Laboratory and Numerical Study of Saltwater Upconing in Fractured Coastal Aquifers

Georgios Etsias*, Gerard A. Hamill, Christopher Thomson, Samuel Kennerley, Jesus F. Aguila, Eric M. Benner, Mark C. McDonnell, Ashraf Ahmed, Raymond Flynn

*Corresponding author for this work

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This study investigated the saltwater upconing mechanism in fractured coastal aquifers. Head-induced saline intrusion was initiated into three narrow sandbox aquifers containing individual horizontal discontinuities placed on different positions. Subsequently, using a peristaltic pump, freshwater was abstracted from the aquifers’ center, triggering saltwater upconing. Progressively larger pumping rates were applied until critical conditions, resulting in the wells’ salinization, were achieved. Advanced image analysis algorithms were utilized to recreate the saltwater concentration fields and quantify the extent of the saline wedges with a high accuracy. A numerical model was successfully employed to simulate the laboratory results and conduct a comprehensive sensitivity analysis, further expanding the findings of this investigation. The impact of the fractures’ length, permeability and position on the upconing mechanism was identified. It was established that the presence of high permeability discontinuities significantly affected aquifer hydrodynamics. The conclusions of this study could constitute a contribution towards the successful management of real-world fractured coastal aquifers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3331
Pages (from-to)e3331
Issue number23
Early online date24 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2021


  • Pumping-induced saltwater intrusion, Fractures, Well salinization, Sandbox experiments, Discrete fracture matrix model, SUTRA


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