Effect of volcanic dykes on coastal groundwater flow and saltwater intrusion: A field-scale multiphysics approach and parameter evaluation

J.-c. Comte, C. Wilson, U. Ofterdinger, A. González-quirós

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33 Citations (Scopus)


Volcanic dykes are common discrete heterogeneities in aquifers; however there is a lack of field examples of, and methodologies for, comprehensive in situ characterization of their properties with respect to groundwater flow and solute transport. We have applied an integrated multi-physics approach to quantify the effect of dolerite dykes on saltwater intrusion in a coastal sandstone aquifer. The approach involved ground geophysical imaging (passive magnetics and electrical resistivity tomography), well hydraulic testing and tidal propagation analysis, which provided constraints on the geometry of the dyke network, the subsurface saltwater distribution, and the sandstone hydrodynamic properties and connectivity. A three-dimensional variable-density groundwater model coupled with a resistivity model was further calibrated using groundwater and geophysical observations. A good agreement of model simulations with tide-induced head fluctuations, geophysically-derived pore water salinities and measured apparent resistivities was obtained when dykes’ hydraulic conductivity, storativity and effective porosity are respectively about three, one, and one orders of magnitude lower than the host aquifer. The presence of the dykes results in barrier-like alterations of groundwater flow and saltwater intrusion. Preferential flowpaths occur parallel to observed dyke orientations. Freshwater inflows from upland recharge areas concentrate on the land-facing side of the dykes and saltwater penetration is higher on their sea-facing side. This has major implications for managing groundwater resources in dyke-intruded aquifers, including in coastal and island regions, but also provides wider insights on preferential pathways of groundwater flow and transport in highly heterogeneous aquifer systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2171-2198
Number of pages28
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 16 Mar 2017


  • coastal aquifers
  • volcanic dykes
  • saltwater intrusion
  • multiphysics characterization
  • variable-density flow modeling
  • parameter evaluation


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