Articles | Volume 18, issue 5
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 1663–1677, 2014
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 1663–1677, 2014

Research article 08 May 2014

Research article | 08 May 2014

Intensively exploited Mediterranean aquifers: resilience to seawater intrusion and proximity to critical thresholds

K. Mazi1,2,3, A. D. Koussis2,3, and G. Destouni1,3 K. Mazi et al.
  • 1Department of Physical Geography & Quaternary Geology, Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden
  • 2Institute for Environmental Research and Sustainable Development, National Observatory of Athens, I. Metaxa & Vas. Pavlou Str., 15236 Palea Penteli, Athens, Greece
  • 3Navarino Environmental Observatory (NEO), 24001 Messinia, Greece

Abstract. We investigate seawater intrusion in three prominent Mediterranean aquifers that are subject to intensive exploitation and modified hydrologic regimes by human activities: the Nile Delta, Israel Coastal and Cyprus Akrotiri aquifers. Using a generalized analytical sharp interface model, we review the salinization history and current status of these aquifers, and quantify their resilience/vulnerability to current and future seawater intrusion forcings. We identify two different critical limits of seawater intrusion under groundwater exploitation and/or climatic stress: a limit of well intrusion, at which intruded seawater reaches key locations of groundwater pumping, and a tipping point of complete seawater intrusion up to the prevailing groundwater divide of a coastal aquifer. Either limit can be reached, and ultimately crossed, under intensive aquifer exploitation and/or climate-driven change. We show that seawater intrusion vulnerability for different aquifer cases can be directly compared in terms of normalized intrusion performance curves. The site-specific assessments show that (a) the intruding seawater currently seriously threatens the Nile Delta aquifer, (b) in the Israel Coastal aquifer the sharp interface toe approaches the well location and (c) the Cyprus Akrotiri aquifer is currently somewhat less threatened by increased seawater intrusion.