Tidal effects on sea water intrusion in unconfined aquifers

B. Ataie-Ashtiani, R. E. Volker, D. A. Lockington

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A variable-density groundwater model is used tO analyse the effects of tidal fluctuations on sea-water intrusion in an unconfined aquifer. It is shown that the tidal activity forces the sea-water to intrude further inland and it also creates a thicker interface than would occur without tidal effects. Moreover, the configuration of the interface is radically changed when the tidal fluctuations are included. This is because of the dramatic changes in the flow pattern and velocity of the groundwater near the shoreline. For aquifer depths much larger than tidal amplitudes, the tidal fluctuation does not have much effect on how far the sea-water intrudes into the aquifer; nevertheless, a significant change in the configuration of concentration contours because of the effect of tidal fluctuations is observed. This change is more noticeable at the top of the aquifer, near the water table, than at the bottom of the aquifer, and is caused by the infiltration of salt water into the top of the aquifer at higher tidal levels. A flatter beach slope, therefore, intensifies this phenomenon the interface configurations do not change noticeably over the course of a tidal cycle. Neglecting tidal fluctuation effects results in an inaccurate evaluation of the water table elevation at the land end of the aquifer, although no distinguishable difference is seen between the water tables near the shoreline. Where the landward boundary condition is a constant head, the effects of tidal fluctuations on sea-water intrusion are more pronounced than for cases where the landward boundary condition is a specified flux. Also it is shown that the effects of tidal fluctuations are more significant for a sloping beach than for a vertical shoreline and the salt water intrudes further inland for the sloping case.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-31
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Coastal aquifer
  • Groundwater flow
  • Numerical modelling
  • Sea-water intrusion


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