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Saltwater intrusion in the unconfined coastal aquifer of Cervia (Italy)

By Ulazzi E., Antonellini M. and Gabbianelli G


The coastal freatic aquifer of the Cervia city is polluted by salt water. Protection of fresh groundwater resources in this area is complicated by the presence of multiple stakeholders and by the fragmentation of the authorities responsible for land planning. This study is aimed to understand the causes of the problem and to propose ideas for an integrated and sustainable water resourse management in the city area. The data collected were organized in a Geographic Information System and included water table depth, temperature and electric conductivity. The monitoring network is composed of “large” diameter private wells, wells located in the bathing establishments, piezometers and measurement points in the drainage canals, in the salt work inflow canal (Canale del Pino) and in the Cervia harbour canal. A field monitoring campaign over a period of 1 year allowed the construction of water table maps as well as 3D temperature and salinity distribution representations. A new topographic survey in the urban area has been necessary to acquire accurate elevation data. Many of the new elevation data resulted below sea level or in its close proximity. Consequently, most of the aquifer does not have a hydraulic head able to contrast the intrusion of the salt wedge at its base (Ghyben-Herzberg principle). Water table maps correlate very well to the salinity data distribution that show an aquifer almost completely invaded by salt water with bubbles of surface fresh water almost completely confined to elevated areas located near the coast. The causes of slat water intrusion in the aquifer, identified in our study, are the following ordered from most important to less important: direct contamination from water bodies open to sea (canals), subsidence, drainage of farmland, groundwater winning from wells along the shoreline (bathing establishments) and, last, groundwater winning from private wells inland. On the basis of these results we propose a mitigation plan that includes the lining of the Canale del Pino and of the Cervia harbour, and a different management plan for the floodgates on the canals. We also propose to provide shoreline establishments with freshwater from the municipality aqueduct or from the Emilia-Romagna irrigation canal in a way to stop direct tapping from the aquifer

Publisher: MedCoast
Year: 2005
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