Knowledge of the groundwater potential, especially in an arid region, can play a major role in planning the sustainable management of groundwater resources. In this study, nine machine learning (ML) algorithms—namely, Artificial Neural Network (ANN), Decision Jungle (DJ), Averaged Perceptron (AP), Bayes Point Machine (BPM), Decision Forest (DF), Locally-Deep Support Vector Machine (LD-SVM), Boosted Decision Tree (BDT), Logistic Regression (LG), and Support Vector Machine (SVM)—were run on the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform to model the groundwater potential. We investigated the relationship between 512 operating boreholes with a specified specific capacity and 14 groundwater-influencing occurrence factors. The unconfined aquifer in the Nineveh plain, Mosul Governorate, northern Iraq, was used as a case study. The groundwater-influencing factors used included elevation, slope, curvature, topographic wetness index, stream power index, soil, land use/land cover (LULC), geology, drainage density, aquifer saturated thickness, aquifer hydraulic conductivity, aquifer specific yield, depth to groundwater, distance to faults, and fault density. Analysis of the contribution of these factors in groundwater potential using information gain ratio indicated that aquifer saturated thickness, rainfall, hydraulic conductivity, depth to groundwater, specific yield, and elevation were the most important factors (average merit > 0.1), followed by geology, fault density, drainage density, soil, LULC, and distance to faults (average merit < 0.1). The average merits for the remaining factors were zero, and thus, these factors were removed from the analysis. When the selected ML classifiers were used to estimate groundwater potential in the Azure cloud computing environment, the DJ and BDT models performed the best in terms of all statistical error measures used (accuracy, precision, recall, F-score, and area under the receiver operating characteristics curve), followed by DF and LD-SVM. The probability of groundwater potential from these algorithms was mapped and visualized into five groundwater potential zones: very low, low, moderate, high, and very high, which correspond to the northern (very low to low), southern (moderate), and middle (high to very high) portions of the study area. Using a cloud computing service provides an improved platform for quickly and cheaply running and testing different algorithms for predicting groundwater potential.

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Published in Water, v. 13, issue 23, 3330.

© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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The study was supported by the Centre for Advanced Modelling and Geospatial Information Systems (CAMGIS), University of Technology Sydney. This research was also supported by Researchers Supporting Project number RSP-2021/14, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Additionally, support was provided by UKM—Industry Grant: ZF-2021-003.

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The publicly archived datasets used for the analysis are cited in the manuscript. The analysis was carried out at University of Basrah, Basrah, Iraq, and the derived data can be provided upon request to the corresponding author.