An accurate estimate of the depth to the theoretical interface between fresh, water and salt water is critical to estimates of well yields in coastal and island aquifers. The Ghyben-Herzberg relation, which is commonly used to estimate interface depth, can greatly underestimate or overestimate the fresh-water thickness, because it assumes no vertical head gradients and no vertical flow. Estimation of the interface depth needs to consider the vertical head gradients and aquifer anisotropy that may be present. This paper presents a method to calculate vertical head gradients using water-level measurements made during drilling of a partially penetrating well; the gradient is then used to estimate interface depth. Application of the method to a numerically simulated fresh-water/salt-water system shows that the method is most accurate when the gradient is measured in a deeply penetrating well. Even using a shallow well, the method more accurately estimates the interface position than does the Ghyben-Herzberg relation where substantial vertical head gradients exist. Application of the method to field data shows that drilling, collection methods of water-level data, and aquifer inhomogeneities can cause difficulties, but the effects of these difficulties can be minimized.
Additional publication details
Estimation of the depth to the fresh-water/salt-water interface from vertical head gradients in wells in coastal and island aquifers