Regional-Scale Analysis of the Effect of Managed Aquifer Recharge on Saltwater Intrusion in Irrigated Coastal Aquifers: Long-Term Groundwater Observations and Model Simulations in NE Tunisia

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Abstract

In overexploited coastal aquifers threatened or affected by saline intrusion, managed aquifer recharge (MAR) is increasingly applied in the aim of maintaining or recovering freshwater quantity and quality. The long-term regionalscale effectiveness of MAR, however, lacks field examples. The Korba coastal aquifer (Tunisia) has been increasingly overexploited since the 1960s and intensively studied over the last few decades. Groundwater abstraction has resulted in a decline of groundwater levels and a dramatic increase in salinity through both lateral seawater intrusion and shallow salinization from irrigation. MAR strategies, including freshwater injection wells and sewage-water infiltration basins, have been progressively implemented since 1990. Using 50 years of groundwater head and salinity records, a regional three-dimensional numerical groundwater model is calibrated to study the spatiotemporal dynamics of groundwater salinization including the past and future impact of the MAR operations. Results suggest that lateral seawater intrusion from the coast and shallow infiltration of evapoconcentrated saline irrigation water are the two interlinked dominant regional processes of groundwater salinization, equivalent in magnitude. In accordance with the groundwater observations, simulated historical MAR operations are shown to have contributed to slowdown and stabilized the regional salinization, which contrasts with the steady rise that is obtained in the hypothetical absence of MAR. The future MAR simulation scenarios suggest that spatial management of irrigation supplies and injection points from dam freshwater has a potential for further reducing the salinization of shallow groundwater and potentially reversing the inland progression of the seawater front. Further works should look at reconciling modelling recommendations with management practice options.

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Bachtouli, S., & Comte, J. C. (2019). Regional-Scale Analysis of the Effect of Managed Aquifer Recharge on Saltwater Intrusion in Irrigated Coastal Aquifers: Long-Term Groundwater Observations and Model Simulations in NE Tunisia. Journal of Coastal Research, 35(1), 91–109. https://doi.org/10.2112/JCOASTRES-D-17-00174.1

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