
Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC), Sydney, New
South Wales 2060, Australia
Environmental Science and Pollution Research
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-018-3723-2
Author's personal copy
saltwater, required to fight the oil well fires after liberation
ultimately contaminated the freshwater fields.
Based on detailed monitoring and assessment to remediate
Kuwaits freshwater groundwater resources, the State of
Kuwait was compensated for the contamination and perma-
nent loss of the freshwater aquifers at Umm Al-Aish and
Raudhatain. The idea is to treat the contaminated fresh
groundwater with the hope that treatment, coupled with the
removal of oil contamination from the aquifer recharge catch-
ments, might lead eventually to restoration of the aquifers
(Yihdego and Al-Weshah 2016b,c).
The basis for assessment is to supply essential drinking
water to Kuwait City (based on essential human need of 32 l
per capita per day) at a total rate of 50,000 m
3
/day in an
emergency supply for up to 1 year (Akber et al. 2009).
Study objectives and assumptions
This paper investigates the feasibility of five remediation op-
tions to restore the polluted aquifers. The following facts and
assumptions are considered in evaluating the feasibility of the
proposed remediation options:
Kuwaits only strategic sources of fresh water at Raudhatain
and Umm Al-Aish have been damaged as a result of Iraqs
invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 19901991. As a result
of Iraqs destruction of the oil wells, the resulting fires, and the
necessary firefighting activities, the groundwater at Umm Al-
Aish is severely polluted with hydrocarbons and salts. It is
anticipated based on the available evidence that the pollution
of groundwater will increase over time (Yihdego and Al-
Wes ha h 2016b).
Prior to 1990, Kuwait had planned to recharge the
Raudhatain freshwater aquifer artificially to supplement natu-
ral recharge, preserve the availability of a sustainable produc-
tive field, and provide an emergency supply of drinking water
(Mukhopadhyay 1992; Senay 1989). As a result of invasion-
related surface oil spills and other impacts, natural recharge
has been modified and resumption of pre-invasion production
and artificial recharge have not been implemented because the
soils in the natural recharge area, as well as the aquifers them-
selves, are polluted with hydrocarbons and salt. Currently,
groundwater in Umm Al-Aish has the highest pollution levels
of salts and hydrocarbons. Increased salt levels have been
observed more extensively than hydrocarbon pollution in
Raudhatain, but both types of pollution clearly are present
(Yihdego and Al-Weshah 2016b,d). Kuwait does not have a
replacement of this natural strategic reserve that would have
continued to exist if oil pollution had not occurred; implementa-
tion of a strategic artificial recharge scheme with enhanced
Fig. 1 Location map of the two
main strategic aquifers
Raudhatain and Umm Al-Aish
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production has not been practical given the presence of the
contamination (Mukhopadhyay 1992; Fadlelmawla et al. 2008;
Yihdego and Al-Weshah 2018). Replacing the strategic reserve
in the shortest possible time will require an alternative source of
fresh water or the treatment of water from the two aquifers.
Groundwater treatment options
To achieve the strategic objective and supply drinking water at
arateof50,000m
3
/day in an emergency year, the government
of Kuwait and other partners identified the following possible
remediation options:
Option 1: BPump and treat^groundwater to restore the
groundwater aquifers
Pump and treat the groundwater from the Raudhatain
and Umm Al-Aish aquifers allowing capacity for an emer-
gency year supply, including the treatment necessary to
address the increasing salinity in these aquifers, allowing
for natural attenuation of residual pollution (Yihdego 2017;
Yihdego et al . 2017b) and restoration of the aquifers over
an extended period of time. The option calls for the estab-
lishment of two treatment plants to carry out treatment of
hydrocarbon-polluted groundwater pumped from the
Raudhatain and Umm Al-Aish aquifers, with treatment de-
signed to achieve the standards of drinking water quality
(Al-Weshah and Yihdego 2016).
Under the current option, costs of the following compo-
nents are considered:
(i) The establishment of two groundwater treatment plants
(one at Raudhatain and one at Umm Al-Aish) to treat
groundwater from Umm Al-Aish and Raudhatain fresh-
water aquifers over the next 30 years, including operation
and maintenance costs.
(ii) Treatment process includes
a. pre-treatment of the groundwater for parameters such
as calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, nickel, and
vanadium that may be toxic and foul air strippers and
activated carbon surfaces,
b. air stripping of volatile hydrocarbon contaminants, and
c. treatment via activated carbon to remove longer chain
hydrocarbons.
