Faculté des sciences

Process-based groundwater salinisation risk assessment methodology: Application to the Akrotiri aquifer (Southern Cyprus)

Milnes, Ellen

In: Journal of Hydrology, 2011, vol. 399, no. 1-2, p. 29-47

Groundwater salinisation is a major groundwater contamination issue world-wide and can be caused by different processes, such as seawater intrusion, agrochemical pollution, geogenic contamination and irrigation-induced salinisation. In many areas, several salinisation processes are superimposed. Since remedial measures vary for different salinisation processes, correct identification is... Plus

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    Summary

    Groundwater salinisation is a major groundwater contamination issue world-wide and can be caused by different processes, such as seawater intrusion, agrochemical pollution, geogenic contamination and irrigation-induced salinisation. In many areas, several salinisation processes are superimposed. Since remedial measures vary for different salinisation processes, correct identification is fundamental for adequate design of management strategies: different strategies may be required in one and the same aquifer, depending on which salinisation process is active where in the domain.

    A simulation-based salinisation risk assessment methodology is proposed, based on the principle of linear superposition of total dissolved solutes in groundwater. In a first step, the measured bulk salinity distribution is used to calibrate a numerical groundwater flow and transport model, accounting for all identified salinisation processes. Then, the bulk salinity distribution is decomposed into different salinity components by adapting the boundary conditions, running a simulation for each salinisation process separately. These simulation results yield the necessary components to calculate the risk index distributions, which are a measure of the respective future potential salinity increase. Overlaying the risk index distributions with a defined threshold concentration reveals risk areas requiring remediation or conservation measures with respect to each process. The risk area maps resulting from this methodology are a promising tool for the design of groundwater management schemes. They condense relevant information from complex dynamic processes obtained from numerical simulations and visualise the results in simple and static maps, accessible to decision makers who are not familiar with groundwater dynamics.

    The different steps of the salinisation risk assessment procedure are first described and illustrated on a synthetic example and then applied to a real aquifer system in Southern Cyprus (Akrotiri), where three major salinisation processes are superimposed.