Water Resources and the Regime of Water Bodies

Water Resources

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 367-385

First online:

Hypersalinization of river estuaries in West Africa

  • V. N. MikhailovAffiliated withMoscow State University
  • , M. V. IsupovaAffiliated withWater Problems Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences

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Regularities in processes of seawater intrusion into the rivers of Senegal, Saloum, Gambia, and Casamance in West Africa are analyzed. The seawater intrusion during the low-flow period, which is a common phenomenon for the lower reaches of these rivers, has taken on extreme features in the course of the severe drought that occurred in West Africa in the 1970s–1980s. The processes of progressing water salinization in estuaries under the impact of drastic reduction of atmospheric precipitation and river runoff, considerable evaporation water losses, and tides are described. Due consideration is given to the unique hydrological phenomenon, i.e., the so-called reverse estuary. The Senegal River mouth is taken as a case study of cyclic variations in runoff, water salinity, and distance of saltwater penetration into the river. Certain environmental consequences of water salinization are discussed using the Casamance River estuary as an example. Methods used in Africa to prevent seawater intrusion and salinization of estuaries harmful for the environment and economy are described in this article.