Water extraction from coastal sand aquifers in Ireland: an extreme case at Magilligan, County Derry

Mark McDonnell, Jesus Fernandez Aguila, Raymond Flynn, Gerard Hamill, Georgios Etsias, Eric Benner

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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Groundwater abstraction contributes to 18% of total water supply in Ireland. With almost half of all holiday sites in Ireland within 5 km of the coast, obtaining groundwater from local sources becomes attractive. Given the elevated permeability and storage capacity of coastal sand deposits, this makes them suitable candidates for seasonal abstraction. However, excess abstraction can promote saltwater intrusion, drawing a wedge of seawater into the aquifer. Conventionally, groundwater abstraction points in coastal areas are installed to shallow depths to avoid drawing in the denser saltwater during pumping. This study aims to (a) better understand the extent to which abstraction wells in Irish beach sand deposits are affected by high abstraction rates, and (b) to ascertain how close to the coast abstraction wells may be installed, using a test site at Magilligan, County Derry. By employing geophysics and water conductivity sensors, it has been possible to characterise the freshwater/saltwater dynamics of the aquifer and select areas most suitable for well installation. This, in addition to pumping tests has shown that deep wells— as opposed to shallow—can provide a reliable, potable supply of water to support the coastal hotel and tourism industry in light of increasing water costs.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2020
EventCivil Engineering Research in Ireland Conference 2020 - Cork University, Cork, Ireland
Duration: 27 Aug 202028 Aug 2020


ConferenceCivil Engineering Research in Ireland Conference 2020
Abbreviated titleCERI 2020
Internet address


  • Coastal Aquifers
  • Saline Intrusion
  • Pumping Test
  • Geophysics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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