Characteristics of active seawater intrusion

Sugiarto Badaruddin, Adrian Werner, Leanne Morgan

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40 Citations (Scopus)
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The inland migration of seawater in coastal aquifers, known as seawater intrusion (SWI), can be categorised as passive or active, depending on whether the hydraulic gradient slopes downwards towards the sea or the land, respectively. Despite active SWI occurring in many locations, it has received considerably less attention than passive SWI. In this study, active SWI caused by an inland freshwater head decline (FHD) is characterised using numerical modelling of various idealised unconfined coastal aquifer settings. Relationships between key features of active SWI (e.g., interface characteristics and SWI response time-scales) and the parameters of the problem (e.g., inland FHD, freshwater-seawater density contrast, dispersivity, hydraulic conductivity, porosity and aquifer thickness) are explored for the first time. Sensitivity analyses show that the SWI response time-scales under active SWI situations are influenced by both the initial and final boundary head differences. The interface is found to be steeper under stronger advection (i.e., caused by the inland FHD), higher dispersivity and hydraulic conductivity, and lower aquifer thickness, seawater density and porosity. The interface movement is faster and the mixing zone is wider with larger hydraulic conductivity, seawater-freshwater density difference, and aquifer thickness, and with lower porosity. Dimensionless parameters (Peclet number and mixed convection ratio) from previous steady-state analyses offer only limited application to the controlling factors of passive SWI, and are not applicable to active SWI. The current study of active SWI highlights important functional relationships that improve the general understanding of SWI, which has otherwise been founded primarily on steady-state and passive SWI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)632-647
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


  • Buoyancy
  • Coastal aquifer
  • Density-dependent flow
  • Seawater intrusion
  • Solute transport


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