Groundwater Vulnerability Modeling to Assess Seawater Intrusion: a Methodological Comparison with Geospatial Interpolation


Seawater intrusion has become a growing threat in coastal urban cities due to overexploitation of groundwater. This study examines the accuracy of the commonly used geospatial quality assessment models (GQA) and groundwater vulnerability assessment models (GVA) in determining the extent of seawater intrusion in urban coastal aquifers. For that purpose, interpolation methods (kriging, IDW and co-kriging) and vulnerability assessment models (DRASTIC, EPIK) were compared using groundwater salinity criteria (TDS, Cl) collected at three pilot areas along the eastern Mediterranean (Beirut, Tripoli, Jal el Dib). The results showed that while the GIS-based interpolation methods and the vulnerability assessment models captured elements of the groundwater quality deterioration, both had a limited ability to accurately delineate saltwater intrusion. This emphasizes that while interpolation methods and conventional vulnerability models may give general information about groundwater quality, they fail to capture the status of the aquifer at a finer spatial resolution.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6


  1. Abdul Basit S (1971) Ground water quality in Beirut and suburbs. ME thesis, Department of Geology. American University of Beirut, Lebanon

  2. Aller L, Lehr JH, Petty R (1987) DRASTIC: a standardized system to evaluate ground water pollution potential using Hydrogeologic settings. National Water Well Association, Worthington

  3. APHA/AWWA/WEF (2012) Standard Methods of Water and Wastewater. 22nd edition. American Public Health Association

  4. Arslan H (2012) Spatial and temporal mapping of groundwater salinity using ordinary kriging and indicator kriging: the case of Bafra plain, Turkey. Agric Water Manag 113:57–63

  5. Awad MM, Darwich T (2009) Evaluating sea water quality in the coastal zone of North Lebanon using Telemac-2D. Lebanese Sci J 10(1):35–43

  6. Babiker IS, Mohamed MAA, Hiyama T (2006). Assessing groundwater quality using GIS. Water Resour Manag 21(4):699–715

  7. Brian O (2012) Water Quality-your private well: what do the results mean. Wilkes University

  8. Central Administration of Statistics (2009) Population characteristics in 2009 – Final Report. UNICEF

  9. Charizopoulos N, Zagana E, Psilovikos A (2018) Assessment of natural and anthropogenic impacts in groundwater, utilizing multivariate statistical analysis and inverse distance weighted interpolation modeling: the case of a Scopia basin (Central Greece). Environ Earth Sci 77(10):380

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Costello M (2008) Salt Water Definition Review (Draft RWF Task Group). National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) Standards, Water Quality Assosiation

  11. Delbari M, Motlagh MB, Kiani M, Amiri M (2013) Investigating spatio-temporal variability of groundwater quality parameters using geostatistics and GIS. Int Res J Appl Basic Sci 4(10):3623–3632

    Google Scholar 

  12. Edgell HS (1997) Karst and hydrogeology of Lebanon. Carbonates Evaporites 12(2):220

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. El-Fadel M, Tomaszkiewicz M, Adra Y, Sadek S, Abou Najm M (2014) GIS-based assessment for the development of a groundwater quality index towards sustainable aquifer management. Water Resour Manag 28(11):3471–3487

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Elumalai V, Brindha K, Sithole B, Lakshmanan E (2017) Spatial interpolation methods and geostatistics for mapping groundwater contamination in a coastal area. Environ Sci Pollut Res 24(12):11601–11617

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Fijani E, Nadiri AA, Asghari Moghaddam A, Tsai FTC, Dixon B (2013) Optimization of DRASTIC method by supervised committee machine artificial intelligence to assess groundwater vulnerability for Maragheh–Bonab plain aquifer, Iran. J Hydrol 503:89–100

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Hamdan I, Margane A, Ptak T, Wiegand B, Sauter M (2016) Groundwater vulnerability assessment for the karst aquifer of Tanour and Rasoun springs catchment area (NW-Jordan) using COP and EPIK intrinsic methods. Environ Earth Sci 75(23):1474

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Karami S, Madani H, Katibeh H, Marj AF (2018) Assessment and modeling of the groundwater hydrogeochemical quality parameters via geostatistical approaches. Appl Water Sci 8(1):23

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Kouhanestani ZK, Dehdari S, Taatpour F (2017) Evaluation of spatial interpolation methods for some groundwater qualitative parameters of Najafabad plain, Isfahan. Model Earth Syst Environ 3(4):1441–1448

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Kumar P, Bansod BKS, Debnath SK, Thakur PK, Ghanshyam C (2015) Index-based groundwater vulnerability mapping models using hydrogeological settings: a critical evaluation. Environ Impact Assess Rev 51:38–49

