Isotopic and geochemical characterization of salinization in the shallow aquifers of a reclaimed subsiding zone: The southern Venice Lagoon coastland

Gattacceca, Julie C. and Vallet-Coulomb, Christine and Mayer, Adriano and Claude, Christelle and Radakovitch, Olivier and Conchetto, Enrico and Hamelin, Bruno (2009) Isotopic and geochemical characterization of salinization in the shallow aquifers of a reclaimed subsiding zone: The southern Venice Lagoon coastland. Journal of Hydrology, 378 (1-2). pp. 46-61. DOI 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2009.09.005

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Abstract

Summary: The coastal plain bordering the southern Venice Lagoon is a reclaimed lowland characterized by high subsidence rate, and ground level and water-table depth below sea level. In this agricultural region, where the surface hydrologic network is entirely artificially controlled by irrigation/drainage canals, salinization problems have long been encountered in soils and groundwaters. Here we use isotopic and geochemical tracers to improve our understanding of the origin of salinization and mineralization of the semi-confined aquifer (0-40 m), and the freshwater inputs to this hydrological system. Water samples have been collected at different seasons in the coastal Adriatic Sea, lagoon, rivers and irrigation canals, as well as in the semi-confined aquifer at depths between 12 and 35 m (14 boreholes), and in the first confined aquifer (three boreholes drilled between 40 and 80 m depth). Stable isotopes ([delta]18O and [delta]D) and conductivity profiles show that direct saline intrusion from the sea or the lagoon is observed only in a restricted coastal strip, while brackish groundwaters are found over the entire topographic and piezometric depression in the centre of the study area. Fresh groundwaters are found only in the most western zone. The sharp isotopic contrast between the western and central regions suggests disconnected hydrological circulations between these two parts of the shallow aquifer. The border between these two regions also corresponds to the limits of the most strongly subsiding zone.<br/>Our results can be interpreted in terms of a four end-member mixing scheme, involving (1) marine water from the lagoon or the open sea, (2) alpine and pre-alpine regional recharge waters carried either by the main rivers Adige, Bacchiglione and Brenta (irrigation waters) or by the regional groundwater circulation, (3) local precipitation, and (4) evaporated waters infiltrated from the surface. Infiltration from the surface is also revealed by the stratification of the electrical conductivity profiles, showing that the brackish groundwaters are overlain by a shallow layer of less saline water all over the central depression. In the first confined aquifer, the groundwaters have isotopic compositions similar to the deep groundwaters of the Venetian confined aquifers (40-400 m depth). The isotopic data and the Br/Cl ratio show that the origin of the salinization of the phreatic aquifer can be ascribed to seawater intrusion alone, with no indication of the involvement of deep brines (identified at 450 m depth) in the process.<br/>The chemical composition of the saline and brackish groundwaters is characterized by an excess of sodium and a deficit of calcium compared to conservative mixing between fresh groundwaters and seawater. This suggests that the phreatic aquifer is progressively freshening, as a consequence of the beneficial influence of the extensive irrigation/drainage network, including raised canals acting as a hydraulic barrier along the coast. This freshening tendency may have been lasting since the reclamation in the mid-twentieth century, and has probably been accelerated by the ban on groundwater abstraction since the 1970s.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: NIL AREP;
Subjects: 01 - Climate Change and Earth-Ocean Atmosphere Systems
Divisions: 01 - Climate Change and Earth-Ocean Atmosphere Systems
Journal or Publication Title: Journal of Hydrology
Volume: 378
Page Range: pp. 46-61
Identification Number: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2009.09.005
Depositing User: Sarah Humbert
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2011 13:20
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2013 10:02
URI: http://eprints.esc.cam.ac.uk/id/eprint/2076

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