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Volume 22, issue 5 | Copyright
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 2971-2985, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 18 May 2018

Research article | 18 May 2018

Groundwater withdrawal in randomly heterogeneous coastal aquifers

Martina Siena and Monica Riva Martina Siena and Monica Riva
  • Dipartimento di Ingegneria Civile e Ambientale, Politecnico di Milano, Piazza L. Da Vinci 32, 20133 Milan, Italy

Abstract. We analyze the combined effects of aquifer heterogeneity and pumping operations on seawater intrusion (SWI), a phenomenon which is threatening coastal aquifers worldwide. Our investigation is set within a probabilistic framework and relies on a numerical Monte Carlo approach targeting transient variable-density flow and solute transport in a three-dimensional randomly heterogeneous porous domain. The geological setting is patterned after the Argentona river basin, in the Maresme region of Catalonia (Spain). Our numerical study is concerned with exploring the effects of (a) random heterogeneity of the domain on SWI in combination with (b) a variety of groundwater withdrawal schemes. The latter have been designed by varying the screen location along the vertical direction and the distance of the wellbore from the coastline and from the location of the freshwater–saltwater mixing zone which is in place prior to pumping. For each random realization of the aquifer permeability field and for each pumping scheme, a quantitative depiction of SWI phenomena is inferred from an original set of metrics characterizing (a) the inland penetration of the saltwater wedge and (b) the width of the mixing zone across the whole three-dimensional system. Our results indicate that the stochastic nature of the system heterogeneity significantly affects the statistical description of the main features of the seawater wedge either in the presence or in the absence of pumping, yielding a general reduction of toe penetration and an increase of the width of the mixing zone. Simultaneous extraction of fresh and saltwater from two screens along the same wellbore located, prior to pumping, within the freshwater–saltwater mixing zone is effective in limiting SWI in the context of groundwater resources exploitation.

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Short summary
The development of sustainable strategies for groundwater resources exploitation in coastal regions is subordinated to the characterization of seawater intrusion (SWI) phenomena. We develop a numerical model tailored to a real coastal aquifer to investigate quantitatively the joint effects of hydraulic properties heterogeneity and pumping configuration on saltwater inland penetration and saltwater–freshwater mixing. Our results allowed identifying efficient scenarios for the reduction of SWI.
The development of sustainable strategies for groundwater resources exploitation in coastal...