Saltwater intrusion into coastal aquifers in the contiguous United States — A systematic review of investigation approaches and monitoring networks

Document Type


Date of Original Version



Saltwater intrusion (SWI) into coastal aquifers is a growing problem for the drinking water supply of coastal communities worldwide, including for the sustainability of coastal ecosystems depending on freshwater inflow. The interface between freshwater and seawater in coastal aquifers is highly dynamic and is sensitive to changes in the hydraulic gradient between the sea- and groundwater levels. Sea level rise, storm surges, and drought are natural drivers changing the hydrostatic equilibrium between fresh- and saltwater. Coastal aquifers are further stressed by groundwater over-pumping because of the increasing needs of coastal populations. A systematic literature review and analysis of the current state of understanding the SWI drivers is presented, focusing on recent (1980 to 2020) investigations in the contiguous United States (CONUS). Results confirm that SWI is an active research area in CONUS. The drivers of SWI are increasingly better understood and quantified; however, the need for increased monitoring is also recognized. Our study shows that the number of monitoring sites have not increased significantly over the review period. Additionally, geophysical, and geochemical investigation techniques and numerical modeling tools are not utilized to their full potential, and data on SWI is not readily available from some sources. We conclude that there is a need for more SWI monitoring networks and closer multi-disciplinary collaboration, particularly between practitioners in the field and emerging modeling technique experts. Though we focus primarily on CONUS, our insights may be of value to the broader SWI research community and coastal water quality managers around the globe.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Science of the Total Environment