Scott Wells

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Civil & Environmental Engineering


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Physical Description

1 online resource (xxi, 300 pages)




The Tigris River is one of two primary rivers in Iraq and is, along with the Euphrates, the main source for drinking and irrigation water in the country. The Tigris River originates in the Taurus Mountains in Turkey, and is 1850 km long. The majority of the river, 1418 km lie within Iraq. The river passes through, and is the primary drinking water source for, major cities such as Mosul, Baeji, Samarra, Baghdad (the capital), and Kut. The Tigris River joints the Euphrates River in Qurna city within Basra province to form the Shatt Al-Arab River which eventually discharges into the Persian Gulf.

As a result of fluctuations in flow rate along the Tigris River that cause both potential flooding and drought, Mosul Dam was built on the mainstem of the Tigris River upstream of the city of Mosul and was operated starting in July1986 to control the river flow and to generate hydroelectricity. Some canals were also constructed to divert excess fresh water from the mainstem of the river at Samarra Barrage located 125 km north (upstream) of Baghdad to Tharthar Lake, an artificial lake located 100 km northwest Baghdad city. The Tigris-Tharthar canal, 75 km long, was constructed in 1956 to divert excess water from Samarra Barrage to Tharthar Lake and to prevent potential flooding in Baghdad. During dry seasons, high total dissolved solids (TDS) water is diverted from Tharthar Lake into the mainstem of the Tigris River through the 65 km long Tharthar-Tigris canal, which is located 25 km upstream Baghdad.

Due to rapid population growth and increasing industrial activates, the Tigris River is also facing many water quality challenges from inflows of contaminated wastewater from treatment plant stations. A water quality model that simulates the Tigris River system is therefore needed to study the effects of these discharges and how water quality of the Tigris River could be managed. To address this issue, I used CE-QUAL-W2 to develop a 2-D (longitudinal and vertical) hydrodynamic and water quality model of the mainstem Tigris River from Mosul Dam (Rkm 0) to Kut Barrage (Rkm 880). In addition, Tharthar Lake and its canals were modeled.

A full suite of hydrodynamic and water quality variables were simulated for the year 2009, including flowrates, water level, and water temperature. Additionally, water quality constituents such as total dissolved solids (TDS), phosphate (PO4), ammonium (NH4), nitrate (NO3), biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), chlorophyll-a (Chl-a), and dissolved oxygen (DO) were also simulated. Bathymetry of the Tigris River and field data such as flowrate, water level, TDS, NO3 were obtained from the Ministry of Water Resources in Iraq, while surface water temperatures of the Tigris River were estimated remotely using Landsat satellites. These satellites provided a continuous observation record of remote sites. Other water quality field data, such as PO4, NH4, BOD, and DO, were estimated from literature values.

Meteorological data, including, wind speed, wind direction, air and dew point temperatures, cloud cover, and solar radiation were obtained from the Iraqi Ministry of Transportation, the General Organization for Meteorology and Seismic Monitoring.

Model predictions of flow and water level were compared to field data at three stations along the mainstem of the Tigris River, including Baeji, downstream of Samarra Barrage, and Baghdad. The absolute mean error in the flow varied from 12.6 to 3.4 m3/s and the water level absolute mean error varied from 0.036 to 0.018 m. The percentage error of the overall flowrate at Baeji, downstream Samarra Barrage and Baghdad was 1.9%, 0.8%, and 0.8% respectively. Injecting a conservative tracer at Mosul Dam showed that a parcel of water reaches to Baeji, Samarra Barrage, Baghdad, and Kut Barrage after approximately 3 days, 5 days, 10 days, and 19 days, respectively.