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. McLeod L, Bharadwaj L, Epp T, Waldner CL (2017) Use of principal components analysis and kriging to predict groundwater-sourced rural drinking water quality in Saskatchewan. Int J Environ Res Public Health 14(9):1065

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Meteorological Center (1977). Atlas Climatique Du Liban (V 1A). Beirut, Directorate general of the civil aviation

  22. Metni M, El-Fadel M, Sadek S, Kayal R, El-Khoury DL (2004) Groundwater resources in Lebanon: a vulnerability assessment. Water Resour Manag 20(4):475–491

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Michalopoulos D, Dimitriou E (2018) Assessment of pollution risk mapping methods in an eastern Mediterranean catchment. J Ecol Eng 19(1)

  24. Momejian N (2014) Methodologies of Groundwater Vulnerability Assessment and Spatial Analysis of Groundwater Quality: Comparison of Methods under Urbanization Stress. MS Thesis. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, American University of Beirut, Lebanon

  25. Moujabber ME, Samra BB, Darwish T, Atallah T (2006) Comparison of different indicators for groundwater contamination by seawater intrusion on the Lebanese coast. Water Resour Manag 20(2):161–180

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Nas B, Berktay A (2010) Groundwater quality mapping in urban groundwater using GIS. [research support, non-U.S. Gov't]. Environ Monit Assess 160(1-4):215–227

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Pande CB, Moharir K (2018) Spatial analysis of groundwater quality mapping in hard rock area in the Akola and Buldhana districts of Maharashtra, India. Appl Water Sci 8(4):106

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. SAEFL (Swiss Agency for Environment, Forests and Landscape) (1998) Practical Guide: Groundwater Vulnerability Mapping in Karstic Regions (EPIK). Application to Groundwater Protection Zones

  29. Sajil Kumar PJ, Jeghathambal P, James EJ (2011) Multivariate and geostatistical analysis of groundwater quality in Palar River basin. Int J Geol 5(4):108–119

    Google Scholar 

  30. Selmi A (2013) Water management and modeling of a coastal aquifer case study (Gaza strip). PhD dissertation., Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Natural Sciences, Italy

  31. Selvam S, Venkatramanan S, Sivasubramanian P, Chung SY, Singaraja C (2017) Geochemical characteristics and evaluation of minor and trace elements pollution in groundwater of Tuticorin city, Tamil Nadu, India using geospatial techniques. J Geol Soc India 90(1):62–68

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Sheikhy Narany T, Ramli MF, Aris AZ, Sulaiman WN, Juahir H, Fakharian K (2014) Identification of the hydrogeochemical processes in groundwater using classic integrated geochemical methods and geostatistical techniques, in Amol-Babol plain, Iran. Sci World J:419058.

  33. Tomaszkiewicz M, Abou Najm M, El-Fadel M (2014) Development of a groundwater quality index for seawater intrusion in coastal aquifers. Environ Model Softw 57:13–26

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. USGS (2000) Is Seawater Intrusion Affecting Ground Water on Lopez Island, Washington? USGS Fact Sheet. 057-00, Department of the Interior; U.S. Geological Survey. Tacoma, Washington

  35. Voudouris K, Mandilaras D, Antonakos A (2004) Methods to define the areal distribution of the salt intrusion: examples from South Greece. In: Paper presented at the 18th SWIM. Cartagena, Spain

    Google Scholar 

  36. Walley C (1997) The Lithostratigraphy of Lebanon. Lebanese Sci Bull 10(1)

  37. Werner AD, Ward JD, Morgan LK, Simmons CT, Robinson NI, Teubner MD (2012) Vulnerability indicators of sea water intrusion. Ground Water 50(1):48–58

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. WHO (2003) Chloride in drinking-water. Background document for development of WHO guidelines for drinking-water quality. Guidelines for drinking-water quality. World Heatlh Organization, Geneva

    Google Scholar 

Download references


This study is part of a program on climate change and seawater intrusion along the Eastern Mediterranean funded by the International Development Research Center (IDRC) of Canada at the American University of Beirut Grant No. 106706-001. Special thanks are extended to Dr. Charlotte Macalister at IDRC for her support and feedback in implementing this program.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to M. El-Fadel.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Electronic Supplementary Material


(DOCX 102 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Momejian, N., Abou Najm, M., Alameddine, I. et al. Groundwater Vulnerability Modeling to Assess Seawater Intrusion: a Methodological Comparison with Geospatial Interpolation. Water Resour Manage 33, 1039–1052 (2019).

Download citation


  • Groundwater vulnerability
  • Seawater intrusion
  • EPIK
  • Kriging
  • Co-kriging
  • IDW
  • Geospatial interpolation