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Seawater intrusion is the first cause of contamination of coastal aquifers

This release is available in Spanish.

Seawater intrusion is often the consequence of freshwater aquifers overexploitation. This is a very common and serious phenomenon all over the Mediterranean basin, as well as in other areas with similar weather conditions and population.

In Spain, the most severely affected areas by seawater intrusion are the Mediterranean and South-Atlantic coastlines. Given that Spain is located on a peninsula, seawater intrusion is currently one of the main causes of groundwater pollution. In fact, about 60% of Spanish coastal aquifers are contaminated by seawater intrusion, a generalised phenomenon in 20% of cases, points out Prof. Jos Benavente Herrera, a researcher from the Water Institute of the University of Granada (Universidad de Granada), Spain, and senior lecturer at the department of Geodynamics.

According to Prof. Benavente, freshwater contaminated by a 5% of seawater can no longer be used for common purposes, such as human use, agriculture or farming. That is the reason why salinisation of coastal aquifers mainly a consequence of an uncontrolled or deficient management is such a serious phenomenon. In Southern Spain, seawater intrusion is contaminating some of the most important aquifer systems in economic terms, both on the Mediterranean and the Atlantic coastlines. In the world, the most affected areas include Mexico, the North of the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, Chile, Peru and Australia.

Solutions: prevention and control

A good knowledge of aquifers (subsoil) enables scientists to determine the critical discharge, i.e. the extent to what aquifers can support water catchments without seawater intrusion taking place. Experts in hydrogeology acknowledge that such is a complex question, but they can currently give advice on
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Contact: Professor Jose Benavente Herrera
jbenaven@ugr.es
34-609-170-524
Universidad de Granada
27-Jul-2007


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