Iraq, a country in the Middle East, has suffered severe drought events in the past two decades due to a significant decrease in annual precipitation. Water storage by building dams can mitigate drought impacts and assure water supply. This study was designed to identify suitable sites to build new dams within the Al-Khabur River Basin (KhRB). Both the fuzzy analytic hierarchy process (AHP) and the weighted sum method (WSM) were used and compared to select suitable dam sites. A total of 14 layers were used as input dataset (i.e., lithology, tectonic zones, distance to active faults, distance to lineaments, soil type, land cover, hypsometry, slope gradient, average precipitation, stream width, Curve Number Grid, distance to major roads, distance to towns and cities, and distance to villages). Landsat-8/Operational Land Imager (OLI) and QuickBird optical images were used in the study. Three types of accuracies were tested: overall, suitable pixels by number, and suitable pixels by weight. Based on these criteria, we determined that 11 sites are suitable for locating dams for runoff harvesting. Results were compared to the location of 21 preselected dams proposed by the Ministry of Agricultural and Water Resources (MAWR). Three of these dam sites coincide with those proposed by the MAWR. The overall accuracies of the 11 dams ranged between 76.2% and 91.8%. The two most suitable dam sites are located in the center of the study area, with favorable geology, adequate storage capacity, and in close proximity to the population centers. Of the two selection methods, the AHP method performed better as its overall accuracy is greater than that of the WSM. We argue that when stream discharge data are not available, use of high spatial resolution QuickBird imageries to determine stream width for discharge estimation is acceptable and can be used for preliminary dam site selection. The study offers a valuable and relatively inexpensive tool to decision-makers for eliminating sites having severe limitations (less suitable sites) and focusing on those with the least restriction (more suitable sites) for dam construction.
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