(iii) The treatment plants were sized to be able to treat water
in the 15th year at a rate up to 41,000 m
3
/day from
Raudhatain for 1 year as an emergency supply and at
least 4300 m
3
/day from Umm Al-Aish for 1 year as an
emergency supply and up to 9000 m
3
/day for an unspec-
ifiedpeakperiod(Akberetal.2009).
This option includes costs for salt treatment by reverse os-
mosis, assuming up to 50% of the total flow (i.e., 25,000 m
3
/
day) is treated. Costs also allow for disposal of all residuals in a
secure hazardous waste landfill. Additionally, over the limited
timeframe of 30 years of pumping and treating groundwater
from the Raudhatain and Umm Al-Aish aquifers, it is expected
that this option will not restore a secure strategic groundwater
for Kuwait.
Option 2: Alternate remediation of the aquifer formation
Clean-up of the contaminated aquifers using bioventing
and other remediation techniques to restore conditions that
existed prior to the Iraqi invasion, thus restoring these aquifers
as a strategic freshwater resource, is recognized as a longer-
term option requiring an additional short-term supply of water
while clean-up is being effected (SMEC 2006). Any alterna-
tive that allows contamination to remain in place will fail to
achieve protection and remediation of the groundwater re-
sources. Moreover, removal of these materials is only pro-
posed to extend to shallow depths and does not account for
oil or salts that are already entrained in the soil profile and that
have penetrated below the oil lakes and other impacted areas
of the soil, or for ongoing leaching of dissolved hydrocarbons
and salts through the soil profile towards groundwater.
Remediation of the aquifer to pre-invasion conditions
would therefore require not only treatment ofall contaminated
groundwater but also treatment of all impacted zones beneath
the thin surface soil removal zone, to depths of up to 30 m of
the soil profile in Raudhatain and up to 20 m in Umm Al-Aish
(Al-Weshah and Yihdego 2016).
Some available to remediate the contaminated soil profile
includes
(i) Natural attenuation via aeration to biodegrade hydrocar-
bons and leaching of salts via natural rainfall infiltration
through the soil;
(ii) Bioventing to aerate the soil horizon and stimulate bac-
terial breakdown of the hydrocarbons in the soil profile;
(iii) Enhanced leaching over an extended period to wash
salts (and possibly some dissolved hydrocarbons) from
the soil profile,
whereas techniques that are available to remediate the con-
taminated groundwater include
(i) Natural attenuation of hydrocarbons in groundwater due
to biodegradation and dispersion processes, and dis-
charge from the freshwater basin of salts due to ambient
groundwater flows to the north and east;
(ii) Air sparging to aerate the groundwater to strip any resid-
ual volatile hydrocarbons, but principally to enhance
bacterial breakdown of the longer chain hydrocarbons;
Environ Sci Pollut Res
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(iii) Reactive barrier walls downgradient of the plumes to
treat mobile contamination as the plumes migrate east-
ward, and create a reactive zone to halt further expan-
sion of the area of groundwater pollution;
(iv) Hydraulic containment (e.g., slurry or bentonite) walls
from ground surface to the depth of the low permeable
strata below the water table (Yihdego 2016), surround-
ing areas like the oil lakes and other oil/salt-impacted
areas to inhibit movement of polluted groundwater out-
side the affected areas;
(v) Recirculating wells to allow in-well treatment of hydro-
carbons, and aeration of groundwater for recirculation to
enhance hydrocarbon biodegradation within the aquifer;
(vi) Pumping of groundwater and treatment of produced
groundwater for hydrocarbons and salts (this is already
considered under option 1 above).
A combination of these techniques would need to be
employed to remediate the soil and groundwater, and a combi-
nation would be needed to address salt and hydrocarbon pollut-
ants. Natural attenuation processes will lead to some dilution,
biodegradation, and leaching of hydrocarbons and salts from
the soil and groundwater. This process is likely to take many
decades, as evidenced by the remaining ponded oil in oil lakes
and salinity in groundwater more than 20 years after liberation.
In summary, clean-up of the contaminated aquifers using
bioventing and other remediation techniques to restore condi-
tions that existed prior to the Iraqi invasion, thus reestablishing
these aquifers as a strategic freshwater resource, is recognized
as a longer-term option requiring an additional short-term sup-
ply of water while clean-up is being effected (Al-Weshah and
Yihdego 2016).
Option 3: Establishment of additional desalination plant
Establishment of additional desalination capacity using
seawater or brackish groundwater as water sources to simply
meet the freshwater supply objective while failing to achieve
any restoration of the strategic reserve capacity. This option
would provide an alternate water supply byestablishing a new
desalination plant for seawater, and by blending the desalinat-
ed water with water drawn from the brackish aquifers in south-
ern and western Kuwait. It would not restore a strategic fresh-
water reserve to the State of Kuwait (Fadlelmawla et al. 2008).
