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Intensified salinity intrusion in coastal aquifers due to groundwater overextraction: a case study in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Abstract

Groundwater salinization is one of the most severe environmental problems in coastal aquifers worldwide, causing exceeding salinity in groundwater supply systems for many purposes. High salinity concentration in groundwater can be detected several kilometers inland and may result in an increased risk for coastal water supply systems and human health problems. This study investigates the impacts of groundwater pumping practices and regional groundwater flow dynamics on groundwater flow and salinity intrusion in the coastal aquifers of the Vietnamese Mekong Delta using the SEAWAT model—a variable-density groundwater flow and solute transport model. The model was constructed in three dimensions (3D) and accounted for multi-aquifers, variation of groundwater levels in neighboring areas, pumping, and paleo-salinity. Model calibration was carried for 13 years (2000 to 2012), and validation was conducted for 4 years (2013 to 2016). The best-calibrated model was used to develop prediction models for the next 14 years (2017 to 2030). Six future scenarios were introduced based on pumping rates and regional groundwater levels. Modeling results revealed that groundwater pumping activities and variation of regional groundwater flow systems strongly influence groundwater level depletion and saline movement from upper layers to lower layers. High salinity (>2.0 g/L) was expected to expand downward up to 150 m in depth and 2000 m toward surrounding areas in the next 14 years under increasing groundwater pumping capacity. A slight recovery in water level was also observed with decreasing groundwater exploitation. The reduction in the pumping rate from both local and regional scales will be necessary to recover groundwater levels and protect fresh aquifers from expanding paleo-saline in groundwater.

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Dang An Tran: Data curation, investigation, methodology, modeling, calibration and validation, writing—original draft. Maki Tsujimura: Supervision, methodology, writing—review and editing. Hai V. Pham: Methodology, writing—review and editing. Tam V. Nguyen: Data curation, investigation, methodology, writing—original draft. Ho Huu Loc: Methodology, writing—original draft. Phu Vo Le: Modeling, validation, writing—review and editing. Ha Quang Khai: Modeling, validation, writing—original draft. Thanh Duc Dang: Methodology, writing—original draft, writing—review and editing. Doan Van Binh: Data curation, investigation. Quang-Van Doan: Modeling, validation, writing—review and editing.

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Tran, D.A., Tsujimura, M., Pham, H.V. et al. Intensified salinity intrusion in coastal aquifers due to groundwater overextraction: a case study in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam. Environ Sci Pollut Res 29, 8996–9010 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-021-16282-3

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Keywords

  • Groundwater modeling
  • Seawater intrusion
  • Pumping activities
  • Multi-aquifers
  • Mekong Delta