Saltwater has intruded into many of the coastal aquifers of the United States, Mexico, and Canada, but the extent of saltwater intrusion varies widely among localities and hydrogeologic settings. In many instances, the area contaminated by saltwater is limited to small parts of an aquifer and to specific wells and has had little or no effect on overall groundwater supplies; in other instances, saltwater contamination is of regional extent and has resulted in the closure of many groundwater supply wells. The variability of hydrogeologic settings, three-dimensional distribution of saline water, and history of groundwater withdrawals and freshwater drainage has resulted in a variety of modes of saltwater intrusion into coastal aquifers. These include lateral intrusion from the ocean; upward intrusion from deeper, more saline zones of a groundwater system; and downward intrusion from coastal waters. Saltwater contamination also has occurred along open boreholes and within abandoned, improperly constructed, or corroded wells that provide pathways for vertical migration across interconnected aquifers. Communities within the coastal regions of North America are taking actions to manage and prevent saltwater intrusion to ensure a sustainable source of groundwater for the future. These actions can be grouped broadly into scientific monitoring and assessment, engineering techniques, and regulatory approaches.
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Saltwater intrusion in coastal regions of North America