Water temperature field data in Iraq are limited and there was no archive of existing field data. Therefore, I obtained estimates of surface water temperature on the Tigris River using the thermal band of the Landsat satellite, one of a series of satellites launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The calibration between satellite data and water temperature was validated using sparse field data from 2004, and the calibration then applied to 82 Landsat images from the year 2009. Landsat estimates showed a bias of -2°C compared to model results in winter months, possibly due to uncertainty in Landsat estimations. The absolute mean errors of the CE-QUAL-W2 model predictions of water temperature compared to Landsat estimated temperatures were 0.9 and 1.0°C at Baeji and Baghdad respectively. Temperature calibration in the Tigris River system was highly sensitive to meteorological input data. Landsat Images were also used to estimate longitudinal variation in surface water temperature of Tharthar Lake. It was found that surface water temperature in Tharthar Lake varied longitudinally along the North-South axis with warmer temperatures in the lower part compared with the upper part of the lake.

Total dissolved solids concentrations in the Tigris River significantly increased from Mosul Dam to Kut Barrage with peak concentrations of 900 mg/l and 1050 mg/l at Baghdad and Kut, respectively, due to high TDS water diverted from Tharthar Lake, irrigation return flow, urban runoff, and uncontrolled discharge of wastewater effluents. NO3 concentrations did not significantly increase between Samarra Barrage and Baghdad city. BOD concentrations within Baghdad were extremely high due to direct discharge of industrial wastewater into the mainstem of the Tigris River from outlets located within the city.

Management scenarios were simulated with the model of the Tigris River system and were compared with the base model. The main scenarios implemented on the Tigris River system were altering upstream hydrology, increasing air temperature due to the effect of climate change, disconnecting Tharthar Lake from the Tigris River system, and simulating long-term effects on Tharthar Lake. Increasing upstream inflows caused a decrease in TDS concentrations from 495 mg/l to 470 mg/l over all the mainstem of the river. In addition, CBOD concentrations decreased somewhat from 5.9 mg/l to 5.74 mg/l. On the other hand, decreasing upstream flows caused a significant increase in average TDS concentrations over the entire Tigris mainstem from 495 mg/l to 527 mg/l. Also, an increase in CBOD concentrations from 5.9 mg/l to 6.2 mg/l was predicted over all the mainstem of the river. Implementing the climate change scenario on the base model of the Tigris River system showed a 5% increase in annually averaged water temperature from 20.7°C to 21.68°C over the mainstem river. Climate change scenarios produced no significant impacts on TDS and CBOD concentrations in the mainstem, while DO concentrations decreased from 8.15 mg/l to 7.98 mg/l with a slight increase in Chl-a concentration from 1.97 µg/l to 2 µg/l in the mainstem. Disconnecting Tharthar Lake from the system showed a remarkable 25% decrease in TDS concentrations, with an average concentration changed from 495 mg/l to 397 mg/l in the mainstem due to an extra 36% increase in flow discharged downstream of Samarra Barrage. Also, Chl-a concentration significantly decreased by 40% with an average concentration changed from 2 µg/l to 1.2 µg/l.

Additionally, a 6-year model simulation of the Tigris River system was performed to evaluate the long-term effects on Tharthar Lake. No significant impact was observed in the average temperature of the lake. TDS concentrations in the lake decreased from 1239 mg/l to 1041 mg/l. PO4, NH4 and NO3 concentrations decreased by 2%, 66% and 26%, respectively. Chl-a concentration in Tharthar Lake decreased from 2.0 µg/l to 1.61 µg/l. After decreasing BOD concentrations of the Tigris River by 50%, BOD concentrations in the mainstem decreased by 24%, while DO concentrations increased by 2.8%. There were no significant impacts on Chl-a concentrations in the mainstem of the river. Finally, for a scenario where extremely low dissolved oxygen release from Mosul Dam in the summer, it was found that approximately 50 km below Mosul Dam was affected before DO concentrations reached an equilibrium concentration.

For further work on the Tigris River system, it is recommended to model the Tigris River from Kut Barrage to the confluence with the Euphrates River, about 400 km long, and connect it with the current model to have a complete model of the Tigris River system from Mosul Dam to the confluence with the Euphrates River. This is necessary to manage water the entire system of the Tigris River and also to provide enough water with good quality in Basra.

Persistent Identifier