For this option, it is assumed that the desalination plant will
be commissioned to run at full capacity (50,000 m
3
/day) for
2years.Thenbeplacedonstandbyforemergency.
Reverse osmosis (RO) treatment technology is proposed.
Location of the RO plant shall be located to ensure connec-
tions to Kuwait Citys water main network and power supply.
The standby mode assumes minimal production to protect the
membranes of the RO plant. This option establishes an alter-
native above ground infrastructure, rather than a more secure
subsurface supply. The desalination plant established for this
emergency supply would have the same vulnerability as
Kuwaits other desalination plants.
Option 4: Establishment of storage tanks as a water
reserve
Provision ofalternative water storage facilities for a reserve
using a water supply of (i) surplus desalinated water in winter
or (ii) water from a newly constructed and dedicated desalina-
tion plant.
The option seeks to establish water storage tanks around
Kuwait City, capable of supplying 50,000 m
3
/day for the 15th
year of a 30-year period (Akber et al. 2009).
This option considers 180 tanks each with a water capacity
of 100 ML distributed across the Kuwait City metropolitan
area, and plumbed into the City water distribution system.
Table 1 Summary of strategic options comparison
Option Estimated
cost (capital
+O&M)
BConstruction
period^
(average)
Technology used
1. Pump and
treat
US$ 365M 5 years Cost of treatment
plant includes
capital + O&M
for pre-treatment
for metals; hy-
drocarbon re-
moval; salt re-
moval artificial
recharge and
plant required up
to 30-year cost
basis assumed.
2. Clean
aquifer
formation
High to very
high
US$
500M >
US$
1000M
20 years Remediation would
take time, and in
the meantime an
alternative water
supply from new
desalination plant
is included.
3.
Desalinat-
ion plant
Moderate
US$ 234M
2 years No artificial
recharge needed.
4. Storage
tanks
Very high
US$ 1230M
3 years Includes supply of
water from new
desalination
plant.
5. Artificial
recharge
High
US$ 300M
6 years initially but
consider as pilot
project to
develop a
long-term strate-
gic groundwater
resource
Source of supply
will be excess
potable water
from desalination
plants or from
new plant. Plant
to provide
potable water for
artificial
recharge.
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Allowance is made for mixing and disinfection to maintain
water quality over non-emergency years, and for maintenance
of the structural integrity of the reservoirs. The option assumes
an initial supply of water from a new desalination plant to
initially fill the tanks with potable water.
Option 5: Establishment of artificial aquifer recharge
Artificial groundwater recharge is a common practice in
arid and semi-arid zones (Abboushi et al. 2015). This option
seeks to establish an artificial aquifer recharge system as an
alternate freshwater aquifer that would be capable of supply-
ing emergency water to Kuwait City at a rate of 50,000 m
3
/day
for one year (Fadlelmawla et al. 2008).
Prior to invasion, Kuwait had planned to recharge the
Raudhatain aquifer with up to 45,500 m
3
/day for 10 years so
that the aquifer would be sustained as a productive field and
configured as an emergency supply capable of withdrawal of
up to 34,000 m
3
/day (Senay 1989). Continued artificial re-
charge of about 50,000 m3/day would allow a long-term sus-
tainable withdrawal from the aquifer of up to 23,000 m
3
/day
but possiblyhigherrates could be sustainable since recharge is
into a freshwater aquifer giving greater efficiency of recovery
of recharged freshwater compared to saline aquifers
(Mukhopadhyay 1992). This option, however, restricts con-
sideration to the establishment of a supply in a new location
capable of sustaining the extraction of a volume of 50,000 m
3
/
day for one emergency year, in accordance with the claims,
even though a long-term sustainable yield of at least
23,000 m
3
/day has been lost.
Few alternate sites exist in Kuwait that are suitable for
artificial recharge and Bcreation^of a freshwater field. This
is because all the aquifers in Kuwait are brackish to saline,
apart from those at Raudhatain and Umm Al-Aish, and
injection of freshwater into a saline aquifer gives a lower re-
covery during re-extraction (Senay 1989).
Post-liberation, artificial recharge studies were carried out
by Mukhopadhyay (1992) in the Sulaibiyah and Shigaya
fields well field areas in the shallow Kuwait Group and in
the Dammam aquifers. The study focused on injection and
recovery efficiencies through wells and concluded that injec-
tion of water to the two aquifers was technically feasible, but
with a recovery efficiency of approximately 20% for the
Dammam. Costs for establishment of a 45,500 m
3
/day pro-
duction resource (with injection/recharge of 230,000 m
3
/day
were estimated at 150 million USD for the recommended
design including the cost of water (Mukhopadhyay 1992).
