A three-dimensional model of the aquifer system of the Eastern Shore of Virginia, USA was calibrated to reproduce historical water levels and forecast the potential for saltwater intrusion. Future scenarios were simulated with two pumping schemes to predict potential areas of saltwater intrusion. Simulations suggest that only a few wells would be threatened with detectable salinity increases before 2050. The objective was to examine whether salinity increases can be accurately forecast for individual wells with such a model, and to address what the challenges are in making such model forecasts given current (2009) simulation capabilities. The analysis suggests that even with current computer capabilities, accurate simulations of concentrations within a regional-scale (many km) transition zone are computationally prohibitive. The relative paucity of data that is typical for such regions relative to what is needed for accurate transport simulations suggests that even with an infinitely powerful computer, accurate forecasting for a single well would still be elusive. Useful approaches may include local-grid refinement near wells and geophysical surveys, but it is important to keep expectations for simulated forecasts at wells in line with chloride concentration and other data that can be obtained at that local scale.
Additional publication details
Current challenges using models to forecast seawater intrusion: lessons from the Eastern Shore of Virginia, USA