Intensively exploited Mediterranean aquifers: resilience to seawater intrusion and proximity to critical thresholds
We investigate seawater intrusion in three prominent Mediterranean aquifers that are subject to intensive exploitation and modified hydrologic regimes by human activities: the Nile Delta, Israel Coastal and Cyprus Akrotiri aquifers. Using a generalized analytical sharp interface model, we review the salinization history and current status of these aquifers, and quantify their resilience/vulnerability to current and future seawater intrusion forcings. We identify two different critical limits of seawater intrusion under groundwater exploitation and/or climatic stress: a limit of well intrusion, at which intruded seawater reaches key locations of groundwater pumping, and a tipping point of complete seawater intrusion up to the prevailing groundwater divide of a coastal aquifer. Either limit can be reached, and ultimately crossed, under intensive aquifer exploitation and/or climate-driven change. We show that seawater intrusion vulnerability for different aquifer cases can be directly compared in terms of normalized intrusion performance curves. The site-specific assessments show that (a) the intruding seawater currently seriously threatens the Nile Delta aquifer, (b) in the Israel Coastal aquifer the sharp interface toe approaches the well location and (c) the Cyprus Akrotiri aquifer is currently somewhat less threatened by increased seawater intrusion.