Sensitivity analysis with a density-dependent ground water flow simulator can provide insight and understanding of salt water intrusion calibration problems far beyond what is possible through intuitive analysis alone. Five simple experimental simulations presented here demonstrate this point. Results show that dispersivity is a very important parameter for reproducing a steady-state distribution of hydraulic head, salinity, and flow in the transition zone between fresh water and salt water in a coastal aquifer system. When estimating dispersivity, the following conclusions can be drawn about the data types and locations considered. (1) The "toe" of the transition zone is the most effective location for hydraulic head and salinity observations. (2) Areas near the coastline where submarine ground water discharge occurs are the most effective locations for flow observations. (3) Salinity observations are more effective than hydraulic head observations. (4) The importance of flow observations aligned perpendicular to the shoreline varies dramatically depending on distance seaward from the shoreline. Extreme parameter correlation can prohibit unique estimation of permeability parameters such as hydraulic conductivity and flow parameters such as recharge in a density-dependent ground water flow model when using hydraulic head and salinity observations. Adding flow observations perpendicular to the shoreline in areas where ground water is exchanged with the ocean body can reduce the correlation, potentially resulting in unique estimates of these parameter values. Results are expected to be directly applicable to many complex situations, and have implications for model development whether or not formal optimization methods are used in model calibration.