Groundwater Modelling for Resource Assessment (GMRA) Specialist

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Position Type: 
Organization Type: 
International Organization
Experience Level: 
10+ Years
Degree Required: 
Advanced Degree (Master's or JD)


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The Project Implementing Partner is the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture (MEWA), Water. MEWA, Water has the national mandate for integrated water resources management (IWRM) and is organized into five main operational directorates. [1]


The GMRA Specialist will report to the Director of the MEWA, Water, Center for Water Management and Control (CWMC). Designated CWMC functions are: (i) classifying and analyzing data, using various methods including modelling and remote sensing, and evaluating and documenting real-time daily data from other water-related systems, (ii) empowering authorities to make quick decisions by analyzing indicators and developing proposed solutions and (iii) supporting crisis or emergency management.  


MEWA, Water. 2018. Saudi National Water Strategy 2030 (NWS 2030) comprises 47 Strategic Initiatives organized under 10 Programs. The Project Outcome is MEWA, Water organizational and technical capacity development with respect to the IWRM mandate of MEWA, Water. The Project comprises 25 sub-outputs grouped into eight main technical Project Outputs (Annex 1). At the end of 2019, the Project had collected, analyzed and documented previous groundwater resource assessment models.


[1] MEWA, Water operational Directorates are for: (i) Water Resources, (ii) Water Planning, (iii) Water Regulation

  and the Centers for (iv) Research and Studies (NCWRS) and (v) Water Management and Control (CWMC).   



The GMRA Specialist will deliver Project Output 1.1 for the combination of the existing 3D groundwater models into an up-to-date multilayered assessment model. This sub-output is consistent with CWMC Initiative 2, for digital systems and information management to facilitate decision-making, under NWS 2030 Program 2 for integrated water resources management (IWRM). Detailed TOR are in Annex 1. 


At the end of 2019, the Project had collected, analyzed and documented previous models. [1] The GMRA Specialist will review these existing models, develop a 3D groundwater flow model, (sub-output 1.1) and apply it to assess and document all appreciable aquifers and groundwater resources (water supply side) under a range of different abstraction scenarios (water demand side) (Project Output 1).     


[1] UNDP. 2019. Groundwater Reserves of the Major Aquifers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


  1. Scope of Work

Capacity will be developed and technical services and outputs delivered in three collaborative phases for: (i) 3D model selection, (ii) development and (iii) application for groundwater resources assessment.


  1. Capacity Development


  1. Institutional Arrangements


  1. Deputy Minister, Water is responsible for decision-making. However, DM, Water will facilitate a collaborative MEWA, Water IWRM decision-making and capacity development process;
  2. Director, CWMC is responsible for CWMC functions including Project Output 8, for water management and control, and sub-output 1.1 for groundwater modelling and assessment;   
  3. The GMRA Specialist will report to the Director, CWMC;
  4. It is expected that, a National GMRA Specialist will also be recruited to provide continuity;
  5. The Project is also recruiting international Database and Hydrochemistry specialists etc;
  6. Other important stakeholders include MEWA, Water Directors for Water Resources (Project Outputs 1 and 2), Water Planning (Output 3a), Water Regulation (Output 3b) and Water Research (Output 6) and representatives of MEWA, Environment and MEWA, Agriculture etc.


  1. Organizational Capacity  

In consultation with the Director, CWMC, the GMRA Specialist will integrate: (i) the technical groundwater flow modelling and resource assessment process with (ii) a parallel participatory MEWA, Water organizational capacity development process. [1] The technical process will identify the key decisions to be made and the participatory capacity development process will facilitate informed collective negotiation and consensus, especially between MEWA, Water Directorates, regarding their preferred solutions.    

1.3          Technical Capacity

The GMRA Specialist will mentor [2] two or three designated MEWA, Water staff members (mentees) and help them to: (i) develop and implement their continuing professional development (CPD) [3] programs and (ii) progressively assume responsibility for numerical model development and resource assessment.

  1. Inception Phase (months 1 to 3 inclusive)


The main purpose and outputs of the Inception Phase will be participatory: (i) elaboration and refinement of the proposed approach and method, (ii) selection of the preferred 3D groundwater flow model and (iii) arrangements for its development during the second phase of the assignment.


