Coastal Aquifer Response to Environmental Change - Implications for Future Projections
Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 1:55 PM
Coastal aquifers are important resources for water supply, and are increasingly stressed by population increase and the growing water demand for irrigation and other uses. Concern exists that these current pressures will be compunded by the adverse impacts of future environmental change, in particular sea-level rise. Numerous studies have investigated the effect of the expected sea-level rise durring the 21st century on the salintiy distribution in coastal groundwater systems. In many of these studies, the predicted changes due to an increase in sea level are typically seen as a departure from a steady-state situation. But many other studies have provided abundant evidence that groundwater systems in coastal areas are not in equilibrium with the present-day boundary conditions, i.e., coastline configuration and climate. This is borne out by, for example, the salinity distribution of groundwater, which does not obey the classical configuration of an intruded wedge of seawater extending inland from the coastline. This paper will argue that coastal aquifers systems are in a continuous state of transition. The relevance of future environmental change within the context of long-term trends will be discussed and exemplified by case studies of coastal aquifers in different parts of the world. It will be argued that the conceptualization of coastal groundwater systems, and in particular the connection between their onshore and offshore parts, is a major source of uncertainty in studies that aim to quantify the impact of sea-level rise on coastal groundwater resources.