Submarine ground water discharge driven by tidal pumping in a heterogeneous Aquifer

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Li, X, Hu, BX, Burnett, WC, Santos, IR & Chanton, JP 2009, 'Submarine ground water discharge driven by tidal pumping in a heterogeneous aquifer', Ground Water, vol. 47, no. 4, pp. 558-568.

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Submarine ground water discharge (SGD) is now recognized as an important water pathway between land and sea. It is difficult to quantitatively predict SGD owing to its significant spatial and temporal variability. This study focuses on quantitative estimation of SGD caused by tidally induced sea water recirculation and a terrestrial hydraulic gradient. A two-dimensional hydrogeological model was developed to simulate SGD from a coastal unconfined aquifer in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico, where previous SGD studies were performed. A density-variable numerical code, SEAWAT2000, was applied to simulate SGD. To accurately predict discharge, various influencing factors such as heterogeneity in conductivity, uncertain boundary conditions, and tidal pumping were systematically assessed. The tidally influenced sea water recirculation zone and the fresh water-salt water mixing zone under various tidal patterns, tidal ranges, and water table heights were also investigated. The model was calibrated and validated from long-term, intensive measurements at the study site. The percentage of fresh SGD relative to total SGD ranged from 4% to 50% under normal conditions. Based on simulations of two field measurements in summer and spring, respectively, the fresh water ratios were 9% and 15%, respectively. These results support the hypothesis that the SGD induced by tidally driven sea water recirculation is much larger than terrestrial fresh ground water discharge at this site. The estimates of total and fresh SGD are at the low and high ends, respectively, of the estimation ranges obtained from geochemical tracers (e.g., (222)Rn).