This is a long-term option requiring an extended period of
aquifer recharge over 10 years prior to extraction. Over those
years, Kuwait would still lack a strategic emergency reserve.
For this option, an alternate fast-track strategic reserve may be
needed. If this is provided by construction of an additional
desalination plant, the costs outlined in option 3 need to be
substituted for the costs of water included above (SMEC 2006).
Feasibility and cost analysis of new options
The feasibility and cost of various options are based on set of
assumption that each option need to provide an emergency
supply for 1 year at full capacity (365 days @ 50,000 m
3
/
day = 18 Mm
3
per year). The elements that are considered in
the feasibility are:
a. Financial and economic viability: cost of making the
project
b. Construction period
Table 3 MCDA matrix of
optionsscores Criteria Weight Option 1 Option 2 Option 3 Option 4 Option 5
Cost (M US$) 20 13 5 20 4 16
Construction 10 4 1 10 7 3
Sustainability 10 8 5 10 7 8
Risk/security 10 3 6 3 6 9
Environmental 10 7 9 7 3 9
Sum 603526502745
Table 2 Summary of evaluation
criteria and weight Criteria Weight Option 1 Option 2 Option 3 Option 4 Option 5
Cost (M US$) 20 365 1000 234 1230 300
Construction period (yeas) 10 5 20 2 3 6
Sustainability 10 Very good Acceptable Excellent Good Very good
Risk/security 10 High Moderate High Moderate Low
Environmental impact 10 Moderate Low Moderate High Low
Environ Sci Pollut Res
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c. Sustainability: ability to continue getting water up to the
total renewable capacities of the aquifers.
d. Risk and social viability including public acceptance
e. Environmental impacts on the physical and natural
environment.
Comparison of options
Based on the feasibility of the discussed options, Table 1
shows the comparison of these options based on their present
valuecostofeachoption.
Development of multiple criteria decision matrix
A decision matrix to select the most suitable remediation op-
tions using multiple criteria decision analysis (MCDA) ap-
proach is developed (Abudeif et al. 2017; Benedetti et al.
2010; Mendoza and Martins 2006). The five options are eval-
uated against the comparison criteria.
Tab le 2shows the summary of the evaluation criteria for
each option with proposed weight for each criterion. These
weights are taken based on the researcher judgment. A matrix
of scores for each option using MCDA is developed based on
the weights given in Table 2.
A matrix of scores for each option using MCDA is devel-
oped based on the weights given in Table 2. The high score
present the most feasible option. The results of MCDA are
presented in Table 3.
Discussion of results
Based on these MCDA scores, it was found that option 3,
establishing an additional water desalination plant, is the most
feasible option followed by option 5, artificial recharge of
aquifers. Other options are less feasible especially options 2
(treatment of aquifers formation) and 4 (constructing addition-
al storage tanks).
The above analysis and results were presented and
discussed with the respective stakeholders in Kuwait. They
are technically and economically the most feasible and sound
options. The study recognized that the MCDA approach is
very sensitive to subjectivity by given a certain relative weight
for each criterion or options.However, the presented approach
is flexible as it gives the decision makers a tool to revisit this
analysis and change the relative weight for each criterion if
new conditions would developed in future. It has been found
that establishing an additional water desalination plant is the
most feasible option. The design of this plant is beyond the
scope of this paper.
The research findings will help the State of Kuwait to better
decide on the best remediation options for their groundwater
aquifers given the fact that they recently received compensa-
tion funds of about 40 million USD for this purpose from Iraq
through the UN system.
Conclusions
Prior to Iraqi invasion to Kuwait in 1990, the Raudhatain and
Umm Al-Aish aquifers were the only fresh water aquifers in
Kuwait. There were supplying 50,000 m
3
/day in an emergen-
cy situation.
Five remediation options are investigated in this study
against five evaluation criteria. A decision matrix to select
suitable remediation options using multiple criteria decision
analysis (MCDA) approach is developed. The cost was given
a relative weight of 20 whereas other criteria are given weight
of 10. The study found that establishing an additional water
desalination plant is the most feasible option followed by op-
tion 5, artificial recharge of aquifers. Other options are less
feasible.
The research findings will help the State of Kuwait to better
decide on the best remediation options for their groundwater
aquifers given that they received compensation funds from
Iraq through the UN system.
Acknowledgments The authors would like to thank the Kuwait National
Focal Point for Environmental Projects, Ministry of Electricity and Water
in Kuwait - Groundwater Sector and SMEC intenational for providing
access to some of their data. The manuscript has benefitted from the
reviewersand editorscomments.
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