2.1          Approach and Method


The GMRA Specialist will facilitate collegiate elaboration and refinement of an evolutionary approach and method including:  


  1. Clarify and refine the purpose and scope of the assignment and its outputs. In particular, clarify which other Project Output 1 (groundwater resource assessment) sub-outputs [4] need to be delivered by this assignment as well as sub-output 1.1 (groundwater flow modelling)?    
  2. Review and synthesize groundwater resource assessment and flow modelling methods, such as the International Groundwater Resource Assessment Centre (IGRAC) [5] and WRDMAP; [6]
  3. Review and assess groundwater resources accounting methods, eg World Bank GW-MATE, [7] and consider adapting them to the KSA hydrogeological setting and NWS 2030 objectives;   
  4. Review and assess conceptual groundwater models of the KSA, such as UNDP 3 and Kalbus et al, [8] and elaborate and refine them to include water accounting, 10 especially of recharge from appreciable irrigated agriculture drainage return flows;
  5. Assess the quantity and quality of the available data including, but not limited to, geology, hydrogeology, hydrology, soils, land use, irrigated agriculture, water use and distribution. 10
  6. Review and synthesize the above information into a preliminary indicative groundwater resources assessment, for example, using methods 2 or 3 in WRDMAP 2010. 10
  7. Ideally, determine whether the extensive shallow unconfined aquifer, recharged by irrigated agriculture drainage return flows, also recharges the main underlying semi-confined aquifers?
    1. 3D Model Selection


Depending on different regional characteristics, the GMRA Specialist will adapt and apply groundwater models and modelling methods, used in similar arid hydro-geological settings including the Great Artesian Basin in Australia, [9] to reach an up to date and well-tailored groundwater resource assessment method for the KSA. On this basis, the GMRA Specialist will propose an appropriate  model and specify the reason for its selection, relative to the agreed purpose, and how it will be calibrated and validated.  


  1. Implementation Arrangements


The GMRA Specialist will:


  1. Prepare a Draft Inception Report (DIR), presenting all the above and following outputs;
  2. Contribute to refining the TOR for the Database, Hydrochemistry and other Specialists;
  3. Prepare a detailed approach, method and work plan, with SMART indicators, for:
    1. Interim work, between the first and second phases, and:
    2. The second phase;
  4. Present the DIR to a stakeholder consensus workshop and
  5. Deliver a Final Inception Report addressing stakeholder feedback received at the workshop. This will include the agreed scenario(s) for development of the agreed 3D model.   


  1. 3D Model Development (six months input)


The GMRA Specialist will lead collegiate:


  1. Development, calibration and validation of the agreed 3D groundwater flow model(s) and:
  2. For the third phase, agree, with MEWA, Water Directors:
    1. The scenarios to be used for subsequent 3D model application and resource assessment:
    2. Implementation arrangements similar to those described in Section 2.3 above.      


  1. Groundwater Resource Assessment (three months input)

The GMRA Specialist will lead collegiate:


  1. Application of the 3D model for groundwater resource assessment under agreed scenarios;
  2. If needed to continue evolutionary development, agree with MEWA, Water Directors, ongoing implementation arrangements similar to those described in Section 2.3 above.


  1. Expected Outputs and Deliverables



Latest Delivery


Final Inception Report

3 months

End month 03

Director, CWMC

Model calibrated and validated

6 months

End month 15

Director, CWMC

Final Assessment Report

3 months

End month 21

Director, CWMC



[1] UNDP. 2015. Capacity Development: A UNDP Primer,   

[2] RWSN. 2020. Guidance Document for the RWSN Mentoring Programme

[3] and

[4] Other Project Output 1 sub-outputs are for 3D model visualization, remote sensing of agricultural production

  (water consumption), hydrochemistry, seawater intrusion, secondary aquifers, managed aquifer recharge (MAR),

  reservoir management and demarcation of groundwater management zones (GMZ).  


[6] WRDMAP. 2010. Groundwater Resource Quantity Assessment and Groundwater Flow Modelling,

[7] World Bank. 2009. Groundwater Resource Accounting: Critical for Management in a Changing World,

[8] Kalbus et al. 2011. Large-scale Modeling of the Groundwater Resources on the Arabian Platform,

[9] CSIRO. 2011. Review of Groundwater Models and Modelling Methodologies for the Great Artesian Basin,



III. Competencies:

i.Knowledge and practical experience of groundwater flow modelling including:

a.Mathematical finite difference, finite element, and finite volume groundwater models and codes and their relevance and application in modeling different scenarios;

b.Scenarios where density dependent flow becomes significant and the means to upscale hydraulic properties;

c.Sources of errors in aquifer parameter evaluation and their presentation as the reflect at the end of a modeling process based on such errors. Can identify the level of accuracy and precision and possible error propagation in modeling scenarios due to both testing and evaluation inaccuracies and possible numerical errors;

ii.In-depth, comprehensive and practical groundwater resources assessment for IWRM using other advanced analysis tools, including GIS, as well as groundwater flow modelling;     

iii.Excellent oral communication and written reporting skills in English.

Demonstrated ability to mentor national counterparts and develop their technical capacities. 


I. Academic Qualifications: PhD (preferable) or MSc in groundwater modelling for practical groundwater resource assessment including recharge from rainfall and surface water.

II. Years of experience: At least 15 years practical experience, in model development and application, regional hydrogeology and stratigraphy etc, in arid areas with both aerially extensive flow systems in multilayered sedimentary platforms as well as alluvial, basaltic, and fractured flow systems.